Operation Noah is one of 70 organisations who have, today, launched
a 10 -point plan designed to get the UK on track to net-zero emissions whilst
also showing global leadership ahead of hosting the United National climate
summit, also known as COP26, this time next year.
Last month the Prime Minister confirmed that the government will take action to achieve 40GW of offshore wind by 2030, more than enough to power every home in the UK. This was set out as the first point of a 10-point plan for a ‘green industrial revolution’. The full plan will be laid out before the end of this year. In the meantime, a number of NGOs working on climate change has set out our own 10-Point Plan.
The ten points include the UK taking on its fair share of effort to keep global temperatures rises to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, investing in domestic energy efficiency and heat pumps which will help us move away from using gas to heat homes, fully decarbonising our power system and ambitious targets for nature restoration. All ten points are set out in this document.
The time to act is now
Actions taken now
by governments to respond to the current health crisis and rebuild our economy
will have an impact for generations to come. Decisions taken today will
determine whether we succeed in our goal to protect the people, places and life
we love from the climate crisis. We can limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C,
halt and reverse the decline of nature and eradicate poverty, or we can lock in
pollution and inequality for generations.
Next year the eyes
of the world will be on the UK as it hosts the UN Climate Summit, COP26. This
is an opportunity to deliver a strong global lead on climate action. The best
way to show this leadership is to put resilience at the heart of our economic
recovery by accelerating the transition to net-zero, restoring nature and
supporting the most vulnerable at home and overseas.
The 10-point plan is part of the Climate Coalition’s
campaign for the government to deliver an economic recovery that sets us on a
path to a cleaner, greener world that works for everyone.
Bill McGuire, Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and a regular guest blogger for Operation Noah, has just published his eco-thriller, Skyseed. It explores what could go wrong if we use climate engineering to try to solve the climate crisis.
It beggars belief that as the climate
crisis deepens, calls to try technological tinkering to get us out of the mess
grow ever louder. Remember, we are where we are, because we have been
conducting an experiment with the composition of our planet’s atmosphere ever
since the wheels of the industrial revolution began to turn. Launching another
experiment to try and solve the problems brought about by the first is exactly
what we don’t need. But that is what the supporters of so-called geoengineering
–intentional, large-scale, interference with the environment – want to do.
In the footsteps of Dr. Strangelove
The belief that we can apply a techno-fix
to stop global heating in its tracks has been around for quite a while. None
other than Edward Teller – father of the H-bomb and putative inspiration for
Dr. Strangelove – was keen on the idea. Wild and wacky as ever, Teller toyed
with such notions as giant sunshades in space, or deluging the stratosphere
with billions of tiny reflective spheres, to block out part of the sun’s heat.
Today’s schemes are perhaps less freaky, but no less risky for that.
Broadly-speaking, they can be grouped into plans – like Teller’s – for reducing
the sun’s input (Solar Radiation Management), for easing the passage of heat
from the Earth into space (Earth Radiation Management), and for sucking carbon
dioxide from the air (Carbon Dioxide Removal).
Mimicking a volcano
Amongst the many geoengineering schemes
proposed to put global heating in its place, one seems to have gained
significant support in the last couple of years. Following in Teller’s
footsteps, the plan is to mimic a large volcanic eruption by pumping millions
of tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere. As happens after a major
volcanic blast, the gas would form an aerosol veil of tiny sulphuric acid
droplets, conjuring up a planetary shroud to manage incoming solar radiation.
In fact, the tiny droplets are especially effective at reflecting the sun’s
heat back into space, so cooling the troposphere (the lower atmosphere) and the
surface beneath. This is why a significant fall in global temperature follows
very large volcanic eruptions.
In the years immediately after the 1991
eruption of Pinatubo (Philippines), the global average temperature fell by
around 0.6°. Looking back further, the 1783 Laki (Iceland) outburst caused
severe cooling across Europe and North America the following year, and even weakened
the African and Asian monsoons. Most famous of all, the colossal 1815 blast of
Tambora (Indonesia) is held responsible for the so-called ‘Year Without a
Summer’ in 1816, which drove widespread harvest failure, famine, and the last,
great, subsistence crisis in the western world.
But geoengineers are nothing if not
optimists, which is why they poo-poo the mass of evidence for the manifold and
unpredictable ways in which stratospheric sulphur veils can affect the climate
system and, ultimately, society and economy. In fact, some insist that their
modelling shows that everyone will be a winner. Generating and maintaining an
artificial volcanic shroud, they say, will have positive benefits for all. A
significant reduction in global temperatures without any nasty side effects.
This touching confidence in technology has always smelled to me of a conspiracy
of scientistic hubris and a particularly naïve confidence in modelling. Others
say it is just pie-in-the-sky.
What could possibly go wrong
There are so many potential problems
associated with such attempts to artificially block the sun’s input that it is
difficult to know where to start. Studies have shown that plant photosynthesis
would slow, resulting in falling crop yields. Solar power installations would
become less efficient, while the sulphur gases could damage the ozone layer.
Regional rainfall patterns could bring drought to some places and floods to
Tackling the symptoms, not the cause
At the same time, the oceans would keep on
getting more acidic, as the scheme does nothing to reduce atmospheric carbon
levels. And this is the nub of the problem. By seeking to reduce temperatures
while doing nothing about carbon emissions, nor carbon dioxide levels in the
atmosphere, such a solar radiation management techno-fix simply addresses (one
of) the symptoms of global heating and accompanying climate breakdown, not the
What we need are urgent measures to slash
carbon emissions at a rate that is in line with keeping the global average
temperature rise (compared to pre-industrial times) below the 1.5° dangerous
climate change guardrail. What we don’t need are harebrained techie schemes
that are costly, dangerous, and detract from efforts to tackle global heating
by conventional means. Such dubious plans should stay where they are most at
home, in the pages of a science fiction book.
Skyseed is here
Speaking of which, if you want to find out what happens when a climate engineering programme goes pear-shaped, you could do worse than read my just-published eco-thriller, Skyseed. Hacking the Earth could be the last thing we ever do.
Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and author of Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was a contributor to the IPCC 2012 report on Climate Change & Extreme Events and Disasters.
Churches up and down the country have been running Climate Sunday services since the initiative launched in September. Operation Noah trustee, David Miller, explains how his church put on an online service.
opportunity to help our church – currently in the middle of an interregnum – by
proposing a preacher and sermon subject for Sept 6th
was too good to miss! Our church, Whaddon Way Church, is an ecumenical church
in Bletchley, an established town in the south-west of Milton Keynes.
So it was that the Revd Steve Barnes, retired chaplain of our
local hospice, preached at our Zoom service on Climate Sunday. Steve cares
passionately about the environment and for many years he and I have worked
together as participants in our local Green Christian
Steve proposed that, in a similar way that cells reproducing in an
uncontrolled way (cancer) have a catastrophic effect on our bodies, humanity’s
ever-growing consumption of resources and generation of pollution including
greenhouse gases, are destroying the natural world created by God and for which
we are supposed to be exercising care and protection. Particularly in the rich
west, we have allowed ourselves to become addicted to the pursuit of having
more, better, newer, faster, and no longer recognise when enough is
Whereas any member of the human race should be concerned about the
way their present actions may be compromising the future for our children and
grandchildren, Steve argued that for Christians this represents a spiritual
problem. Referring to the old testament passage we had read (Ezekiel 33:7-11)
Steve explained that we need to become modern-day prophets, warning of the
wrong path being travelled and the consequences for the world God has created.
Failure to do so will result in God holding us responsible.
Jesus came to give us life in all its fulness and to bring joy,
peace and love. When we pray Thy
Kingdom Come, Thy Will be done on earth, we are
effectively saying to God that we desire a world which is in keeping with how
He intends it to be. He wants us to be participants in that project!
After the Zoom service, Steve moved around several of the breakout
rooms and discovered many folks enthusiastic about exploring what actions they
could take to address the environmental challenges that face us. The
trustees have agreed to set up a working group tasked with proposing a way
forward for the church. At the time of writing, the first volunteers have
already come forward…..
Climate Sunday, an initiative proposed by Operation Noah and organised by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland’s Environmental Issues Network, with support almost 20 organisations, is asking churches to hold a climate-focused service between now and 5th September 2021, to make a commitment to take long term action to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions and to use their voice to tell politicians we want a cleaner, greener, fairer future at the heart of plans to rebuild a strong economy. Find out more.
Watch and listen to other online Climate Sunday services
Revd Vanessa Elston, of St Anne and All Saints South Lambeth,
introduced the season of Creationtide with a stark message about the climate
crisis in this online service.
Cardiff and Penarth URCs held an online service and made
an audio recording.
Revd David Carrington, from the Otter Vale Mission Community,
Devon, offers a Climate Change Sunday reflection in this video
The Diocese of Oxford held an online Climate Sunday service and
made a video recording.
We’re marking World Environment Day with the launch of Climate Sunday, an initiative organised by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland with support from Operation Noah and other charities including CAFOD, Christian Aid, Tearfund and A Rocha UK.
We’re encouraging local churches to hold a local Climate Sunday at any time during the 12 months starting on 6 September 2020 (the first Sunday in the annual season of Creationtide). Climate Sunday will provide free resources to suit every tradition and style of worship to help each church do this. During their local Climate Sunday, we invite each church to do one or more of three things:
Climate service: Hold a climate-focused service, to explore the theological and scientific basis of creation care and action on climate, to pray, and to commit to action.
Commit: Make a commitment as a local church community to taking long term action to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions.
Call: Join with other churches and wider society by adding its name to a common call for the UK government to take much bolder action on climate change in this country in advance of COP26, and to strengthen its credibility to lead the international community to adopt a step change in action at COP26. The culmination of the campaign will be a national Climate Sunday event on Sunday 5 September 2021, to share church commitments and pray for bold action and courageous leadership at COP26.
More than 3,400* local churches are already registered with the main church greening schemes, but with the climate crisis accelerating and the UK due to host the rescheduled COP26 climate talks in November 2021 in Glasgow, we believe the time has come for all churches across the UK to pray about and act on the climate crisis.
Director of Global Advocacy at Tearfund, Dr Ruth Valerio, author of Saying Yes to Life: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2020 Lent Book, said: ‘The current crisis has changed the way we see the world. It has reminded us of the fragility of life, exposed the gap between rich and poor, and revealed the damage we’ve done to the wider creation. But it has also helped us love our neighbours and brought communities together. Climate Sunday is a great opportunity to respond to these societal shifts; to pause and reimagine what life could be like; to commit to living differently ourselves and to call on the UK government to rebuild our economy in a way that tackles the climate emergency and builds a better world for everyone.’
Chief Executive of A Rocha UK, Andy Atkins, and chair of the coalition, said: ‘Our vision is to leave a lasting legacy of thousands of UK churches better equipped to address this critical issue as part of their normal discipleship and mission; and to make a very significant contribution to civil society efforts to secure adequate national and international action at the COP26 conference.’
* As of 31 May 2020, more than 3,400 of the UK’s 50,000 churches were members of one of the following schemes: Eco Church (England and Wales) 2,800; Eco Congregation Scotland 500 and Ireland; Live Simply (Catholic Churches in England and Wales) 120 parishes.
At Operation Noah we believe in working alongside others to achieve a better world. In the past month we’ve been co-signatories on a number of letters calling for a just and green recovery from COVID-19.
RSPB and the Green Alliance organised an open letter on a green recovery to the Prime Minister. Amongst other things, the letter called on the Prime Minister to create a more resilient economy that contributes to a climate-safe future and to build global ambition on tackling the climate crisis and restoring nature by bringing global leaders together in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow in 2021. Read the letter.
Biofuelwatch organised a letter responding to a consultation on the future of biomass subsidies. Biofuelwatch are calling for an end to subsidies for high carbon biomass power in the UK. Operation Noah supporters are welcome to participate in this consultation too, although you’ll need to be quick as it closes on 29th May. More information.
We co-signed a letter to First Minister in Scotland, calling for the country to lead on a radical response to the double crises of climate change and Coronavirus. This letter was organised by Friends of the Earth Scotland.
We co-signed a statement stating that the phase out of fossil fuel production is a key pillar for a Just Recovery. The statement was organised by Global Gas and Oil Network.