Can we be optimistic?
In the Domesday Lectures on Radio 4 given 3 or 4 years ago, Sir Crispin Tickell said "we know what to do but we don't have the will to do it". Lack of will is not a new problem, of course, for humans. It is largely a moral and spiritual problem, one that St. Paul presented in his letter to the Romans (Romans 7 v18) in the New Testament commenting that he had not completely solved it for himself in his own experience. People often say to me, "the problem is so big, it will never be solved; you're not going to get anywhere, the politicians will never agree, greedy people will never change their ways." So, why am I optimistic?
Let me give you three reasons. First, I have experienced the scientific community, many hundreds of scientists from a wide range of countries, ideologies, disciplines and backgrounds, come together with great commitment to agree a scientific assessment of likely climate change. Secondly, the necessary technology is available, or is becoming available and industry is beginning to see climate change as an issue that provides great opportunities for technical advance. And thirdly, I am a Christian, and I believe that God is committed to his creation, a commitment he has demonstrated by sending Jesus into the world to be the saviour of the human race. In delegating to humans the care of his creation, God has not left us to do it on our own. That he is there to help us with the great task has been a great source of strength to me in my work with the IPCC. I felt this particularly strongly as a few of us met for prayer during the very demanding IPCC Plenary in Shanghai.
Finally let me comment again on the need for commitment. If human communities are to be fulfilled and creative, they not only need goals related to economic performance but also moral and spiritual goals. Care for the overall health of the planet is such a goal. Scientists are already working hard and in concert to provide better information about likely climate change, governments in the FCCC have begun to set the necessary framework for change, and business and industry are beginning to recognise the need for action and the opportunities for innovation in new technologies. It is up to all of us as world citizens to support the action being taken and contribute to it.
Let me finish with a quotation which comes from Edmund Burke, a British parliamentarian of 200 years ago, who gave a great environmental message. He said "Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little".
The lecture ended here - continue for the subsequent discussion
Bibliography and References
Further detailed information about Global Warming can be found in the IPCC 2001 Report, "Climate Change 2001" published in 3 volumes ('The Scientific Basis', 'Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability', and ‘Mitigation'), by Cambridge University Press 2001.
John Houghton, "Global Warming: the complete briefing", 2nd edition, Cambridge University Press 1997 provides a comprehensive account of the science, impacts and mitigation of Climate Change.
A challenging assessment of the potential for increases in energy efficiency can be found in E vWeizsacker, A B Lovins and L H Lovins, "Factor Four; Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use'' Earthscan Publications 1997.
Detailed projections for the global energy industry are given in 'Global Energy Perspectives, a IASA/WEC Report' (ed N. Nakicenovic, A Grubler and A MacDonald) Cambridge University Press 1998.
Details of IPCC Emission Scenarios are in ‘Emission Scenarios - an IPCC Special Report' Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Further details of impacts studies can be found in ‘Climate Change and its Impacts: a Global Perspective', published by the UK Meteorological Office 1997.