Celebrating Christian Aid

CAW Service 2 – Chris Walters – Sunday 9th May

The beginning of Genesis, as read out to us, emphasises God’s desire for all creatures on earth to live in harmony, recognising that humankind is responsible for managing the lives of all other residents of the planet, whether trees and plants, insects, birds, sea creatures or land animals. This has happened, with notable and sadly-increasing exceptions, since records began.

Now, within the expected life-span of our children (and maybe some of us), the earth and all of its inhabitants are facing a potential catastrophe. Owing to the dramatically increased rate of emission of greenhouse gases over the past century, combined with carbon-absorbing rain forest destruction, our steadily rising global temperatures only have to rise a mere 3 degrees C from their relatively stable pre-1950s level to result in dramatic changes to our earth’s weather and the lives of not only us as humans, but also all wildlife, of whatever form.

In my two addresses this morning, I hope to move from potential despair for the future to hope and the role that Christian Aid, along with its supporters, can continue to play in this climate crisis.

Sea levels could rise by up to a metre, especially with the anticipated melting of large portions of the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps together with mountain glaciers, engulfing low lying island countries such as the Maldives, where the highest natural land level is less than 2 metres above sea-level, and large river delta areas such as in Bangladesh, rendering millions homeless and mass migration as they seek other places to live. The melting of the Arctic icecap, although not adding to rising sea levels, will probably destroy the habitat of polar bears and other ice-dependent species, including birds that depend on the terrain and the cold-water fish for their survival.

Extreme weather will almost certainly increase in severity and impact, with cyclones, droughts and floods increasing and extending their geographic coverage. This will hugely affect agriculture and may render some areas no longer productive, as is clearly already happening in part of rural Africa. Food supplies will be affected on a global scale.

Tropical diseases will extend to new areas as they become warm enough to attract mosquitos or other carriers. This is already happening with dengue fever (something I caught in Burma some 25 years ago) and now extending into several Mediterranean countries.

The increased temperatures will also result in loss of habitat and likely extinction of many land-based species, together with birds and sea creatures (it is estimated that one in seven of the UK bird species would rapidly become extinct in such circumstances).

No doubt some luckier located countries and those communities that can afford to adapt to these dramatically changed circumstances will manage to survive, along with the proverbial cockroaches, but many others will not be able to avoid massive life-changing and life-threatening situations.

At present, the forecasts are that we are likely to see a rise of at least 1-2 degrees C. but with every possibility that we will exceed 3 degrees unless immediate actions are taken throughout the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide.

We are not being good stewards of the earth, as God wishes. Collectively, we need to do much better and soon!!

Now we have a story from Rose, from rural Kenya, to be read for us by Virginia.