If you were waiting for a sign from God, this is it.

We were lucky.  Only 120 mm of rain in 24 hours.  Other parts of our region suffered over 200 mm in the same time period.

Was that deluge a consequence of climate change?  The science on that event has not been done yet so know for sure, we do not.

The US have been experiencing a “freakishly” warm February that the World Weather Attribution team is very clear about: “The warm spell is just the latest piece in a growing body of evidence that climate change is playing a role in almost all extreme heat events.”

I am reminded of that old story about God saving us:

flood_house_5C

A terrible storm was forecast so local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.

A faithful Christian man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”

The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”

As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”

The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”

The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop.

A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, “Grab my hand and I will pull you up!” But the man still refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”

Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned.

Arriving in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”

And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”

This is it

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Anglican Primates of Oceania speak out on climate change

The five Anglican Primates of Oceania issued the following statement following their meeting at Tweed Heads in Australia last week:
oceania-primates-tweed-heads-0317-e1488791031500
Front row, L-R: Archbishop Philip Richardson of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia; Archbishop Clyde Igara, of Papua New Guinea; Archbishop Philip Freier, of Australia; Archbishop George Takeli of Melanesia ; and Archbishop Winston Halapua of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, with support staff (back row), meeting in Tweed Heads.
Photo Credit: Abp Philip Freier

We offer our profound thanks and praise to Almighty God whose faithfulness, throughout generations, has brought us to this place of fellowship and trust.

We are four Provinces covering many nations, more than 1000 languages, with rich and diverse cultures. We are surrounded by the oceans that define our lives and we are united through the interweaving of history and long friendships. In all our diversity and across our many differences we continue to find our unity in Christ, who binds us together despite our failure and sinfulness.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing. John 15.5 (NIV)

We gather at a time when the rhetoric of nationalism, ridicule, fear-mongering, and hatred is so prevalent. In such a climate where “me first” or “we first” dominates, we affirm: “we together.”

We will be judged by our failure to support our weakest part. We celebrate that what the world views as weak is in fact strength, what the world views as folly, is indeed wisdom. We rejoice at the fruits of the Spirit we see in each other, and we give thanks for the faithfulness of our forebears who sowed the seeds of the Gospel in our lands.

We had a rich and deep talanoa (robust conversation over time) covering many topics of mutual concern and common mission:

We agreed that as whole nations of ocean people lose their island homes, climate justice advocacy and action must become the most urgent priority for Oceanic Anglicans.

We committed ourselves to extending our partnership in theological education and leadership development and to encouraging relationships between our Anglican schools and development and welfare agencies.

We addressed the challenges of seasonal workers and labour mobility across our Provinces and how we could respond both pastorally and politically.

We discussed the work being undertaken across our Provinces to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable and particularly those in our care.

We considered the way our growing relationships with the Anglican Provinces across Asia could be deepened and looked forward to the meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in October 2017.

We found common ground in our strong commitment to working for the continuing unity of the Communion.

We heard harrowing stories of human rights violations in West Papua, which were poignantly focussed for us by Archbishop Clyde Igara, who said: “I am West Papua. I am Papuan” – such is the arbitrariness of national boundaries and the historical circumstances that have defined them.

We committed to welcoming each other regularly into our Provinces and to formally meeting again as the Oceania Anglican Fono (gathering) to be held in Suva, Fiji Islands in March 2018.

Archbishop Philip Freier (the Anglican Church of Australia)
Archbishop Clyde Igara (the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea)
Archbishop Winston Halapua (the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia)
Archbishop Philip Richardson (the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia)
Archbishop George Takeli (Anglican Church of Melanesia)

Not so hot as it is portrayed!

Hot Hot Hot!    2016 Hottest Year on Record.  New Zealand had its hottest ever recorded year in 2016.

These were some of the media headlines following the release of NIWA’s Annual Climate Summary last week.

Many will think that it’s great to have a hot hot hot summer.  By the pool, at the beach, hot is great!  What’s the problem?  After all, pool and beach images celebrating hot, frames many of the media reports on the conference.  So good it has to be!  Right?

Wrong!

The problem is that for New Zealand, 2016 was the hottest in a series of ever hotter years. Since 1909, annual average temperatures across the country have risen between 0.51°C and 1.20°C above normal.  And the trend is ever upwards.

This trend is reflected in many countries around the world with 2016 now also recorded as the world’s hottest year on record.

There are reasons for that record.  As NIWA says, for New Zealand, it is a combination of three factors.

nzweather-records2016One is that ocean temperatures around New Zealand were unusually warm throughout the early part of 2016.  Last year’s El Nino weather pattern was a key contributor to this.

Second was unusual atmospheric pressure patterns resulting in more northerly and nor-westerly winds that therefore, picked up heat from the warmed oceans.

Third was increased green house gases in the atmosphere that mark a long-term warming trend, aka global warming.  Over 90% of that additional heat in the atmosphere gets absorbed in to the oceans, which loops us back to reason number one.

Science has no real understanding of how much more heat the oceans can tolerate.  It is known that ice loss in the Arctic and Antarctic is causing sea level rise on top of that caused directly by the thermal expansion of our oceans.

There is another aspect to ocean warming not often spoken about.  Higher temperatures reduce the oxygen carrying capacity of water and also increases the biological oxygen demand of the micro-organisms in the water.    

So dissolved oxygen levels in our oceans are declining and with oxygen a key driver of marine ecosystems, much of our food chain is at risk.

This was recognised in a Ministry for the Environment report, “Changes to our oceans pose serious concerns“, published in October last year. Our government recognises the risks, but remedial action is not being taken.

At a global level, the response to climate change is to use “best endeavours” to keep average temperatures below 1.5°C of warming.  At the country’s average of 0.81°C we are more than half the way there.

The climate impacts on different parts of the country vary a lot.

For Pukekohe, the minimum mean temperature was up 0.9°C.  This will have implications on pest control in our horticultural areas – more pests will survive the winter cold and become a problem in the following growing season.

And the annual average temperature in Pukekohe was up 0.8°C.  This will have implications on water retention in the soil and on water consumption – more water will be required to assure us our economic future.

These are not the halcyon days of summer I remember from my youth.

Instead, there is an increasing sense of urgency for us to take actions to mitigate the prime cause of global warming – our release of new sources of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Those actions must be on three prime fronts.

First is to cease harvesting trees.   Trees remove carbon from the atmosphere, leaving less to add to global warming.

Second is to stop putting new carbon in to the atmosphere.  Fundamentally, this means no more extraction of fossil fuels.  That’s unlikely in the short term so things we can do individually to make a difference, are to significantly cut back on car journeys and air travel.

Third is to remove carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it away in our soils.

For as long as economic imperatives define the climate actions we choose to take, the first two of these will be difficult to realise.  The third action, sequestering carbon in the soil, is an easy do, one that each and every one of us can do today, tomorrow, the next day and so on, until we make that essential difference.

A practical view of sustainability

If 2015 was a year that sustainability issues came in to sharp focus, then 2016 is the turning point for taking action on the many issues.

Three pillars of sustainability are commonly advocated – environmental, social and economic.

These pillars are reflected in the Cherished Earth initiative of the Anglican Diocese of Auckland. This is about taking actions that “strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth” (matching the environmental pillar), and to “respond to human need by loving service and to work to transform unjust structures of society” (the social pillar).

The first pillar, environmental, is about enhancing and maintaining the ecological systems that sustain all life on Earth. In so many areas has our environment suffered because of man’s economic activities, with devastating consequences for many. This pillar is reflected in the Anglican Church’s focus on Caring for Creation.

The second pillar, social sustainability, is about equity between sections of today’s society. One example is between the things our generation take for granted compared to what future generations will likely inherit. Another example is between developed and developing nations. This pillar is reflected in the Anglican Diocese of Auckland’s initiative on climate justice.

Economic sustainability is about the financial success of notional entities including the firm, the farm, the town or city. Competitive advantage and continual growth are at the core of economic sustainability and the goal for most is to maximise shareholder profits.

The order in which we think about the three pillars is important.

Traditional-Sustainability
Figure 1. Traditional view of Sustainability

The traditional view (figure 1.) is of three overlapping circles with sustainable development occurring only in the area where all three intersect

This implies that some economic activity can occur without environmental or societal implications. Whilst it is the case that some societal or environmental activity can occur independent of economic impacts, the reverse is not the case. All economic activity has some social or environment impact and so, to me, this model of sustainability is not itself sustainable.

Environmental-Sustainability
Figure 2. Neoliberal view of Sustainability

A few see a model (figure 2.) that places economics in the outer of three concentric circles. This is the neoliberal view of sustainability – resources in the environment and workers in our society are there to serve the economic needs of the firm. For many, and by unstated implication, increasing shareholder wealth is more important than social or environmental impacts.

A more widely held view of sustainability (figure 3.) inverts the three concentric circles, putting the environment in the outer position, surrounding and constraining society which in turn encompasses and constrains economic activity. In this model, economic activity is for the benefit of all the people in a community rather than for only the owners of the capital invested.

Economic-Sustainability
Figure 3. Sustainable view of Sustainability

Of all the sustainability issues we face, climate change induced by global warming, is the greatest.

Our government seem to be following the neoliberal model of sustainability – that of economics over-riding the other two pillars. Hence, they are not actually planning for a reduction in our gross green house gas emissions, and instead are looking to buy their way out of future trouble through cap and trade financial instruments.

Given that our political leaders appear to favour economic imperatives ahead of people and the environment, it falls to the people to take climate actions, both collectively and individually, that will give expression to our caring for creation.

The Diocesan Climate Change Action Group are planning a number of new climate action projects that add to their earlier work around energy efficiency and conservation. The first of these is a practical project to establish communal food gardens, or food forests, in as many churches as have space available and want to participate.

Whilst the Diocesan Climate Change Action Group continue the planning work for this project, what other actions do you think parishioners might take? Please leave your comments below.

Practical Actions for Churches

EnerSt Lukes Mt Albert new heatersgy use is one of the main contributors to the Church’s carbon footprint, along with the individual transport component for parishioners coming to church. The worldwide Anglican Consultative Council has urged all churches to, “assist transition to a carbon-neutral world by accepting, year on year, a five percent reduction in the carbon footprint of the churches.” As there is no specific calculator for churches in New Zealand, an estimate can be found by using the Household calculator on the carboNZero website. The carboNZero certification programme is an internationally recognised greenhouse gas footprint measurement and reduction scheme. This free Household calculator is intended for individuals to estimate their greenhouse gas emissions. It is important to note that it provides an estimate only and is not intended for organisations or businesses or to provide a certified carbon footprint. To use the calculator you will need to know your church’s total energy consumption for one year. You can find more information about analysing and managing your electricity consumption in the Resources section.

The Sustainability Newsbites page shares stories from churches around the Diocese who have analysed their electricity bills as part of a sustainability assessment of their church.

Small Actions Count

We live in an interconnected world in which the small actions of many people combined, have huge impacts. Our everyday purchasing decisions, from coffee through to our mode of transport, can all have an impact on climate change. Rainforest Alliance, Forest Stewardship Council, Fairtrade and other similar certification schemes, despite their limitations, work to promote sustainable practices in environmental as well as economic terms and help to inform purchasing decisions.

Members of the DCCAdrawingpin2G share some practical actions they have taken in their own lives.

“To reduce our carbon footprint from travel, we’ve converted our Prius to a plug-in hybrid. The extra batteries, charged by the photovoltaic panels on our roof, give the car an 80 km range on electric power, after which it reverts to its existing petrol-electric hybrid mode. This has halved the car’s fuel consumption from 5 litres per 100 km to 2.5 litres. Rod is a relatively frequent flyer for work purposes so he contributes to Air New Zealand’s Environment Trust with each ticket he buys.” Read more about Rod Oram’s photovoltaic installation in the Fossil Fuel Divestment section of the website.

Others wrote:

“We have taken action to reduce our car travel by carpooling, using buses when possible, using Skype for teleconferencing and retaining one instead of two cars when we were able.”

“Relocating our family closer to work and school was expensive, but much less stressful and lower emissions too.”

You can find more actions on the Who We Are page. In the Links section we list other church and religious organisations that are working to promote sustainability and combat climate change.

 

Living Within Ecological Bounds

Oxfam graphic A Safe and Just Space for Humanity“Achieving sustainable development means ensuring that all people have the resources needed – such as food, water, health care, and energy – to fulfil their human rights. And it means ensuring that humanity’s use of natural resources does not stress critical Earth-system processes – by causing climate change or biodiversity loss, for example – to the point that Earth is pushed out of the stable state, known as the Holocene, which has been so beneficial to humankind over the past 10,000 years.”

This quotation is from the Oxfam Discussion Paper (February 2012) “A Safe and Just Space for Humanity” that sets out a visual framework for sustainable development – shaped like a doughnut – by combining the concept of planetary boundaries with the complementary concept of social boundaries.

New Zealand Oxfam Climate Change page

Oxfam video about innovative solutions to climate change in Thailand.

Climate Change Effects

The United Nations “Global Climate 2001 to 2010” report released in July 2013 says the 21st century’s first decade was the hottest on record, with weather extremes claiming more than 370,000 lives.

It is recognised that the effects of climate change will be disproportionally felt by the poor and vulnerable of the world.

Interactive map showing countries and climate changeThis interactive map presents in graphical form, a world overview showing which countries are producing the carbon emissions and which are the most vulnerable to climate change.

Closer to home, the recent pledge to divest from fossil fuel investments by the Anglican province of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, “drew impassioned support from Tikanga Pasefika speakers, most notably Bishop Api Qiliho, who said, “the survival of Pacific Island people was at stake”. (Anglican Taonga).

Oceans of Justice is an Anglican Alliance campaign to petition on behalf of pacific nations already suffering the effects of climate change.

Caritas, the Catholic Bishop’s agency for Justice, Peace and Development has prepared a Pacific environment report (released 4th October 2014) sharing more voices from the Pacific.

New Technologies and the Green Economy

Leading New Zealand business jounrnalist, Rod Oram, recently stated that, “we can have a better economy and a better climate, thanks to dramatic shifts in the world economy that began some five years ago” (Sunday Star Times article, “Missing the big picture”). He was referring to a report by the Global Commission on the Economy and the Climate. The report says that conventional economic analysis fails to capture the benefits flowing from improvements in innovation, technology, energy and resource efficiency and quality of life. Rod comments that,

“it is already cheaper to build and run high quality, compact urban environments… than it is to build and run sprawling, inefficient cities dependent on fossil fuels”.

Many organisations are working to promote sustainability in New Zealand among whom are, the Sustainable Business Network and the New Zealand Green Building Council. See the SBN website resources section for more information. The Links section of this website lists more organisations involved in sustainability.

Care of Creation Bulletin photoThe Anglican Diocese of Auckland’s Rev’d Jim Hunt, supported by the Rev’d Vivienne Hill and Dr Nicola Hoggard Creegan, publishes a regular Care of Creation bulletin in which he highlights new developments occurring around the world. You can read past bulletins or go the Education section of this website for more.

 

Climate Science

There is compelling scientific evidence that recent changes in the global climate are due to human activity and that catastrophic consequences will ensue if atmospheric carbon levels continue to rise. The burning of fossil fuels and deforestation are the main causes of this. CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are often used as an indicator because they have been tracking with the mean average temperature of the earth for thousands of years, as demonstrated by climate paleontologists, and recent levels are unprecedented in human history as shown in this Carbon Tracker video published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), USA. More infographics and videos for explaining the processes of global warming can be found at The Hadley Centre (UK Met Office) and The Environmental Protection Agency (USA).


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) present the current state of knowledge on Climate change and its potential impacts. You can watch the video above or go to the website for the Physical Science Basis part of the latest IPCC report (IR5). The Synthesis Report is a summary of all the current findings, written for governments and policymakers. It is the final part of the IR5 assessment process and is due to be adopted and released on 31st October 2014. See the FAQ section for more about how the IPCC work.