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Viewpoint from Bishop David Atkinson

Rt Rev David Atkinson
Bishop of Thetford
 Dove right
Why is climate change proving so controversial?  Some people tell us that there is nothing to worry about, and that it is all nonsense that human beings can make any difference to the planet.     The vast majority of scientists, however, tell us something very serious is going on, and that human activity - especially burning coal and oil, and cutting down rain forests - is having a great effect. The politicians don’t seem to be able to agree, because there are not many votes in trying to persuade people to consume less.    The economists are not the ones to find an answer, because the problem is more about moral values than it is about money.    I think we don’t agree because we have different fundamental values.   And, interestingly, climate change is facing us with some of those values in unexpected ways.
 bishop david-atkinson
Whether we agree or not, global warming is real - and that is forcing us to think about our human relationship to the planet in fresh ways.    The Christian church has not had a very good record, often being thought to support the exploitation of the natural world for the sake just of human welfare.   In fact the Christian church has been a lot more responsible than that - think about St Francis of Assisi, for example - but that easily gets forgotten.   But we are forced to think of what our relationship with the rest of creation should be - is it there for our benefit?   Or do all creatures need each other in some way? The Bible indicates that all creatures are interdependent and all are dependent on God.
 
Global warming is also forcing us to think about technology.   Many people think that technology is the cause of our problems - China is building a new coal-fired power-station every week or two;    petrol and diesel are being burned up as if there were no tomorrow. But can technology find the whole answer? President Bush seems to think so.   Others of us are not so sure that technology on its own is enough.   There are plenty of examples when technology has led us astray - and I write as a former research chemist who has a lot of time for science and technology.   They are wonderful servants but bad masters.    We need to sort out our technology, but we need shared moral values as well.
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Global warming is also forcing us to think about other people. The countries most affected by climate change will be in places which are economically the poorest, and therefore the least able to adapt to the huge changes which global warming will bring.   A large number of people will have to leave their homes; and some coastal cities are likely to experience severe floods.   There are changes to some patterns of disease, changes to food production, changes to the water supply.    The UN Millennium Development Goals require the world to work for the halving of poverty by 2015.   Global warming is going to make that even harder. So climate becomes an issue of justice.    Environment and development need to go hand in hand.    And we in the rich West have a heavy responsibility to make most of the running.