New Year Thoughts

New Year Greetings to all the readers of this blog. The year 2013 lies behind us and we await the challenges and opportunities that 2014 will bring as we seek to inform our churches and communities about the urgency of the environmental issues we face and encourage them to make a renewed effort to tackle them.

September 2013 saw the publication of the Working Group I component of the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report (see the article by Sir John Houghton on the main JRI website). The reports of the other IPCC Working Groups will follow during 2014. In my view the WGI report did not receive the attention in the media that it merited. There would therefore seem to be an increased responsibility on those of us who do understand the implications of the IPCC Assessment to make them more widely known. The situation seems to me to be similar to that of the watchman in Ezekiel Chapter 33.

What else is likely to engage our attention in 2014? Two issues that immediately spring to mind are:

• There are now less than two years to the COP Climate Change talks in Paris towards the end of 2015 where an agreement on emissions reduction is to be reached. There was widespread disappointment across the spectrum of NGO’s at the lack of progress at the recent talks in Warsaw and a recognition that since Copenhagen in 2009 Climate Change has slipped down the public’s priority list. The hard work of raising the public profile again will need to commence in 2014;

• ‘Shale Gas’ and ‘Fracking’ have been the source of much controversy during 2013, and for the residents of Balcombe in Sussex the cause of considerable disruption. The government have now published for public consultation a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) relating to shale gas and other hydrocarbons. The SEA provides us with the opportunity to input to the debate on whether shale gas should be exploited on a large scale in the UK and to scrutinise and where appropriate challenge the arguments presented relating to compatibility with the UK emissions reduction targets and the adequacy of water resources.

All those of us who are engaged in attempts to raise awareness regarding climate change, through either advocacy or education will be aware that our efforts are currently only meeting with limited success. We therefore need to constantly seek to refine and improve our communication skills. In that regard the Stephen Schneider Lecture delivered by Gavin Schmidt at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2013 Fall Meeting is well worth listening to. (You can find it on the AGU YouTube Channel). The lecture considers the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of communication and advocacy by scientists and identifies some of the benefits and pitfalls. Dr Schmidt and some of his colleagues run the ‘RealClimate’ blog which is a resource I have found particularly useful for comment, discussion and context relating to newly published papers on climate science.

I hope to discuss these and other issues in more detail in future posts. Meanwhile your views on what are likely to be the most significant issues on the environment scene would be welcome via the comments facility.