THE former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams has blamed the
lifestyle of the affluent West for the effects of climate change in
the world's poorest regions.
Lord Williams, who now chairs Christian Aid, singled out the
"uncontrolled burning" of fossil fuels as a significant contributor
to global warming.
His comments, in an article for The Sunday
Telegraph last weekend, were timed to coincide with the
publication on Monday of a report by the Intergovernment Panel on
Climate Change (News
and Comment, 21
The report says that climate change is already having an impact
around the world, on areas from human health to agriculture and
wildlife. Rising temperatures will increasingly threaten security,
health, and food supplies, exacerbate poverty, and damage species
It warns that, in many cases, people are ill-prepared to cope
with the risks of a changing climate. Increasing numbers will be
displaced by extreme weather events, and the impact of this could
increase the risk of violent conflict among the
Lord Williams said that the floods in Britain this winter had
been a demonstration of what the future might hold. Weather-related
catastrophes in the poorest countries were the clearest indications
yet that predictions of "accelerated warming of the earth" caused
by "the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels . . . are coming
He said: "Our actions have had consequences that are deeply
threatening for many of the poorest communities in the world.
"Rich, industrialised countries - including our own - have
unquestionably contributed most to atmospheric pollution. Both our
present lifestyle and the industrial history of how we created such
possibilities for ourselves have to bear the responsibility for
pushing the environment in which we live towards crisis."
He attacked those who believed that global warming was not
man-made, and that people should merely adapt to the changes. "That
approach might be all very well in the UK, where flood defences and
other measures can be adopted relatively cheaply. . . But in the
most vulnerable, poorest countries worst affected by global
warming, that is not an option."
Oxfam's international-policy adviser on climate change, Tim
Gore, said that the report "affirms what small-scale farmers around
the world are telling us: seasons are changing; and weather is
increasingly extreme and unpredictable, making it tougher to feed
"Governments should learn from the mistakes of the global
financial crisis, where warning signs were ignored, and listen to
the experts before it is too late. They must take action
immediately to slash emissions, as well as investing in building
the resilience of people in poverty."
The UK executive director at UNICEF, David Bull, said: "How we
choose to act now will make a vital difference to the lives of
today's children and of future generations. We cannot allow them to
face a future ruined by climate change. . .
"In the next two years, the world will have a second chance to
agree a deal that can limit the damage. If we fail, our children
will carry the devastating burden of our inaction."
Philip Fletcher, who chairs the Church of England's Mission and
Public Affairs Council, said that the IPCC report "makes clear that
climate change will have serious consequences for all of us, but
particularly for those most vulnerable to such changes. A rise in
global temperatures of even two degrees centigrade exposes us to
greater volatility, and the risk of extreme weather events.
"If we fail as citizens, nationally and internationally, to take
the mitigating steps needed to avoid even higher temperatures, we
face a high risk of irreparable damage to ecosystems, and to those
societies already living on the edge, often as subsistence farmers.
Christian Aid and other development agencies have made clear how
serious that damage could be."
The Church of England seeks to make a contribution through its
campaign Shrinking the Footprint.
Question of the week: Do you think about the environmental
impact before using a car?