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Climate crisis is now, Archbishop Welby warns

05 February 2021


A houseboat is seen in the middle of lake Dal in Srinagar, India, which was partially frozen on Monday after temperatures in the region dropped to -8ºC, the lowest recorded there since 1991

A houseboat is seen in the middle of lake Dal in Srinagar, India, which was partially frozen on Monday after temperatures in the region dropped to -8º...

THE pandemic is giving countries in the West a taste of the insecurity experienced for decades by developing countries because of climate change, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the world to look at how we have been living and operating, when so much of what was considered ‘normal’ was not possible,” he said on Thursday.

“We have been confronted by our behaviour: by our sin; our greed; our human fragility; our exploitation of the environment and encroachment on the natural world.

“For many, this uncertainty is new. But many more around the world have been living with uncertainty for decades as the grim, real, and present consequence of climate change. To think it is a problem of the future rather than a scourge of the present is the blind perspective of the privileged.”

Archbishop Welby was addressing the first of a series of online meetings between global faith leaders in preparation for the COP26 climate-change conference in Glasgow in November. He referred to the recent examples of tropical storms in Mozambique (News, 30 January), desertification in Nigeria, and devastated crops in Melanesia, as causes of poverty and food insecurity.

The pandemic had revealed humanity’s capacity for change, hope, and interconnectedness, and the response to climate change must make use of this, he said. “Climate change is an issue in which greed, fragility, justice, and interconnectedness come together.

“There are signs of hope and consolation,” he continued. One of these was the United States rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate change under President Biden (News, 20 January).

Leaders preparing to attend the G7 meeting, which is to be held in Cornwall in June, should be asking how to recover from the pandemic while protecting both the vulnerable and marginalised and the natural world, he said.

“Those with the power to effect change will need to balance that power with their responsibility. . . Those who have the broadest shoulders should bear the greatest burden. And if these nations and powers stand in solidarity together, their shoulders will be strong indeed. This is a time and place where generosity, sacrifice and self-interest overlap.”

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