Climate Change - Wither Now?

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The Associated Press on June 15, 2013 noted: "The conversation is no longer solely about how to save the planet by cutting carbon emissions. It's becoming more about how to save ourselves from the warming planet's wild weather." Even Al Gore now is saying that the need to cope with rising seas and temperatures is just as important as trying to cut emissions.  

The science community, after 15 years with no appreciable increase in global warming, has found a way to slither out of the dire predictions. A University of British Columbia climate scientist called the reversal a "No regrets strategy."

Does the Creation Stewardship Task Force need to submit a new report abandoning CO2 reduction and instead advocating building higher dykes in Holland, Bangladesh and New Orleans that we can vote on next year?

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Is profiting from pollution ethical?

 

Local church pushes fossil fuels divestment

Prodded by environmentally conscious church members in Southwest Portland, the Oregon Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has endorsed divesting church-held stocks in oil, coal and other fossil fuels corporations.

Church representatives met in Eugene last Saturday and voted 102 to 94 on a resolution urging the 4 million-member church to stop buying fossil fuels stocks and sell current holdings within five years, according to Michael Hall. He’s the leader of The Environmental Stewardship Committee of St. Luke Lutheran Church, located near Gabriel Park.

“It was Bill McKibben’s idea,” Hall says of the initiative. “A bunch of our folks went to his presentation in Portland.”

McKibben, who frequently lectures in Portland and elsewhere, is an author, environmental activist and Middlebury College professor who co-founded 350.org, a global leader in the fight against climate change. The group’s name refers to 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a level that scientists have calculated is a safe level. By one measure, the globe recently hit 400 parts per million.

There are about 115 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregations in Oregon, and each sends representatives to the Oregon Synod gathering, Hall says.

The national church holds stock investments for its synod endowment, employee pension plan and seminary investments, he says.

St. Luke members hope the Oregon-passed resolution will now be considered at the annual assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, to be held in August in Pittsburgh.

“Even if we don’t make it to the floor in that meeting, word of this is going to resonate in our church,” Hall says.

 

With reference to the proposal of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to divest itself from stocks in oil, coal etc., I remind you of a book I wrote on the subject of divestment entitled Caught in the Middle. It is out of print, but anyone interested can order a digital copy from me at  <  boerjf@hotmail.com  > .

As human beings, we are often prone to looking at the problems rather than the opportunities.   I wonder whether it is at least as valid for us in north america to look at potential opportunties that climate change might offer us, as well as the increased risks and costs of climate change.    For example, we presently have three to eight months of winter in most of north america.   Siberia also has long winters, which are costly in terms of heating needs , short growing season for crops, frost damage to roads and equipment, need for additional clothes and housing, etc.   Longer summers in some of those areas will allow more crop production to take place, and will reduce heating costs.  Other opportunities might be to increase housing in temperate climates, and to reduce winter vacation  travel to warmer climates further south. 

We are often inundated with the potential problems and hazards of climate change;   but can you think of potential opportunities that climate change might offer us? 

Guide

I have a hard time looking for the positives when I have seen farmers in Uganda not knowing when to plant because their growing seasons have shifted radically. The global south is suffering because of weather change or climate change or whatever you want to call it, and I don't think we can make light of that.

No one, at least not me, is making light of it.   But there are indications it has already happened.   Growing seasons, frost-free period has already changed/increased in the last 100 years in western Canada.  However, only concentrating on the negatives means we are not looking at opportunities.   Besides which, our solutions will be found in the opportunities, and not by wallowing in the challenges/negatives. 

John -- There are opportunities, a big one one being reducing the billions of dollars we as North Americans send to the volatile Middle East by importing so much oil....

(Here's a fun little comic I came across)

Having just returned from a ghg conference in Animal Agric in Ireland, I would say there are many opportunities.  Delegates from Japan and Brazil, Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Australia, NZ, Canada and the USA and many other countries, presented research, over 400 presentations.  Some of this research showed what would not work, and some showed some promising reductions of methane with certain practices or feed additives.  Interesting is that increased efficiency usually means reduction of methane and CO2 and N2O.   What that means is that it should be possible to produce more food with less resources, which helps to solve the global food demand issue (9 billion people by 2050 anticipated).  

On the adaptation side, the recent flooding in Southern Alberta also highlighted the likely costs of not anticipating greater weather fluctuations in the future.  But the opportunity might be that setting up better irrigation infrastructure (water storage) might also reduce catastrophic flooding events.  Anyway, thinking about opportunities, will make the costs of adaption become investments, rather than merely costs. 

Jeremy, yes, there are also political and social opportunities, and I agree that it does not make much sense to send so much cash to a politically volatile region, which often uses the money against us, compared to utilizing resources which are closer at hand, including piping oil from a relatively friendly Canada. 

Hi John -- I agree that getting oil from Canada is a far better choice than the Middle East but I don't think we should be industrially strip mining the Alberta landscape to get the oil to supply one of the most inefficient vehicle fleets in the world.  In situ production of the oil sands (or bitumous sands :)) is much easier to accept.

Jeremy

~ "There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places."    Wendell Berry

A prominent evangelical supports divestment from fossil fuels:

Fossil fuels are a faith issue -- by Richard Cizik

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/06/28/fossil-fuels-are-a-faith-issue/

Jeremy, strip mining does seem a bit drastic, but it will be reclaimed... and still be more productive than some natural canadian shield rock scapes.   I was even wondering whether we could grow crops on some of the reclaimed areas... just wondering.    yes, the north american fleet is relatively inefficient, but that's probably because we like bigger cars to carry stuff, and we have sleepers on most long haul trucks, and we don't use buses like they do in Europe cities.  Double deckers everywhere in Dublin and London, for example.  More buses than cars almost, it seems.  But most homes are brick row housing there also, packed like sardines into streets, without yards, or with postage sized front yards, mostly.  Some larger homes, with tall stone fences around them... and garages large enough to accomodate two bicycles, side by side... 

Most of the open pit oilsands is already in operation now.  From now on it will be insitu bitument, with still a large footprint because of all the injection wells and extraction wells, but without surface mining, and so a much smaller footprint.  New technology being discovered all the time, including alternatives to steam injection.  Yes, it will be nice to have more alternatives to fossil fuels, but it will still take fossil fuels to create many of those alternatives.   In the meantime, we ought to make the transport of these fuels as energy efficient as possible, thus reducing ghg.   

John -- I thought there was still a significant portion that is still going to be surface mined? (1/3?  Maybe I'm wrong.)  In my opinion it's more than a little drastic even if it is going to be reclaimed (which is different than restored) within 80 years.  I don't find that the Alberta government or the federal government has taken the issue of ghg emssions seriously like some European countries have for example.  And, that doesn't seem like it is going to change unless we speak up by voting differently and by participating in campaigns such as 350.org's divestment campaign.

Jeremy, Canada signed the Kyoto accord, and yet has been less successful in reducing emissions than the USA, which did not sign the accord.  So now Canada has not signed the renewal of the accord;  and hopefully it will be more successful in reducing emissions.   However, Canada's emissions are primarily based on consumption in other parts of the world, particularly in the USA, and so these emissions ought to be attributed to USA consumption.  This applies to both oil and livestock.  But lets not nitpick.  Yes, there is still some more land to be open pit mined, but it is a relatively small portion and small area compared to future bitumen supplies.   Most bitumen is too deep to surface mine. 

Reclamation is the beginning of restoration, which wouldn't happen until the forest is at the previous mature stage.  But the landscape won't be exactly as it was before, although the intent is to replicate to some degree the similar uneven terrain.   In some ways, you might even call it a giant oil spill cleanup, since the soil will have less oil in it than it did before the mining.   There are some small portions already reclaimed with vegetation growing.   New technology which removes the need for tailings ponds is also being developed.  Things are never static. 

So a church may divest of oil stocks.  What are they doing investing in business opportunities anyway?   Why don't they invest in missions instead, which is what the money was probably intended for.   But if we shouldn't invest in fossil fuel industries, then why should we invest in churches which usually burn these fossil fuels in their inefficient furnaces, and paint with fossil fuel paints, and use fossil fuel created carpeting and chairs, and transport their sunday school kids in fossil fuel powered buses and vans, and inevitably have their pastor driving a fossil fuel powered contraption in order to make visits to members and new attenders, as well as driving or flying to classis and synod and mission fields in Honduras?  Just asking. 

"Many of the mainline Protestant churches discussing divestment are struggling, having seen significant declines in attendance over the last two generations." (according to Jeremy's linked article). 

"The (United Church of Christ) denomination places high emphasis on participation in worldwide interfaith and ecumenical efforts.[5][6] The national settings of the UCC have historically favored liberal views on social issues, such as civil rights, gay rights, women's rights and abortion rights." Wikipedia.  This is one of the churches favoring divestment.   It would be a question as to whether the oil industry is more immoral than this church....when it comes to gay rights, sex education and abortion rights.    

Strip mining of coal covers much more land globally than Canada's oil, which is a target of convenience, an irrational concentration of effort by enviros:   From the July issue of Scientific American:   "  Other forms Of fossil fuel add more to the world's carbon budget, yet they do not draw as much ire (as oilsands). Perhaps they should. ln 2011 U.S. coal-fired power plants emitted nearly two billion meb·ic tons of greenhouse gases-roughly eight times the amount produced by mining, refining and burning tar sands. Many coal mines around the world create just as visible a scar on the landscape and an even bigger climate change legacy. Yet mines like those in Montana and Wyoming's Powder River Basin are not the targets of highprofile protests such as those facing Keystone XL; protesters do not tic themselves to the tracks to block the kilometers-long trains that carry coal from the basin day after day. The U.S. Geological Survey suggests that basin alone holds 150 billion metric tons of coal that could be recovered with existing technology.  Burning it all would send the world flying beyond any trillionmetric- ton carbon budget. "  (by David Biello) 

Community Builder

I would like to start a new stream in this discussion given that this week there are some high powered government and UN meetings in this topic. But rather than come at it from a high level, I would like to look inward a bit more.

Here is a little incident spurred by the Banner of what happened yesterday:

I was encouraged to cycle, walk or take transit to church. Great idea. The bus and three transfers got me there.

In a very good sermon by a Pastor who had flown in from a far away place, a comment was made the the ex Executive Director of the CRCNA and the President of Calvin Seminary we going to visit Egypt.  And I am "encouraged to cycle, walk or take transit"....... What am I missing?

The CRCNA has broad distribution of ministries across the globe. World Missions, Back to God Ministries International and World Renew each have Program Managers who manage overseas projects, these Managers each have Directors who manage these Program Mangers and these Directors have an Executive Director (s) (maybe two or three right now, in this transition to Dr. Timmermans).

Synod has declared that they might agree with scientists that Climate Change (used to be called Global Warming and Ice Age when I was a kid because it was sure cold in Canada between 1954-1959) is caused by humans. In that case I would like an accounting of the "energy footprint" that the CRCNA had in 2012, 2013 and so far this year. To keep it simple, I would like to know the amount of money that was spent in those years to fly CRCNA Head office staff around the world, including N.A. The information does not need to include costs of transporting actual Missionaries, WR volunteers, CRCNA Board Members and Partners of BTGMI overseas. Just CRCNA employees normally resident in GR, Burlington, Chicago or wherever else in North America. As this issue was "top of mind" at Synod I am sure the information is readily available.

Now that Missionaries have to fund themselves to 90% by year x it might be interesting to know what the travel costs by CRCNA HO is to manage these Missionaries. For full disclosure purposes it should include Class (1st, Business, Economy, other) as well. If church process requires a request for this information via a church Council or Classis I am sure someone will tell me that.