An Urgent Call for Climate Action Teams in the Episcopal Diocese of New York
Everyone knows that we have a substantial history of ecological awareness and environmental stewardship in the Diocese of New York. But now, we live in a time of climate emergency, and we must make a higher level of commitment. As people
of faith, we know that environmental destruction is sinful. As people of faith and reason, we also know that the consequences for our generation and the future are almost unthinkable. Since the 2015 UN Agreement on Climate Change, leading policymakers and scientists have realized that the urgency is significantly more urgent that we thought. By some estimates, the global rate of carbon emissions has begun to level off, and the use of renewable, clean energy is on the rise. However, carbon emissions must not only level off, but also turn downward by around 2020 — within 2 years. If that doesn’t happen, the few inches of sea level rise that you might see where you live will inevitably become 2 or 3 meters by the end of this century, if not sooner.
The crux of the matter is that we could reach “tipping points” or “thresholds” very quickly — points past which cannot go without risking irreversible global warming. Ten years ago, some scientists believed that Antarctica might remain relatively stable into the near future — that turns out not to be the case. Temperatures in the Arctic have been 20 degrees C above normal, sometimes more, which alarms even the scientists. And rapid Arctic ice-melt releases methane from permafrost in the soil – a greenhouse gas 85 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.
A related challenge is that the whole web of life is deteriorating. Some debate is taking place about whether we’ve already entered an era in Earth history called the “Sixth Great Extinction.” The last time extinction rates were this high may have been 66 million years ago. What we do know is that coral reefs are bleaching and dying from heat stress and rising levels of acidity in the oceans. 30% of all mammals and 40% of amphibians are facing extinction now. We frequently hear about large mammals: Arctic polar bears losing habitat in the Arctic and elephants illegally hunted in Africa. But even small parasites are facing extinction. 30% of earthworms may be extinct by 2070 – seemingly unimportant creatures that create healthy soil conditions on which food and agriculture depend. The reasons for these extinction rates include climate disruption, water shortages, habitat loss and rapid deforestation due, in part, to land and water grabbing, overpopulation, and pollution.
Working together for Creation care is a matter of morality and survival. The web of life is a life together, and so is human life. When we look at the big picture, we realize that what’s actually endangered is, in fact, our whole life together. For us, in the church, the solution is to create a sustainable and just life together as the church and of the church.
In 2015, at our 239th Diocesan Convention, we passed the following Resolutions: (1) that … every congregation … renew its commitment to conduct an approved energy audit with all due speed; and on that foundation; (2) that … diocesan and parish organizations … make resources available to congregations to help them pursue energy audits; and (3) that … every congregation, with the assistance of Property Support and the Committee on the Environment … develop a “self-study” plan for the conversion to renewable energy sources within the next ten years. We must follow through on these resolutions quickly.
For those and other reasons, the Diocesan Committee on the Environment issues an urgent call for the formation of Climate Action Teams in each of the three major regions of our Diocese: New York City (Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island), (4) Mid-Hudson (Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, and Sullivan Counties), and (5) the Counties of Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam. We’re looking for able volunteers who are willing to meet as Climate Action Teams within those regions for the purpose of education, mutual support, and organizing. If you are interested, please contact The Rev. Canon Jeff Golliher, Chairperson of the Committee on the Environment, at 845-626- 2605.
The future really does depend on what we do now in our generation. To delay a day or two years is to gamble with what God has given us to care for, and we don’t believe in gambling. Some climate scientists say, privately, that we may need a miracle. We pray about that, sometimes asking ourselves, whether we really believe in miracles. We do, and we believe in God. And we believe that we need to believe in each other too, so we can do what needs to be done before it’s too late.
The Committee on the Environment, The Diocese of New York
A life together: The need for urgent action on the climate and environmental crisis
Representatives from 197 countries are preparing to travel to the German city of Bonn for the 23rd meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Ahead of next week’s meeting, the Revd Canon Dr Jeff Golliher, programme director for the environment and sustainable communities at the Anglican Communion Office at the UN in New York, offers his thoughts.
Our attention must turn – urgently – to the climate and environmental crisis. There are some bright spots, but in truth the situation is more than alarming. We are facing the greatest challenge of any generation in all of human history.
For years, the UN has been trying to avert what it calls a “global catastrophe.” They mean that we will reach a point, by 2100 or sooner, when our political, economic, and social systems will likely lose the capacity to adapt – unless greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of environmental destruction are brought to a halt. The Earth’s temperature cannot rise more than 1.5 or 2 degrees C above the average before the fossil fuel era. It has already risen about 1 degree.
But, in parts of south Asia, the Pacific, and southern Africa, millions of people already experience forms of climate catastrophe. Poverty-stricken countries suffer the most. For them, the question is not whether an emergency will happen in the future, but whether help will arrive today.
One bright spot is that, by some estimates, the global rate of carbon emissions has begun to level off, and the use of renewable, clean energy is on the rise. However – and this is the crucial point – in the two years since the UN Paris Agreement on Climate (2015), scientists and policymakers have increasingly said that we must take action much faster. Emissions must not just level off, but take a downward turn by around 2020 – within two years.
Emissions are levelling, but carbon levels are still rising. The temperature of the atmosphere and the oceans is rising – deforestation is one of the many reasons. The crux of the matter is that we could reach “tipping points” or “thresholds” very quickly – points past which we cannot go without risking irreversible global warming.
A related challenge is that the whole web of life is deteriorating. Some debate is taking place about whether we’ve already entered an era in Earth history called the “Sixth Great Extinction”. The last time extinction rates were this high was 66 million years ago.
Coral reefs are bleaching from heat stress and rising levels of acidity in the oceans. And 30% of all mammals and 40% of amphibians are facing extinction. We frequently hear about large mammals: Arctic polar bears and elephants in Africa. But even small parasites are facing extinction: 30% of earthworms may be extinct by 2070 – one of God’s creatures that create healthy soil conditions on which food and agriculture depend. The reasons for this include climate disruption, water shortages, habitat loss, deforestation, overpopulation, and pollution.
As a matter of survival, we must work together to care for God’s Creation. The web of life is a life together, and so is human life. When we look at the big picture, we realise that what is endangered is, in fact, our whole life together. The solution, then, is to create a sustainable and just life together as the church, in the church, and of the church.