News Headlines > Western lifestyles and centuries of industrialisation 'ruining planet'

01 April 2014 | by James Macintyre

Western lifestyles and centuries of industrialisation 'ruining planet'

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Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has warned that while the West remains complacent about climate change, the world’s poorest countries are suffering most and will continue to do so in what is becoming a global environmental crisis.

Lord Williams of Oystermouth also said that the “appalling” floods in Britain over the winter are “what we can expect” in future and should be seen in a “deeply disturbing global context.”

The warnings came as the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a major report into climate change. It forecasts that Africa, Asia and South America will suffer most from global warming, and that the consequences of a predicted 2.5C rise in temperature by the end of the century, such as flooding damage, will cost £60bn a year globally.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph in his capacity as chairman of Christian Aid, Lord Williams laid the blame with Western countries. He said predictions that the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels would lead to an accelerated warming of the Earth were coming true. “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.”

Lord Williams added that while the British floods “came as a shock to many”, far worse disasters had afflicted countries like Bangladesh for years. He said that the IPCC report, which was published yesterday, places “our local problems into a deeply disturbing global context”.

The world cannot afford to deny climate change, the former Archbishop argued. “There are of course some who doubt the role of human agency in creating and responding to climate change, and who argue that we should direct our efforts solely to adapting to changes that are inevitable, rather than modifying our behaviour,” he wrote. That approach might be “all very well” in the UK where flood defences and other measures can be adopted relatively cheaply but in the countries worst affected by global warming, which are poor countries such as Bolivia and Bangladesh, that is not an option, he said.

He called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies – where mainly governments give oil, coal and gas producers and consumers financial help worth an estimated £314bn a year. Lord Williams pointed out that this figure amounts to more than six times the support given to energy from renewable sources such as wind or solar power.

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