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Roger Shorter of Christian Ecology Link attended the Meeting on Global Warming held on 19th November 2003 at St James’s Church Piccadilly during the period of the visit to London by George W Bush, and writes:

Global Warming

A discussion entitled ‘Much more than a Hot Air Debate’ was held at St James’s Church, Piccadilly, during the visit to London by US President, George W. Bush. The publicity leaflet for the meeting asked the challenging question: ‘How might Countries and individuals respond effectively?’ – It went on to report that: ‘The world is divided on the issue of how carbon emissions may be cut, and pointed out that the Kyoto Agreement had not been ratified by the USA.

Before the meeting, Ruth Jarman, from CEL’s Steering Committee, distributed leaflets about Operation Noah to the 100 or so people present, sitting in this church built by Christopher Wren in 1684.

Aubrey Meyer, Director of the Global Commons Institute, a musician by training, with a beautifully modulated speaking voice, and a clear and calm speaker, opened proceedings by explaining that the term ‘Contraction and Convergence’ being promoted by his organisation, was rather like singing the word “Amen”. It was, he said, a bit like harmonising emissions so that matters could be brought to an harmonious conclusion by stabilising the situation so that we are not faced with disastrous climate change. His Power Point presentation, full of graphs, and very clearly illustrated - at least for those with good eyesight, or in the front pews - the complexity of the problem, and showed that the most polluting state of the most polluting nation in the world is - by extraordinary coincidence, given this week’s famous visitor to England - Texas.

The Rt Hon. Michael Meacher, former Minister for the Environment, said that in his view, the problem of climate change is the most - serious one facing the world. The US, he said, with only 5% OF the world’s population, is producing 25% of the world’s emissions, but had opted out of the Kyoto Protocol. Russia he added, was another major player, and was likely to be also part of the problem now because of the rapid economic growth that they had experienced over the last 4 years. He said that a major opportunity for progress may be available via the Insurance Industry, since they were likely to be losers, economically, as the result of extremes of weather, and the claims that inevitably then were made. He advocated a global pact: on emissions, with emphasis on local partnerships between countries. He said that the concept of ‘Contraction and Convergence’ was, in his view, the one that showed the best way forward.

Professor Michael Grubb, of Imperial College, London, had been asked to pose ‘difficult questions’ concerning the whole subject and process. He said that the whole subject: was a moral issue, but found it difficult to offer much hope, given the fact that the American electoral climate was, in his view, unsympathetic to this issue, because the average American voter knew little about the rest of the world and was unlikely to be prepared to make economic sacrifices for their benefit. This, he said, goes some way to explaining the potential difficulties facing those who wish to encourage George W. to take the political action that people in other parts of the world would wish to see

The Rt Revd John Oliver, Bishop of Hereford (for the next 10 days) eloquently argued that self-interest was not to be underestimated as a means by which others could be persuaded of the importance of the subject. He said that he expected his last speech in the House of Lords next week, to be on this topic. Unlike Aubrey Meyer’s “calm” (as AM described it) but incisive approach to the matter, rather than one that made people fearful of the implications of climate change, the Bishop said that he felt that people were actually more likely to take action concerning the subject if they were, indeed fearful.

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