Having mentioned the recurring reminders that he will return to earth – false messiahs, wars, famines, earthquakes etc., “the beginning of birth-pains,” Jesus mentions extensive persecution as one of the later signs. Extensive persecution is an indication that the return of Christ is beginning to draw near. And there certainly is extensive persecution of Christians in the world today. Our first concern should be to pray for and support our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted. But we should also see it as a sign of the End Times.

 

2015 was widely seen as the worst year for persecution of Christians ever.[1]  Estimates vary between 100 million Christians facing persecution (Open Doors[2]) and 200 million (Christian Freedom International). They suffer torture, rape, imprisonment and death.

 

Open Doors reports that 7100 Christians were killed in 2015 (up 3000 from 2014), 4028 of them in Nigeria. These are conservative estimates and exclude North Korea, Syria and Iraq, where accurate records do not exist. 214 churches and similar Christian buildings are destroyed per month and 722 Christians (in addition to the above 7100 figure) suffer violent treatment every month.

 

At least 53 countries place restrictions on religion. Many are Muslim (35 countries) but extreme Hindus also persecute Christians. It is reported that one Pastor is beaten and one church burned every week in Hindu areas.[3] A “Religious Freedom Bill” is being introduced in India to “prohibit conversion from one religion to another by the use of force or allurement or by fraudulent means.” “Force” is defined as “including threat of divine displeasure.” This bill will outlaw basic Christian doctrines, such as salvation, heaven and hell.[4]

 

In India, the Hindutva movement within Hinduism argues that every Indian must belong to a religion which has originated in India. This view has become increasingly popular and is now a dominant force in Indian politics. Mob attacks on pastors and members of congregation, with attempts to force them to convert to Hinduism, have increased greatly, so much so that there was an average of one incidence of violence against India’s Christians for every day in 2015”[5]

 

Russia is now placing serious restrictions on Christians (and other religious groups). Religious activities can only take place on Christian property, not private homes (except private prayers) or secular land. Neighbours are obliged to report any breach of this law. Teaching about Christian beliefs can be carried out by clergy and directors of Christian organisations who have a state permit. Even private prayers in a home must not be said if a non-believer is present. Evangelism is banned even in church buildings. Encouraging an unbeliever to convert to Christ is illegal.

 

Pope Francis describes all the persecution as a third world war. Speaking about the Middle East, he said: “In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place.”[6]

 

Cardinal Nichols and the Bishop of Leeds said that Christians are the most persecuted people.[7]

 

The Roman Catholic organisation Aid to Church in Need said that Christians are fast disappearing from entire regions in Middle East and Africa.

 

In summer 2012 the International Society for Human Rights based in Frankfurt … estimated that 80% of all acts of religious discrimination were against Christians. In terms of outright persecution, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMEVE) resported that 75% was against Christians. But controversy surrounds reports that up to 150,000 Christians are being killed for their faith every year …

 

In France March 2014 Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Seko of Baghdada said: “Interventions [by the West] in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya have not helped to solve the problems of their peoples. On the contrary, they have led to chaos and conflict that do not bode well for the future, especially for Christains…. 1400 years of Islam have not been able to take us away from our lands and our churches; now Western policy has scattered us to the four corners of the earth. More and more Christians are being victimized, and their exodus from the Middle East appears upstoppable.”[8]

 

Leaders of the European Parliament commented that the persecution of Christians around the world is not getting the attention it deserves. The President, Martin Schulz, said: Europe cannot afford to continue ignoring the fate of Christians, who are ‘ clearly the most persecuted group’ in the world.” The Vice President Antonio Tajani commented: “No religious community is as subject to hatred, violence and systematic aggression as the Christians. The West must break the silence on the persecution of Christians in the world and Europe must promote a model of society in opposition to religious radicalism and brutal and criminal projects, such as creating an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria and then extending its tentacles into Libya.”[9]

 

We need to pray regularly for our persecuted brothers and sisters, and to support them where we can. We can also remember that Jesus spoke of greater persecution pointing to the drawing near of his return.

[1] Open Doors http://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/trends.php

[2] http://www.opendoorsuk.org/news/stories/world_watch_150108.php?ref=storylnk1

[3] http://www.opendoorsuk.org/news/press_releases/pr_160112_worldwatch.php

[4]http://www.christiantoday.com/article/india.plan.to.ban.religious.conversion.sparks.fears.of.heightened.attacks.on.christians/68638.htm

[5] Barnabas Aid Sep/Oct 2016

[6] http://tribune.com.pk/story/918279/third-world-war-pope-deplores-genocide-of-christians-in-middle-east/

[7] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/we-must-stop-shilly-shallying-about-the-fact-that-christians-are-most-persecuted-people-says-a6785211.html

[8] https://issuu.com/acnusa/docs/p___g_2015_executive_summary_webver

[9]http://www.christiantoday.com/article/european.parliament.leaders.call.for.end.to.western.silence.on.worldwide.persecution.of.christians/72573.htm

Church growth and decline

 

Churches with a conservative view of Scripture who treat the Bible as the Word of God grow faster than those with a liberal view, according to a new report. The report, “Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy,” was based on five years of research amongst churchmembers and clergy in Ontario.

 

It discovered that only 50% of clergy from declining churches agreed it was “very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians,” compared to 100% of clergy from growing churches. I’m tempted to ask what planet those clergy from declining churches are living on. But it is more serious than that. I would not like to be them on the Day of Judgment.

 

The report also discovered that:

  • 93% of clergy and 83% of churchmembers in growing churches believed in the bodily resurrection of Christ compared with only 56% of clergy and 67% of worshippers in declining churches.
  • 71% of clergy from growing churches read the Bible daily compared with 19% from declining churches.

 

However, it is not true that all conservative churches are growing. If they don’t have a strong corporate prayer life, an openness to and experience of the Holy Spirit’s power and a practical commitment to evangelism they won’t grow.

 

There are, of course, other factors. A UK report entitled “Going Deeper: Church attendance statistics and clergy deployment” published in January 2016 states: “An increase in clergy is associated with the likelihood of growth in attendance, while a decrease in clergy is associated, on average, to a decline in attendance.” However, at present rates the number of stipendiary clergy will decline from 7,400 in 2016 to 6,300 in 2035 (it was 8,300 in 2012). 25% of clergy are over 60.

 

There has been an 11% decrease in attendance in the Church of England over the past decade with an average decline of just over 1% a year. 100,000 worshippers have been lost in that period. J John recently pointed out that in 7 out of the 43 dioceses 40% of worshippers are over 70. He added that attendance is declining in 37% of parishes but is growing in 10%.

 

The church and homosexual practice

 

It is important to keep the issue of homosexual practice in proportion. In October 2016 The UK Office for National Statistics published its official figures that only 1.7 per cent of the UK population are lesbian, gay or bisexual.

 

Obviously, every individual and every minority is important. But we need to relate this very small percentage against the enormous effect it is having on society and on the church. This effect is out of all proportion to the numerical size of the problem.

 

So why is it happening? Although there are important non-sexual evils in society, it is clear that there are spiritual forces using sexual sin – heterosexual and homosexual (including promiscuity, adultery, easy divorce, etc) to undermine the family which is the fundamental unit of society. Enormous damage is being done to individuals, including children (quite apart from child abuse) and that has and will have huge negative effects on society.

 

Professor Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University, wrote about rapid cultural change. She said: “American culture has become more individualistic and more focused on the self and on equality.  For society to become more focused on self is very damaging. She added that from 1973 to 1990, the percentage of adults who approved of same-sex relationships rose from 11% to 13%. But in the last 25 years, the figure has risen to almost half of all adults.

 

Damage is also being done to the church and there is discrimination against individual Christians. One example is the case of Barry Trayhorn who was chaplain at Littlehey prison. He was disciplined for quoting 1 Cor 6 which condemns various sins including homosexual practice in a sermon. He explained that he wanted to assure the inmates – many of whom have committed horrific sex abuse crimes – that God could bring forgiveness. The prison authorities said he had broken equality laws by quoting a ‘homophobic’ passage.

 

In recent times the following events have happened which show an increasing acceptance of homosexual practice by the church:

  • The vicar of St. Peter’s, Brighton, an evangelical church planted by Holy Trinity, Brompton said he was very supportive of a gay pride march. He added that many of his churchmembers would take part. They had a lot of LGBT people in the congregation and were very supportive of them.
  • The Anglican Church in Canada approved of gay marriage and the Diocese of Toronto elected an “openly gay, partnered bishop.”
  • The evangelical Bishop of Liverpool said the insistence that homosexuals must be celibate to practise their faith should be dropped and that he had “learned to respect the experiences of people who want to celebrate and express their sexuality, and be within the church.”
  • GAFCON (the Global Anglican Future Conference) published a list of clergy who have entered into same-sex marriages and remained in office. One of those clergy, a member of General Synod commented on the recent ‘conversations’ between synod members who have different views on homosexual practice. He said: “I came away with the strong sense that Synod is ready for change … what I experienced and heard was a recognition that the current stance of the Church is untenable.”

On the other hand, the Church of England Evangelical Council stated:  “The blessing of same-sex relationships would be a de facto change of Church of England doctrine.” Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden and a member of the CEEC, said “The House of Bishops are still engaged in conversations about the nature and shape of pastoral provision in this area. Many evangelical Anglicans would agree with the analysis and the concerns expressed in the CEEC document that any move towards further liberalisation would bring to a head the divisions in the Church of England and might well cause a split. My role – and that of my colleagues in the House is to do all that I can to prevent a split and to hold people in the Church of England – though that will not be easy, given what is at stake.”

 

 

How should we respond to all this?

 

We should welcome gay people to church

We should welcome all sinners – heterosexual or homosexual – to come along to church to hear the gospel and to experience the reality of the presence of God. In fact, we can only welcome sinners to church because they are the only people available! We’re all sinners. But the New Testament says that those who persist in serious sin should not be regarded as members. In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul gives the example of a person in an illegitimate sexual relationship. (We should note, though, that he also says those persist in greed, idolatry, slander, a drunkenness or swindling should not be regarded as members 1 Cor 5:11).

 

Andrew Brown, a secular journalist, points out a serious inconsistency in the Church of England: “In effect, there is one standard for the laity – which is to conform to the liberal norms of society – and a double standard for the clergy who are supposed to be celibate, even when they live with same sex partners, if not heterosexually married. It is perfectly in order for clergy and even bishops to be civilly partnered.”

 

However the Church of England (like other churches) is making fundamental mistakes in its approach to the homosexual issue. It has not yet changed its basic position that homosexual practice is incompatible with the teaching of Scripture but it is gradually weakening its position in the following ways:

 

We want to be seen as nice

It is trying too hard to be seen as kind and relevant to society. It needs to re-read James stark warning “Don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” In following Christ and his word we have to be willing to be unpopular and deemed irrelevant and outdated. Whereas we should take trends and opinions in society seriously we should not allow them to dictate what we believe and preach. We should try to communicate as effectively as possible with our secular society but we should stick to our guns on what we believe.

 

We apologise too much

Of course we need to avoid any negativity towards homosexuals as people. We should love our homosexual neighbour as much as our heterosexual neighbour. But loving our neighbour doesn’t mean we have to love their behaviour.  Clearly there have been Christians who despise homosexuals as people – and that is wrong. It is true that there could have been comments and discussions in the church which have been unloving towards homosexuals as people. But the church has now become obsessive about apologising to them. Time after time we have church leaders apologising. It wasn’t helpful that the Archbishop of Canterbury said he was “constantly consumed with horror” at the way the Church treated gay people and that he lay awake thinking about the issue. In their naivety church leaders don’t realise how this excessive apologising comes over to society. It gives the impression we are uncertain of our basic position and we are apologising for it. By all means apologise, but don’t keep on doing it.

 

We give the impression that the moral issue is simply a matter of opinion

I have been involved in a great deal of dialogue with homosexuals and it helps develop inter-personal understanding. But the Church of England General Synod may not be aware of the impression it has given to society by its recent “conversations.” The impression is that both opinions are equally legitimate – those who approve homosexual practice and those who don’t. The further impression given is that, in a true Church of England way, we’ll eventually decide that both sides have won and both shall have prizes. The message that should be conveyed is that, whereas discussion is valuable, the official position of the church, as decided by a 98% majority of the General Synod in 1987, is that, like fornication and adultery “that homosexual genital acts … are … to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion” and those who disagree are mistaken. Also the 1998 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops agreed “This conference, in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage.”

 

We think we might be able to bless sin

We are considering the possibility of blessing gay relationships. If such relationships are not sexually active there is no problem. But if they are sexually active we should not bless them. The weakness in the position that we can bless sexually active homosexual relationships is that God will have no part in it – and he is the one being asked to provide the blessing.

 

So we contribute to the moral decline in society which is doing enormous harm to adults and children. May God forgive us.

 

Conclusion

The church needs to return to the clear teaching of Scripture in the power of the Spirit and we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to bring revival in the church and society

 

Sadly, there was an 11% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the UK in the first half of 2016 compared with 2015. 557 ‘malicious acts’ against Jewish people was the second highest ever recorded for a January-June period, most of them verbal abuse but 41 of them violent. The worst time was in April – June when anti-Semitism in the Labour party was highlighted in the media.

Brexit, the UK’s decision to leave the EU has not helped because it has destabilised the EU and brought right wing views and xenophobia to the fore. Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, told the European Parliament that Jewish people felt they were standing on a dangerous train track with “trains coming at each other with ever increasing speed … One train is the train of radical Islam and Islamic terrorism… The other train is the anti-Semitism of old Europe, the extreme right.” He went on to say that 22% of Jewish people in nine European countries avoided Jewish events or sites because they feared for their safety. 40% of Jewish people in France and 36% in Belgium said they avoided wearing symbols that identified them as Jews for fear of attack. Tens of thousands of Jewish people have emigrated from France and Belgium.

 

Baroness Jenny Tonge spoke in a House of Lords debate on the living conditions of Palestinian children. She accused Israel of “creating a generation of terrorists who will have a justified grudge against Israel and the countries who support her.” Jonathan Sacerdoti, of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, responded: “By suggesting there would be Palestinian terrorists ‘with a justified grudge’ against Israel, she is effectively justifying the terrorism that is aimed at Jewish people in Israel and around the world by Hamas and other terrorist organisations.” Baroness Tong has a history of making anti-Israel comments and was forced to resign from the Liberal Democrat party in 2012.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK Labour Party, claims to be against racism but in 2013 he attended an event organised by Paul Eisen who is a Holocaust denier. Corbyn also praised Sheikh Raed Salah and Islamist who believes in the old ‘blood libel’ (that Jewish people have murdered Christian children and used their blood in rituals).

 

Ken Livingstone, a well-known Labour politician defended Labour MP Naz Shah who suggested Israeli Jews should be transported to the US. He also claimed that Hitler was a Zionist. He said on the Arabic TV station Al Ghad Al Arabi : “The creation of the state of Israel was fundamentally wrong, because there had been a Palestinian community there for 2,000 years …  We should have absorbed the post-Second World War Jewish refugees in Britain and America. They could all have been resettled.” Livingstone was suspended from the Labour Party for these comments.

 

In March Tom Harris, a former Labour MP, wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “Labour does indeed have a problem with Jews. It can acknowledge that problem’s existence, confront it and deal with it. Or it can shrug, mutter something about UN Security Council resolutions and continue to court the support of those on the far Left who are the source of the problem.”

 

The co-chair of the Labour club at Oxford University resigned saying the club had “some kind of problem with Jews”. He said that one club member had organised a group to shout “filthy Zionist” at a Jewish student whenever they saw her. Some National Union of Students delegates applauded speeches opposing the commemoration of the Holocaust.

 

 

In March 2016 Lord Jonathan Sacks, former UK Chief Rabbi, wrote an article entitled “Anti-Zionism Is the New Anti-Semitism” in Newsweek. He said:

 

“Criticism of the Israeli government is not anti-Semitic. …. It is, though, a front for the new anti-Semitism, an unholy alliance of radical Islamism and the political left.

 

“What then is anti-Semitism? It is not a coherent set of beliefs but a set of contradictions. Before the Holocaust, Jews were hated because they were poor and because they were rich; because they were communists and because they were capitalists; because they kept to themselves and because they infiltrated everywhere; because they clung tenaciously to ancient religious beliefs and because they were rootless cosmopolitans who believed nothing.

 

“Throughout history, when people have sought to justify anti-Semitism, they have done so by recourse to the highest source of authority available within the culture. In the Middle Ages, it was religion. In post-Enlightenment Europe it was science. Today it is human rights.”

Jonathan Sacks shows the irrational nature of the evil of anti-Semitism. It makes little sense. I have concluded that the only explanation for it is that it is demonic. God has not finished with the Jewish people and the New Testament predicts a massive turning to Jesus as Messiah by the Jewish people. Satan would love to destroy them to prevent this being fulfilled.

 

Concerns here are not only about the replacement of democratic national governments by remote world government but also about the danger of oppression inherent in world government.

 

Reaction against globalisation

 

Supporters of globalisation point out its economic benefits. However global economic growth has fallen from 3.5% to 2% since 2008. Also there is an awareness of rising inequality, e.g. the wealthy pay less tax proportionately than the poor. The banks have been producing money which, instead of funding wages and job growth, has found its way into the assets of the rich and is pushing up prices. In Britain, whilst wages rose by 13% the stock market rose by 115%. World trade talks have been disappointing and the issue of immigration has come to the fore. Globalisation has produced a volatile economy. Industries, jobs and careers which used to be secure are no longer.

 

In fact, there is a growing trend against globalisation, and in favour of nationalism, led by right-wingers such as Donald Trump. Experts say that ISIS wants to induce western countries to become more right wing, nationalist, intolerant and xenophobic so that many citizens turn against Muslims, and therefore encouraging greater radicalisation, providing more terrorists and suicide bombers. Closer economic integration is seen as to some degree incompatible with national sovereignty and national democracy. There is a growing anti-establishment movement. Successful re-election of existing political leadership has virtually halved since 2008. Brexit is one evidence of a reaction against globalisation.

 

On the other hand, many issues call for close global co-operation, e.g. terrorism, global warming, world poverty and undermining of human rights. Also economists warn that anti-globalisation will worsen the global economic slowdown we are experiencing.

 

Despite the current reactions against it, the trend towards globalisation will not go away.

 

Disturbing definitions of ‘non-violent extremism’

 

This is one of the most serious areas of concern and could lead to government oppression, including over those (including Christians) who teach conservative values.

 

Britain is at the forefront of preparing legislation to prevent violent extremism. Theresa May, now prime minister, has been a leading figure in this process. Yet the government proposals have been subjected to very serious criticisms. In July 2016 the Joint Committee on Human Rights found that the proposals:

  • gave “no impression of having a coherent or sufficiently precise definition of either ‘non-violent extremism’ or ‘British values’”.
  • Would give the authorities “wide discretion to prohibit loosely defined speech which they find unacceptable”.
  • would “potentially interfere with a number of human rights including freedom of religion, expression and association”.

The committee also said that the government assumed “that there is an escalator that starts with religious conservatism and ends with support for jihadism”. They expressed “very grave” concerns about proposals to compulsorily register out-of-school education settings, such as church youth work. It said this could penalise Evangelical Christians, Orthodox Jews and others who have conservative religious views but do not promote violence.

 

Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton warned that Sunday Schools and other church groups could still face inspections by the school regulatory body Ofsted. Several MPs have warned that the legislation could be used to target Christian groups that teach marriage is between a man and a woman.

 

Simon Cole, Chief Constable of Leicestershire, said the plans risked creating thought police – judges of “what people can and cannot say.” Alistair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland, said the definition of extremism as “the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs” could be used against those who oppose the government, believe the monarchy should be abolished or disagree with same-sex marriage. He added that it would only be a matter of time before the powers are used in a way for they were never intended.

 

Commenting on the government emphasis on “British values”, the Bishop of London said: “The business of the State is to ensure that the living traditions in our pluralist society have space to flourish without the State itself being drawn into the role of an ideologically driven Big Brother, profligate with ever more detailed regulation.”

 

In February 2016 a Hampshire school called the police after a 15 year old pupil viewed the UKIP website on a school computer. He was interviewed by police for viewing “extremist views.”

 

The Scottish Government Named Person Scheme

 

In a very disturbing move, the Scottish Government proposed to assign a state guardian to monitor every child’s ‘wellbeing.’ This would undermine the parent-child relationship. It would also allow public bodies to share sensitive private information about children and parents without their knowledge or consent. Christian parents would be particularly concerned that such a system would undermine the Christian upbringing of their children.

 

Fortunately, in July 2016 five judges of the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the scheme was unlawful. However it is a cause of deep concern that the Scottish Government ever embarked upon this oppressive course of action and it shows the danger of such ideas being repeated in the future.

 

 

Alongside seeking to take seriously biblical teaching on eschatology it is instructive to take notice of what is sometime called secular eschatology, i.e. secular predictions by scholars of serious disasters which the future could hold. Global warming is one such.

 

Scientists have warned that there would be a climate crisis in the second half of this century but there are warnings that the crisis is already here. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 143% since pre-industrial times. 2016 is likely to be the hottest year ever measured. 2015 broke the record for temperature as did 2014. In fact 15 of the 16 warmest years ever recorded have occurred this century. Arctic ice now covers a smaller area than ever recorded. Because of unusual thawing of ice in Siberia the bodies of animals which died in the 1941 anthrax epidemic have caused an anthrax outbreak. There have also been very serious droughts in India and bleaching of coral reefs.

 

Although thermometer records only go back to 1880, scientists are able to examine ice cores, corals and tree rings showing the earth is at its hottest for 5000 years. But CO2 levels are the highest for almost a million years. Prof Stefan Rahmstorf, at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany says the rate at which humanity is emitting CO2 is the fastest for 66 million years. CO2 is the main cause for the extreme weather in 2016 but scientists also say that about one fifth of the temperature rise in recent months is due to El Nino (the climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean which goes through cyclical changes).

 

Rahmstorf added: “What is happening right now is we are catapulting ourselves out of the Holocene, which is the geological epoch that human civilisation has been able to develop in, because of the relatively stable climate. It allowed us to invent agriculture, rather than living as nomads. It allowed a big population growth, it allowed the foundation of cities, all of which required a stable climate.”

 

A 2014 report by the Royal Institute of International Affairs said the global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined.[1] The author stated: “Preventing catastrophic warming is dependent on tackling meat and dairy consumption.” That is hardly a popular warning!

 

Europe will experience extreme weather causing severe wildfires, river floods and windstorms. The UK government has hopefully woken up to the fact that severe flooding is likely to recur.

 

Greenhouse gases have caused the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool, the largest area of warm water in the world, to increase in size and temperature. This has led to five small islands in the S Pacific disappearing. The pool is known to oscillate in size and temperature over a 20-year period but researchers have discovered that it has grown by one third in size and 0.3C temperature in the last 60 years. Because it is so big (9000 by 1500 miles) this has a huge effect. Scholars have said only 12-18% of the temperature rise has been caused by this cycle and the rest by global warming.

 

The Antarctic Ice Sheet covers almost 5.4 million square miles at the South Pole and contains about 61% of all the fresh water on Earth. The effect of global warming on this ice could raise sea levels by almost three metres.

 

In 2015 thousands of people died of heatwaves in Europe and Asia. Scientists predict that if the temperature reaches two degrees above pre-industrial level some countries in the Middle East and N Africa could experience daytime temperatures of 46C by the middle of the 21st century. Prolonged heat waves and desert dust storms could render some regions uninhabitable. One study predicts that by 2100 temperatures in countries like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain could occasionally reach 74-76C which could cause fatalities.

 

In 2009 The Lancet medical journal published a report commissioned by University College, London which predicted that global warming could so affect the quality of food that between 300,000 and 700,000 people could die each year by 2050. In particular they predicted that by 2050 climate change would seriously reduce the amount of fruit and vegetables and processed meat. They called climate change the greatest threat to health in the 21st century due to floods, droughts and increased infectious diseases. They added that it could reverse 50 years of progress in medicine.

 

The World Economic Forum recently published a report by 750 experts which saw climate change as the biggest threat to the global economy. Cecilia Reyes, the Zurich Insurance Group chief risk officer, said: “Climate change is exacerbating more risks than ever before in terms of water crises, food shortages, constrained economic growth, weaker societal cohesion and increased security risks.”[2] The World Bank said that 100 million people could slide into extreme poverty because of climate change, in addition to the 703 million who are already in extreme poverty. Global warming leads to crop failures, natural disasters, higher food prices and the spread of waterborne diseases, creating poverty.

 

The Paris Agreement to tackle global warming

 

In December 2015 177 nations agreed to try to prevent the world’s average temperature rising more than 1.5C above the pre-industrial level (it is already 1.3C). They will set targets every five years after the agreement comes into force in 2020. But analysts have said that the measures they have actually agreed so far would mean a rise of between 2.6C and 3.1C by 2100. This, of course, breaches the 2C limit beyond which scientists have predicted there will be catastrophic and irreversible droughts, floods, heatwaves and se level rises.

 

The rich countries promised to provide $100bn (£66bn) to help poorer countries switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy and to protect them against dangers such as increased flooding.

 

The agreement also includes aiming at having “net zero emissions” during the second half of the century. This means that any CO2 produced would need to be captured and disposed of or offset by planting huge numbers of trees. However, in a joint letter to the press, British climate experts[3] stated: “This involves rapidly growing trees and grasses faster than nature has ever done on land we don’t have, then burning it in power stations that will capture and compress the CO2 using an infrastructure we don’t have and with technology that won’t work on the scale we need and to finally store it in places we can’t find.”[4]

 

Already Ban Ki-moon’s climate change envoy has accused the British and German governments of backtracking on the agreement by providing subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. It is also not encouraging that Theresa May has abolished the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is due to meet in Geneva this month (August 2016), to discuss ways to implement the Paris Agreement. Scientists are talking of the need to close down all coal-powered power stations by 2025 and to abolish the combustion engine (petrol/diesel engines) by 2030.

 

Professor Chris Field, of Stanford University, said that the 1.5C goal looks impossible or very, very difficult and he warned that closing down fossil fuel plants before renewable alternatives are established would mean there would be insufficient energy and people would suffer.

 

Many scientists say the only hope is to develop new techniques of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere as most of the current possible techniques are unworkable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] ‘Livestock – Climate Change’s Forgotten Sector – Global Public Opinion on Meat and Dairy Consumption’, December 2014.

[2] http://www.policyconnect.org.uk/appccg/news/economists-label-climate-change-biggest-threat-global-economy

[3] Professor Paul Beckwith, University of Ottowa, Professor Stephen Salter – Edinburgh University, Professor Peter Wadhams – Cambridge University, Professor James Kennett of University of California, Dr Hugh Hunt – Cambridge University, Dr. Alan Gadian -Senior Scientist, Nation Centre for Atmospheric Sciences, University of Leeds, Dr. Mayer Hillman – Senior Fellow Emeritus of the Institute of the Policy Studies Institute, Dr. John Latham – University of Manchester, Aubrey Meyer  – Director, Global Commons Institute, John Nissen –  Chair Arctic Methane Emergency Group.

[4] http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/cop21-paris-deal-far-too-weak-to-prevent-devastating-climate-change-academics-warn-a6803096.html