Climate change: Roots and Actions - A Manifesto

Draft 1 - to 15 May 2009

This is an early draft. It is offered here to stimulate debate. Most points are expanded in a separate 'arguments' page: click on the relevant hyperlink, from which you can return. Please note that many of the expansions have yet to be written, and others are in note form.


Paragraph I. Urgency

The problem of climate change is urgent and unavoidable.

1. Climate change emissions (CCEs, or 'greenhouse gases') continue to increase. This will raise global temperatures, which will severely disrupt human and other life on earth (See explanation).

2. For most CCEs, we - humankind - are responsible, either directly or indirectly. We burn fossil fuels unnecessarily (air con, aviation, cars, heating, electricity). We cut down forests that can soak up carbon dioxide (Western nations demand products for which the forests are cut). Desiring beef, we expand hugely the numbers of cattle (who emit methane). We often insist on receiving higher incomes or borrowing to buy more, or insist on higher government (energy-related) expenditures. And so on. (See examples.)

3. We can already see major impacts, which can and will lead to big disasters in the coming decades if the `business as usual'scenario is taken. For example (and here are more):

4. Part of the reason for urgency is that, in common with other environmental systems, the climate system is non-linear. This means that it is subject to sudden changes/jumps that can have enormous impacts. These are well documented in both the historical/geological records.

5. The UK has committed itself to an 80% reduction in its CCEs by 2050. Its emissions are way above this level, and still going up. Every month that goes by makes reaching this target more difficult. See the curve.

We tend to respond to important, urgent problems with goal-setting, action and list of things to do. There are two things wrong with this when the problem is climate change. One is that we need a thorough analysis of what the root of the problem is. The other is that we need a different way of thinking, a different attitude, which drives us towards responsibility, restraint and a way-orientation rather than immediate solutions. Attending to these can then - and only then - provide goals and lists of things to do. The rest of this Manifesto is based on these.

Paragraph II. The Problem that is Climate Change

Climate change is not just an environmental problem. There are four main levels at which it is inextricably interwoven with other problems. It can be argued that ignoring these four levels, or even ignoring just some of them, will already be decisive in a negative way for the outcome of our battle against accelerated climate change and continued environmental degradation.

1. Climate change interacts with other world-wide problems. For example with crop failures, the world's food crisis, the present economic crisis, the excessive use of energy, transport, biodiversity. For example, with non-Western world, political tensions, etc. Specifically:

2. Western lifestyle. Almost all aspects of the Western lifestyle generate high CCEs. See examples.

2. Modern society as it is currently constituted is incapable of dealing with this realistically by current approaches. Especially Western society.

3. The attitude and example of the Western nations. There has been a lack of real sharing of resources, with the poor nations, whether water and energy or markets. The poor in general are often directly excluded by the rich countries from the benefits of wealth creation. The West has demonstrated an attitude of selfishness, and, seeing its material and political success, other nations aspire to follow this example. It is no surprise that China and India want their share, and so add significantly to the level of greenhouse-emissions. See examples.

4. We succumb together to powerful illusions which are often carefully cultivated and maintained by vested interests and are offered to us in the cloath of pseudo scientific argumentations. Some of the more important ones are:

Paragraph III. Deeper Roots of the Problem

These problems of interaction, incapability, attitude, example and illusions are not just abstract sociological facts. They all arise from a deeper root, which is spiritual in nature, with characteristics of faith-commitment and deeply-held belief. This deepest level is what might be called the ruling illusions in society. These are formed of:

As a result, our sense for responsibility, justice and morality has become distorted into an individualistic form. Awareness of the public aspect, and care for nature are forgotten, or assumed to be a task for government. Justice is focused on personal rights and ignores, e.g. protection of animals ans spcies. (see examples). This determines our attitude and the example we set.

These components of a ruling illusion reinforce each other. So ruling illusions are very difficult to change. Ruling illusions in the way we see reality, aspirations, commitments, and what we see as saviour are spiritual in nature. Climate change is a spiritual matter, a result of spiritual dysfunction in society.

Biblically-directed Christian belief holds that this is because humankind is alienated from God, from itself and from the rest of creation. [Please comment: Is that useful?]

Paragraph IV. Where to Seek Solutions

1. Spiritual dysfunction calls for spiritually-directed action. If climate change is a spiritual matter, it cannot be addressed solely as a 'scientific' (climatological), political or economic issue. These are required, of course, but on their own they will ultimately be ineffective because, unless the deeper spiritual root of ruling illusions is not dug out, all scientific, political or economic actions will be limited, half-hearted and resisted.

To unmask ruling illusions presupposes something deeper than any kind of goal-orientation (like the millenium goals, useful though they may have been). It asks for some kind of Way-orientation, a choice of new directions in which humanity is heading. The spiritual orientation of humanity determines the goals it sets for itself and the actions it tries to take. If climate change is to held back, then humanity must turn round and take the ways of love, stewardship, care, justice. In a way-orientation, the important thing is responsive obedience to the way, rather than effort to achieve goals. See example.

2. What is a spiritual solution? A spiritual solution involves a change in way-orientation, a reorientation of the human heart towards new assumptions, aspirations, expectations, commitments and saviours. Existential troubles or miseries ask for 'ways out'. It requires Conversion of mind-set and habits, so that we value the different way, desire and determine to take it, learn to be willingly obedient to it, and creatively discover how to take that way effectively. We need to say farewell to goal-orientations like GDP increases and instead set obediently some first practical steps on the Way of the everlasting commandments, like justice, love and stewardship of our Lord. Christian belief is that conversion removes our alienation from God, self and world. [Is it useful to add this?

3. Is a spiritual solutions possible? The spiritual depth of these problems seems to suggest despair. Is solution impossible? We believe solution is possible, because spiritual solutions have worked before. See examples from history.

4. b>Which type of spirituality? There is some common ground in the various religions and other spiritual approaches in struggling against environmental degradation, which all promote a way rather than goals (e.g. Buddhist sevenfold path, Tao means Way, Jesus Christ called himself The Way). We ourselves are followers of Jesus Christ, who have experienced his power to change our deeper attitudes and aspirations. See outline of Christian Way. (But we recognise that a vast number of those who bear the label 'Christian' have been foremost in displaying dysfunctional attitudes, have not set example and are trapped in the illusions; they have not demonstrated the values of the the Kingdom of God.)

5. Hope? Is there hope? The Judeo-Christian revelation, at least, offers hope. It is that God is committed to His creation. In the Old Testament, God made a promise to both humans and animals that he would not again destroy with a flood. In the New Testament, we find the prophecy that evil will eventually be vanquished, and that the creation will be renewed and brought to completion in Christ.

6. Change in Structure of Society. This change of heart, of way-orientation, is not only for persons, but also for human communities.

7. Change in Way We See Things. Ruling illusions mean that we understand things in distorted ways. If this is so, then we need to change to understand things in a different way. We believe the following changes need to be made in the way we see things (See source of this.):

8. The actualisation of these purposes of life structures would do a lot to solve climate change. The challenge we face is that Western people today are *very* (but needlessly) reluctant to re-orientate themselves to such a vision. This is why a spiritual solution is required, a change of heart. But, if the Christian view is correct that God is committed to his creation, then if we do allow ourselves to change then he will bring blessing, and he will make the blossoming economy work so well that we wondered how on earth we lived without it.

Paragraph V. Actions to Take

In this last paragraph a number of actions have are indicated and formulated, which could bring us on the path towards a blossoming economy in the rich countries in the world and towards greater responsibility for climate change. Later on this can be formulated in more sharpness and detail. It recognises both that we need transition, but also that transition is urgent and cannot be delayed. The actions indicated should be all progressed in parallel, starting now.

This whole process would be helped immensily if a common acceptance of time-horizons could take place. HRH The Prince of Wales has said we have only 100 months left in which to tackle climate change. Let us get to it!


The original ideas contained here came from Sir John Houghton and Prof. Bob Goudzwaard, with help from Andrew Basden and John Lockwood. This project began when AB and JL suggested that the West Yorkshire School of Christian Studies invite Sir JH to speak on climate change and BG on global economy, to explore the links between them. The idea of expressing it as a Manifesto came from Bob Goudzwaard, who also produced an early draft.

Other contributions have come from: John Henry Lonie,

This is part of a project involving Sir John Houghton, Prof. Bob Goudzwaard, Prof. Andrew Basden, Dr. John Lockwood to understand the links between climate change, global economy, spirituality.

Copyright (c) 2009 The CCGE Group.

Created: 1 February 2009. by Andrew Basden using Protext on Amiga.

Last updated: 22 February 2009 amendments from BG. 22 March 2009 rethought last two sections. 13 April 2009 changed to emphasise 'way', and replaced 'religious' by 'spiritual', in response to BG's comments. 3 May 2009 changes made in response to BG's and JL's comments. 17 May 2009 made into 'draft 1' refs 'arg1'.