The global warming crisis:
what can one church do?

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with David Hines

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David Hines © 28th August 2022

Read below, or download the PDF – to come.


When Shirin Caldwell learned the topic I had chosen, she asked, did I realise that she, Jonathan and Brenda had already covered it a few months ago. I did hear their report and it was excellent However, I believe this topic is so massive, it needs to come up frequently, and from all angles.

The angle I want to speak about today is strategy.

Which are the actions we could take that would be:

  1. Achievable and
  2. make the greatest difference

1) What actions can we take to stop the temperature rising?

These are just suggestions: they all need to be evaluated.

A leading villain is fossil fuels: When we burn them as a fuel for our energy needs they turn into carbon dioxide, and it has filled the atmosphere and traps the sun’s heat like a blanket, and it can’t escape from Earth into space.

So the first part of a strategy is to look for other forms of energy that are less destructive. And evaluate them

So to stop it, we can switch to wind energy, hydro energy, even nuclear energy. We are used to thinking nuclear energy is bad … but that was before we heard of climate change. Maybe we need to do that calculation again.

I used to think natural gas was healthy because it doesn’t cause any smoke… but it is just carbon dioxide again.

One church suggestion was putting solar panels on church roofs. That would be positive, but too small in scale to be strategic. If all the church members put solar panels on their houses, that might be strategic, might not be.

My favourite example of a strategic answer is heat pumps. I have spent the last month studying it .. to see whether to buy one.

They are strategic because it uses only a sixth of the amount of electricity of a bar heater and that could be measured on your monthly power bill.

It could reduce to even less than a sixth, because heat pumps work automatically, whereas you could leave our bar heater on accidentally for hours.. or fail to notice that your room is getting too warm.

The heat pump comes with other issues that affect its value.

For instance:

  1. The usefulness would be reduced if you also made large use of it in summer to cool things down. You would then be using more electricity than you were before.
  2. A way to increase the summer efficiency problem is to cool the air down to 25 degrees; not take it all the way down to a comfortable 20.
  3. Another way to increase their efficiency is simply by shutting doors so you don’t heat the whole house. We bought a system with several air pumps… it was rated seven stars, whereas most others are four or five. And the reason it got seven stars was it has ways of keeping just one room warm. It has infrared detectors to tell when you are not in the room.
  4. Or by turning the temperature down when you are asleep. I took numerous readings with a thermometer, and found 17 degrees is quite pleasant if you’re wrapped up in bed.

Electric cars are also an obvious strategy, which the government is already switched on to. But we could join their lead.

Other forms of transport nearly all use energy on the large scale, so I believe our government made a good decision to increase free use of pubic transport.

The worst transport villain, from my reading, is cruise ships. It says that you burn more carbon in a five day cruise than your car would use in five years. I am embarrassed to say that my wife and I have planned a three-week cruise across the Pacific, on our way to a wedding in London. I lost that argument. But we don’t intend to make a habit of it.

But there is an obvious strategy issue. Why did we plan this trip at all? Because of family wedding. I would not want to ban trips like that. But we add the cruise to it? It looked like good economics … if we were going to pay air fares to get to London it would seem strategic. It would seem a waste of money to not have a Northern hemisphere holiday on the side.

But the global warming argument goes the other way. If your are doing $2,000 damage to the climate in a plane; it would be even worse to add $15,000 damage in a ship.

My sister was worried last week about having flown from Australia to NZ to meet us. But international travel is about on par with a private car, distance for distance. Regional air travel is dearer… apparently a large proportion of the energy is used while the planes are climbing. However the private car wins over the planes if you have more than one person in them.

Sometimes compromises are necessary. Dairy products are bad for the climate. So I’ve been trying to stop using dairy milk … and my favourite alternative is rice milk … but that curdles my coffee. So my compromise is to buy both … so I have 20 mils of bad milk in my coffee, but 200 mils of good milk in my muesli.

2) Research

Where are the pinch points where research could be critical… eg I understand battery technology was crucial in making electric cars viable: the first such cars were handicapped by their small battery capacity, which meant they could only be used on short trips.

And we need to study the expert advice and use it to select which of these answers we can use.

3) Mitigation

We are not going to solve this problem in a year or two.

How can we reduce the harm that rising temperatures are causing?

Such as discouraging people from living in beach areas that are likely to be frequently flooded. But that is a hugely expensive answer for the people living there.

These are particularly expensive homes, and their investment is destroyed if they need to leave their land.

I have some family members who are victims of climate change. They live in Nelson, and have a lovely waterfront home, but it had tide water running through it on not one but two separate floods.

I phoned them a week ago when hundreds of people had to evacuate after the Mitai river overflowed its banks. But they said that was an entirely different kind of event. Their floods were caused by a king tide, coinciding with a wind surge… a fairly rare event. But the floods in the past weeks were caused by rivers overflowing … but both of these disasters were made worse by rising water levels, caused by global warming.

So not all floods are created equal. We probably need different strategies for rivers and beaches.

My Australian sister cheered me up no end when she said the local government was buying up the homes of people who lived in these areas. I thought that’s amazing.

But when I asked her for a link to the article, the news was not as great as she thought.

The story was from the ABC, and it was about the small city of Lismore in New South Wales.


  1. It was only at the recommendation stage. It came an organisation called Climate Valuation, an organisation that provides climate change risk analysis to banks and insurance companies.
  2. And their report said it would save hundreds of home owners, not thousands, because it would be homes that put the owners in danger of being killed .. not people who are in danger of going broke, because they cannot sell their homes.
  3. And as an insurance expert he said the risks go way into the future. You might feel sympathy for an owner who wants to get out of their home now … but other victims are people who want to sell their homes in 30 years time, but by then they will be worthless.

His message of doom was: “You have to take a long term view because other people are taking a long term view and that’s how they’ll choose to value your property.”

That’s the danger that people in Pacific Islands have been warning of for years. They could lose their whole country under water, and are appealing to us for help.

But even more massive disasters are affecting tropical areas with huge populations, many of them with low incomes.

Large parts of India and Africa are becoming uninhabitable already.

We need to have a policy of help. Cutting our energy use is only one part of the answer.

But WE have new experience of international disasters, in the Covid epidemic. And we have learned to form support systems nationwide. Jacinda Ardern called it the team of five million.

And internationally, the World Health Organisation exhorted us to help people in poorer countries, with the strategic reason that if their health is not protected … they will in turn put us at risk. That’s another lesson we learned from fighting Covid.

So compassion is a strategy. Our Unitarian creed talks of the web of all existence. In global warming terms we are being harmed globally, so we need to care globally.

How can we bring our concerns into the political arena?

I think we already know the answers here, because we are already doing it for other issues. They include:

  1. Writing to the media.
  2. Writing to politicians.
  3. Public demonstrations.
  4. Join a political party.
  5. Join a pressure group.

My point is: I have done all of those things at times, but have never done it for global warming.

But it is too slow to have to wait for political majorities to grow…

WE NEED to get political leverage

Churches have been doing this for centuries, with other social action, such as running hospitals or home care services, or drug rehabilitation centres and getting a government subsidy.

But by political leverage,

Some of these projects are entirely paid for by the government … and the church’s main role is setting policy, setting up organisatioins, then asking the government to add its weight

The example I know best is the Methodist new policy a few years ago called Housing First which has a policy of working to get housing for people who can’t afford them, ahead of other priorities such as treating drug dependency, or putting up emergency accommodation. The main supporters are the Anglicans and Methodists. They had the idea, but now the government is paying for it.

Could the same idea be used for a campaign to stop global warming?

There are principles that have been worked out:

  1. The boards of these groups include a minimum number of church people, but also include non-religious people, and atheists. I think it is a condition of the government subsidy that there must be broad support.
  2. Another principle is that the charity must not be used as a campaign to gather church members. It must serve people from all sections of the community.

And lastly We need to keep focussed

There’s an inter-church organisation called Eco-church, with the goal of caring for God’s world. But global warming is not high on its apparent agenda.

  1. One of their recent programmes was rescuing stranded penguins. A worthy goal, but it is not about global warming.
  2. Another programme deals with climate anxiety. Sounds strange … when read the detail, it is helping children who are worried by all the news of global warming, and teaching them to find peace in God. Yeah?? God can help you to ignore global warning.
  3. Another goal is that everyone who joins their organisation needs to belong to a Christian church.

Another church’s global warming programme includes caring for diversity, which is a good goal, but not the same as caring for the climate.

Another refers to sustainability … not wasting the earths resources, also a good goal, but with a different emphasis. Wind farms would be an example of sustainable energy, compared with coal mines, which can only be used once. But if global warming is your focus, you don’t want to save up the coal for future use. You want to stop using it altogether.

Genuine public support needs to be non-biased. And well focussed.

Commercial organisations

Some Commercial organisations also have good environmental policies.

I was pleased when my local supermarket, Countdown, started providing re-usable food bags. If you haven’t seen them, they are a fine plastic mesh, so you can see the food through it, and then can re-use it next time you go there.

I would find it helpful if food stores used climate friendly labels.

My latest choice of rice milk as strategy to fight global warming would be much more effective if it had a climate friendly label.

The government gives tax breaks for charities. That could include climate change.


I admit I am just brain-storming here. I am not an expert in any of these areas. But as a journalist I have spent most of my career in questioning experts, and then asking which of those experts are most newsworthy … newsworthy means that which is most interesting, and which is most strategic.

People often dismiss the media as biased, and trivial, but that oversimplifies it… what one person calls bias another person calls relevant. So we need to do both … gather a range of information we are going to agree with but also information we are not going to agree with. And then make our selection.

We are never going to all agree on our strategies. But that does not matter. We can all be part of the solution.

Meditation / Conversation starter


Opening Hymn:-Morning Has Broken”, Words: Eleanor Farjeon,
Tune: “Bunessan” – traditional Scottish Gaelic,
Performed by Orla Fallon.
Closing Hymn:-The Times they are a-changin’”, by Bob Dylan,
Performed by The Seekers