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World church body says UN climate report shows need to act now

The World Council of Churches and other Christian groups say immediate action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions after a UN climate panel issued its strongest warning yet that human activities are to blame for global warming.

"The global debate over human impact on the environment must now shift from denial and delays to responsibility and remedies that are well within humanity’s grasp," said the Rev. Martin Robra, who is responsible for the WCC’s work on climate change.

He made the statement soon after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Paris on 2 February released a 21-page report hammered out by hundreds of scientists and officials, and intended for policymakers throughout the world.

"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising mean sea level," a summary in the UN report stated.

"The implications of global warming over the coming decades for our industrial economy, water supplies, agriculture, biological diversity and even geopolitics are massive," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, which, with the World Meteorological Organization, established the climate change panel in 1988. "This new report should spur policymakers to get off the fence and put strong and effective policies in place to tackle greenhouse gas emissions."

The Britain-based Christian Aid advocacy group said: "Scientists’ grim predictions of an even worse rate of global warming means the world must act immediately to help poor people cope with the now inevitable ravages of climate change."

Christian Aid said: "The IPCC report indicates in the starkest terms how the world is plummeting towards climate catastrophe. A twin strategy must be adopted urgently to help protect the most vulnerable people in developing countries who are on the front line of climate change and whom the report says are now under imminent threat from drought, flood, sea-level rise or conflict over scarce resources."

The World Council of Churches noted the IPCC report says it is "very likely" that emissions from fossil fuels and other human activities are the main causes of climate change. The church council said that in IPCC terminology, "very likely" indicates at least 90 percent probability, "and is the strongest link to human activities made by the panel since it was set up in 1988".

The WCC said, "Alarming scenarios concerning the consequences of climate change for people, plants and animals, should compel everybody to do their utmost to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to support those already affected by storms, droughts, floods and rising sea levels."

The WCC is a grouping of 348 mainly Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican churches representing more than 560 million Christians.

(c) Ecumenical News International