Rowan Williams attacks Western lifestyle on eve of major report into climate change

Former Archbishop of Canterbury has warned of catastrophic consequences if the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels continues

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The Independent Online

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has attacked the Western world’s continued reliance on climate change inducing fossil fuels, warning that present lifestyles are "pushing the environment towards crisis".

Citing the severe winter storms the hit the UK this winter, Dr Williams, who is now the chairman of Christian Aid, said that Britain “got off relatively lightly”, compared with some of the poorest countries in the world, where thousands have died as a result of extreme weather attributed to global warming.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph he said: “It is those living in the typhoon-prone Philippines or in drought-ravaged Malawi who are being forced not only to deal with the miseries of flooded homes and prolonged disruption, but to make fundamental changes in their way of life.”

He continued: “The chaos experienced in Britain came as a shock to many; but for millions around the world, this is nothing new.

“And there is a particularly bitter injustice about the fact that those suffering its worst ravages - such as the pastoralists of northern Kenya or the Quilombolas of Brazil, descendants of former slaves cultivating territories increasingly desolated by deforestation - have done least to contribute to it.”

As a ground-breaking report into the impacts of climate change is set to be released tomorrow, Energy Secretary Ed Davey meanwhile declared that Britain must spearhead the worldwide battle against global warming.

Climate change is “hugely threatening” to life both in the UK and globally, Mr Davey told The Observer, saying that not to lead the fight against it would be “deeply irresponsible”.

Taking aim at climate change sceptics, Dr Williams said that while doubting humanity’s hand in global warming may feel “all very well in the UK”, where we can concentrate on adapting with better flood defences, “these options are not so readily available in the most vulnerable communities around the world”.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report is expected to warn of catastrophic consequences to food supplies, livelihoods, health and security across the world if global warming is allowed to continue unchecked.

In leaked versions of the report, the team warn that rising global temperatures, droughts and heat waves will threaten food supplies and human health, while hundreds of millions of people will be affected by coastal flooding.

The final study by experts from around the world is expected to warn that climate change will cause economic losses, exacerbate poverty and increase migration and risks of violent conflict, as well as causing damage to wildlife and habitats.