Former archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has spoken of his fears for the global climate, saying the winter flooding was a portent of what is to come.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he blamed the lifestyle of western countries, which he said was “pushing the environment towards crisis”.
He said the floods in Britain and similar weather-related catastrophes around the world are the clearest indications yet that predictions of “accelerated warming of the Earth” caused by the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels… are coming true”.
Williams’s warning came on the eve of a ground-breaking report into the impact of climate change, and a declaration from the energy secretary, Ed Davey, that Britain must spearhead the worldwide battle against global warming.
Climate change is “hugely threatening” to life both in the UK and globally, Davey told the Observer, saying that not to lead the fight against it would be “deeply irresponsible”.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will this week to release a major report that is expected to warn of catastrophic consequences to food supplies, livelihoods, health and security across the world if climate change is allowed to continue unchecked.
Leaked versions of the report, published in Japan on Monday, warn that rising global temperatures, droughts and heatwaves will threaten food supplies and human health, while hundreds of millions of people will be affected by coastal flooding.
Climate change will cause economic losses, exacerbate poverty and increase migration and risks from violent conflict as well as causing damage to wildlife and habitats, the study by experts from around the world is expected to say.
In Europe, heatwaves, droughts and heavy rainstorms will increase and there will be a greater risk of coastal and river flooding, it is expected to say, while heat-related deaths will also increase.
The report, which collates work by thousands of scientists from across the world, is likely to state that global warming has already left its mark on all continents and oceans, and is expected to warn that even a small rise in temperatures could lead to irreversible changes.
Williams, who stepped down as leader of the Anglican Church just over a year ago, said Monday’s report put “our local problems into a deeply disturbing global context”.
Writing in his capacity as chairman of Christian Aid, he said: “We have heard for years the predictions that the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels will lead to an accelerated warming of the Earth.
“What is now happening indicates that these predictions are coming true; our actions have had consequences that are deeply threatening for many of the poorest communities in the world.
“Rich, industrialised countries, including our own, have unquestionably contributed most to atmospheric pollution. Both our present lifestyle and the industrial history of how we created such possibilities for ourselves have to bear the responsibility for pushing the environment in which we live towards crisis.”
Campaigners on Saturday warned that the world faced a “bleak future” without action to tackle climate change and leading environmentalists called on politicians to break the world’s dependency on fossil fuels.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk