top of page

Dear Leeds Citizen

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

Dear Leeds Citizen,

I am writing this open letter to you out of concern for the future of our city and its citizens.

In one sense, this letter should not be needed; the facts, as established by mainstream science, are already out there. However, we are being failed by much of mainstream politics and media, leaving us seemingly unaware of the dire emergency we are in—an emergency that is already affecting the world's most vulnerable but is set to destroy the very social and economic fabric of our city.

I am talking about the threat of climate change.

Leeds City Council agrees, for on the 27th of March 2019, it declared a climate emergency.

The situation is indeed dire and is set to get worse. We are currently at 1.2 degrees above preindustrial temperatures, and already, we are seeing an increase in devastation caused by fires, floods, and extreme weather. Currently, the consequences of climate change are primarily being felt elsewhere, although I’m pretty sure there was an uptick in the death rates of Leeds citizens during the heatwave of 2022.

Our current trajectory is that by 2100 we will be at 2.7 degrees above preindustrial temperatures, this may well be in the lifetimes of some of our youngest citizens. This might not sound like a lot, but the vast majority of climate scientists are extremely concerned because it means we are moving towards a world of mass migration, mass starvation, and societal collapse.

At a general level, we may recognize that societal collapse can happen in poorer parts of the world, lacking the resources and infrastructure that we have in Leeds. Sadly, however, our cities, our infrastructure, and our financial resources in the city will not remain unaffected by rising temperatures; we are moving as a city towards mass suffering.

In the words of the UN Secretary-General, "We are on the highway to climate hell, with our foot on the accelerator."

And this future, with the very real risk of the collapse of the infrastructure in Leeds (no supermarkets, no transport system, no hospitals, care homes, or schools), is not something that will happen in a few hundred years, but, given our current trajectory, is something that could happen within the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren.

Let me give one example. As temperatures rise, large parts of the world may become uninhabitable due to extreme heat, extreme weather, and increased conflict. This leaves some analysts with the UNHCR suggesting that 1.2 billion people may become climate refugees by 2050. Our globally interconnected world, of which Leeds is a part, would be unable to function with this level of societal stress.

Another example leading us to the collapse of functional society in Leeds is food insecurity. As temperatures and sea levels rise, the risk of global breadbasket failure is real. This, in turn, would mean spiraling food costs, increased malnutrition, and social unrest. Perhaps the richest in Leeds could protect themselves initially from the effects of food shortage, but as time goes on, money will become worthless as the economy collapses.

These scenarios, I repeat, are on the horizon if we are unable to reduce global emissions. The world only has a limited carbon budget available, and we need to face reality with wisdom and courage.

While the above descriptions may instill fear, we cannot afford to let our fear paralyze us. How then should we live?

There are a multiplicity of ways we can respond to this emergency, but I want to commend that we choose the way of kindness and compassion in order to avert the worst of what may be and to adapt to what is already locked in.

We don’t need hopium, a kind of hope that distracts us from reality, but rather a hope-filled realism that knows where we are at, where we are heading, but moves towards the problem with action. We need a kind of hope that recognizes the problem lies with fossil fuels, and that it is paramount that we find, globally and locally, ways of reducing our dependence on them, reserving any remaining carbon budget for that which is necessary rather than desirable.

Thank you for reading this open letter; it serves as a conversation starter, a reminder to those who are already aware of our predicament (I know many of you are), and an opportunity to offer a friendly warning to those who did not know.

I don’t have many answers, none of us do, but perhaps as the people of Leeds, we may collectively be able to rise to the moment.

We are at the hinge of history, and what we do in the next few years, both globally and locally, may mean that future generations of Leeds citizens can live in peace and security.

In closing, though, let me suggest one thing: that we talk about it. We need to talk to our friends, family, neighbors, faith communities, work colleagues, and others about the climate. If we talk about it, it prevents us from slipping back into functional denial. Talk leads to action on both an individual and community level; this, in turn, influences the political and economic will of the city and nation. Perhaps, with a groundswell of climate conversation replacing the relative silence of mainstream media and politics, we may see large-scale systemic change that can avert the worst outcome for Leeds and the surrounding area and adapt in compassion and kindness to what will be.

Peace & Love,

Rev’d Jon Swales MBE

Leeds, September 2023

1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Yorum

5 üzerinden 0 yıldız
Henüz hiç puanlama yok

Puanlama ekleyin
23 Eyl 2023
5 üzerinden 5 yıldız

Thank you. Clear and forthright, speaking truth.

bottom of page