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Should the Church Fight Climate Change?

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

It’s freezing outside, making this a good time to address the polarizing subject of global warming. The idea that man has caused the earth to warm at alarming rates has few skeptics these days, even though there is mounting evidence that climate change is one thing of many that we simply cannot control.

Earlier this month it was reported that Dr. James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and an adviser to Al Gore, made another huge blunder, leading to more doubts about whether we can trust the scientific community’s claim that man-made greenhouse gases are destroying our planet. Hansen announced that last month was the “hottest October on record.” Christopher Booker writes,

This was startling. Across the world there were reports of unseasonal snow and plummeting temperatures last month, from the American Great Plains to China, and from the Alps to New Zealand. China’s official news agency reported that Tibet had suffered its “worst snowstorm ever”. In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration registered 63 local snowfall records and 115 lowest-ever temperatures for the month, and ranked it as only the 70th-warmest October in 114 years.

The anomaly was explained when it was discovered that GISS had carried over figures from September to October, which would obviously make October appear to be warmer than it really was.  A GISS spokesman explained that the reason for the error was that they were obtained from another body, and that GISS did not have resources to exercise proper quality control over the data it was supplied with.  But it is hard to interpret this as a mistake, since Hansen has been caught making similar blunders in the past.  In 2007, for example, he was forced to revise figures which had inaccurately reported the 1990s to be the hottest decade on record, changing them to show that this distinction really belongs to the 1930s.

After reading the facts, one begins to feel as if the wool is being pulled over his eyes–which isn’t half-bad, since it is so cold outside.

Although the march to correct climate change is ill-advised, some religious leaders are trying to pull Christians into the fray.  Brian McLaren, a leader in the Emerging Church Movement, spoke at a recent Hope08 conference, saying the world “is on a precipice” as it struggles to deal with the three “tremendously frightening crises” of climate change, poverty and war.

Is climate change an issue churches should be involved with?  Can Christians conscientiously cavort with environmentalists to protect the planet?  One example from China argues otherwise.  Yesterday, Chris Horner, author of Red Hot Lies, was interviewed on the Glenn Beck Show.  During the course of the interview he mentioned that China wants to sell carbon credits to Europe and the U.S.  This is curious, because China is one of the biggest polluters in the world.  Where did they get the carbon credits?  Their experts have crunched some numbers to see what effect their forced-abortion policies have had on the environment and have found that China is slowing the trend toward climate change through population control.

China’s proposals are only the tip of the iceberg.  Give environmentalism some time and see where it takes us.  Abortion won’t be the only atrocity upheld in the name of Mother Earth.  Already Christian leaders like McLaren are putting the planet ahead of spiritual matters like sin and redemption through Christ.  If more churches join the fight against climate change, there’s no telling what religion in America will look like in a decade.

The church doesn’t have any business delving into politics and environmentalism.  Leave the fiction of man-made climate change to creative people like James Hansen.  If anyone is interested in the truth, they can still find it where churches are preaching the gospel.

Eighteenth Century Global Warming

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

A new source for climate studies has yielded an interesting find: global warming in the eighteenth century. The Register reports on the results of combing through thousands of British Navy ship logs from 1670 to 1850:

A climate prof noted for data mining of archived ships’ logs has produced further insights into global warming. Dr Dennis Wheeler of Sunderland Uni says his latest analysis shows sudden warming of the North Atlantic and Europe – much like that seen in recent times – during the 1730s.

This, Wheeler believes, shows that widespread rises in temperature of the kind recorded lately can be caused naturally.

I’ve said so much about this in the past, that I don’t care to elaborate any more on this now. Suffice it to say that there are usually three sides to every story: one extreme, the other extreme, and the truth in between.

Darwin’s Polar Bears

Friday, May 30th, 2008

I can’t get my mind off polar bears this morning. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced in May that he would list the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. His reasoning is that 1) the polar bears depend on sea ice; 2) the sea ice at the polar caps has been melting significantly for the last several decades; and 3) computer models project that this trend will continue in the future. This decision is yet another victory for those who advance the sketchy science of global warming, although many are saying Kempthorne’s move did not go far enough.

The listing of polar bears as a threatened species sets a precedent, as the decision was not based on concrete evidence that the bears are, in fact, threatened. According to Kempthorne, the population of bears has grown from a low of about 12,000 in the late 1960s to approximately 25,000 today. For the first time, we are using speculative data from questionable computer models to foresee the future of Mother Earth.

It is comical to me that the same scientists responsible for this decision are the ones who champion Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Darwin would have never made a fuss over a struggling species. In fact, because 0f his convictions on natural selection, he even frowned on efforts to help the weaker members of the human race. In The Descent of Man he wrote,

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skills to save the life of everyone to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed (emphasis added).

If Darwin were in charge, there wouldn’t be any polar bears. Let ’em drown. Survival of the fittest.

Sooner or later, our scientists are going to have to decide whether human beings are the crowning jewels of evolution, the fittest creatures at the top of the heap of natural selection, or the benevolent saviors of Planet Earth trying to preserve the globe in its present form.

As a Christian, I believe humans have a responsibility to be good stewards of the natural world God has blessed us with. That has been our charge from the first (Gen. 1:28-31). But environmentalism goes beyond this, positioning our nation in a set of inconsistencies that will amount to economic disaster and wasted resources.

Cold and Heat

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Sleet fell from the sky last week, something rare in the state of Alabama. Remembering that string of 100-plus degree temperatures last summer, my mind recalled a promise the Lord made after Noah disembarked and set foot on dry land after a year on the ark.

I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease (Gen. 8:21-22).

We should not have been surprised that last year brought both “cold and heat.” It’s that way every year. And according to God’s promise, it will continue that way “while the earth remains.”
God’s promise of natural cycles cannot be disrupted by man, no matter what the proponents of Global Warming may claim. We’re told by them that through the production of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon-dioxide emissions, human beings have warmed the earth to the point that we will soon see catastrophic consequences. If you listen to the environmentalists, man has disrupted the seasons, and soon it will be summer year-round and all over the globe. Of course, Global Warming has political ramifications—cleaning up man’s mess will require radical changes in the way that we live, changes that are desired by environmental activists with deep pockets.

Already we are seeing that the dire predictions made by Global Warming advocates are a bit extreme. Despite the drought we suffered last summer, overall 2007 was a typical year, no different from 2006—and 2005, and 2004, and every year back to 2001. The record temperatures set in 1998 have not been surpassed. Since Hurricane Katrina, scientists have been predicting that things are going to get worse, but 2006 and 2007 were two of the calmest hurricane seasons we’ve had in years. We are told there is a consensus in the scientific community saying that man is the cause of Global Warming and that we must do something extreme to reverse course before it is too late. But in 2007 no less than 400 prominent scientists disputed man-made Global Warming claims.

Because I’m not a scientist, I’m not qualified to get into the debate over what to do about climate change. What I would like to stress is that the Creator is still in control of his planet. When it is time for the world to end, he will be the one who will pull the switch (2 Pet. 3:10).

This is not to say that human beings do not have a responsibility to the environment. Stewardship of God’s creation is just as much a biblical concept as the continuity of nature’s cycles (Gen. 1:29-31; Ps. 8:5-8). Responsible Christians will treat the earth with respect, but that doesn’t mean they will get carried away with the politics of environmentalism.

The world is coming to an end—maybe sometime soon, maybe not. Not knowing when the Lord may come, we had better prepare to meet him today (1 Thes. 5:1-6).

The Downside of Pluralism

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

Since my last excursis on Global Warming, I have been looking for an explanation for the your-science-versus-my-science politics that clouds environmental ethics. As I was perusing the “Letters” column of Newsweek I found what I was looking for.

Bernard Dov Cooperman, a professor of History for the University of Maryland, called attention to what he believes is the real problem in the Global Warming debate. I doubt that he and I would agree on the issue of climate change itself, but I believe his position on the underlying cause of our disillusionment towards issues like this one is excellent. He wrote,

…our society is more than happy to accept spin…because we have come to believe that all expertise is bias, that all knowledge is opinion, that every judgment is relative. I see this daily in my university classroom. Many of even my best students seem to have lost the ability to think critically about the world. They do not believe in the transformative power of knowledge because they do not believe in knowledge itself. Begley [the author of a recent Newsweek article on Global Warming, D.K.] decries the tactic of making the scientists appear divided, but the corporations didn’t have to invent this tactic. It is built into our carefully balanced political “debates,” into our news shows with equal time given to pundits from each side and into the “fairness” we try to teach in our schools. We need not be surprised that people have become consumers who demand the right to choose as they wish between the two equally questionable sides of every story. Neither global warming nor any other serious problem can be addressed by a society that equates willful ignorance with freedom of thought.

We live in a pluralistic society that takes pride in allowing its citizens the freedom to believe as they wish. Pluralism does provide freedom, but it can also be overwhelming to the point that critical thought is equated with a migraine headache.

Consequently, Americans are choosing their positions by three faulty criteria:

  1. They go with an emotional knee-jerk reaction.
  2. They arbitrarily choose a position based on positions that look appealing on their surface.
  3. Or they decide that critical thought is too draining and fall back on the position best supported by their background.

These criteria, though they may comfort us in the glut of information from sources like the Internet, cable television, the print media, and radio, do not achieve conviction, which is the drive behind achievement.

Let me offer three suggestions for finding the clarity necessary for doing the hard work of critical thinking.

1. Believe in truth. When first confronted by a problem, we may not know which of the plausible explanations is right, but one of them has to be right. The truth may still lie dormant, waiting for discovery but it’s out there. And finding truth is freedom (Jn. 8:32).

2. Separate the principle from its purveyors. It’s tempting to give up on a cause because of the hypocrisy of those who promote it, but we must not quit a principle based on hypocrisy. Inconsistency in a leader is disappointing but it neither proves nor disproves the principle he supports. A report on Ted Haggart’s sex life or Al Gore’s electric bill sheds no light on the controversies we face.

3. Seek authority, not popularity. It’s tempting to trust a familiar face. But truth clings to those who have paid the price for it (Prov. 23:23).

From a biblical point of view, the Scriptures, above all else, should rank highest in the Christian’s list of respected authorities. Finding out what God says ought to be more important to us than keeping our finger on the pulse of society.

America is doubled over in the throes of moral confusion. Not until we learn to believe in truth and search for it will we find pluralism an asset in our quest for answers.

Hot and Cold

Monday, August 13th, 2007
I don’t have a stake in the Global Warming debate. If it turns out that man is responsible for increased global temperatures, I’m ready to do my part in reducing my carbon footprint. However, I’m not interested in making major changes in my lifestyle until that point is proven. I don’t make enough money to purchase “carbon offsets” like Al Gore.

I must admit that my thinking started to shift on Global Warming. Until recently I believed that the furor over Global Warming was the result of climate change Chicken Littles bent on scaring everybody back into the nineteenth century. Then I saw last week’s cover story in Newsweek, “The Truth about Denial.” Newsweek is not known for objective reporting, but the piece, written by Sharon Begley, did make me wonder whether Global Warming deniers are fighting a losing battle. You have to read over the biased reporting, such as the story Barbara Boxer tells about a conservative think tank long funded by ExxonMobil offering scientists $10,000 to write articles undercutting reports that advance human-driven climate change. Ten thousand dollars is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions that have been poured into research for the other side.

What really got me thinking was a piece published a few weeks back in National Review, a highly respected conservative weekly. It too had a cover piece on Global Warming, “Game Plan” by Jim Manzi. So even National Review has accepted that human beings are behind Global Warming. As compelling as that point may be, I was bothered by Manzi’s opening statement: “It is no longer possible, scientifically or politically, to deny that human activities have very likely increased global temperatures” (emphasis added). What does that mean? If I told you it is no longer possible to deny that I very likely have $100 in my pocket, would you be convinced that I did?

But now I’m really confused. Last week Steve McIntyre published an interesting story on his blog Climate Audit (the site is down due to high traffic). McIntyre was investigating the data and methods NASA uses to determine mean temperatures for the U.S. and discovered a Y2K glitch in their systems. He notified NASA of the problem, and they immediately made a correction, crediting him for the discovery. According to the new data, 1998 is no longer the hottest year ever; now it’s 1934.

Four of the top 10 years of US CONUS high temperature deviations are now from the 1930s: 1934, 1931, 1938 and 1939, while only 3 of the top 10 are from the last 10 years (1998, 2006, 1999). Several years (2000, 2002, 2003, 2004) fell well down the leaderboard, behind even 1900.
McIntyre’s work doesn’t prove much, but it does highlight a problem that makes many of us uncomfortable. Global Warming proponents have not done their homework. And it’s going to take more than a rock concert to get the public to agree to slowing down our economy and upsetting our lifestyles in order to reduce our carbon footprint. Some of us have to drive to work in the mornings.

When Convenience Becomes God

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

One thing you can say about Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, is that it has created a dialogue. Since its release last year, America has been buzzing about Global Warming and “going green.” Gore proposes that Americans should spend millions of dollars to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that, according to his science, lead to earth-threatening climate change. (Some of us have trouble accepting these words, since they come from a guy with a $30,000 utility bill.) A host of reputable scientists have surfaced who say Gore is wrong and that the pricetag of his proposals will destroy our nation’s economic security.

Al Gore’s movie may be full of holes, but he was right about one thing: truth is often inconvenient. This is the characteristic of truth that makes so many people run away from it.

Christians felt the pinch truth’s discomfort early on. Consider what was written in The Didache, an ancient Christian document written early in the second century.

Now concerning baptism, baptize as follows: after you have reviewed all these things, baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” in running water. But if you have no running water, then baptize in some other water; and if you are not able to baptize in cold water, then do so in warm. But if you have neither, then pour water on the head three times “in the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit” (emphasis added).

The design of this instruction was to summarize the apostles’ teaching. However, when the writer allowed pouring as a substitute for immersion he departed from the inspired record (Acts 8:38-39; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12).

Why did some of the early Christian leaders alter the truth? It was inconvenient. They predated indoor heated baptisteries, and in certain areas it was difficult, maybe even dangerous, to find enough water for baptism. So they allowed for pouring in extreme cases. But look where this led. Pouring is now the norm in many denominations.

When it comes to the alterations we have made to the New Testament for convenience, the list is long. No aspect of church life has been untouched; worship, morality, organization, and the plan of salvation have all been targeted in the name of convenience.

To be honest, convenience has become a god. Tune your television set to a typical worship program on Sunday morning. Look at what people are wearing. Watch them sip coffee during the lesson. Observe the plush setting. See them swipe a credit card for the offering. Listen to the preacher in his button-down and khaki pants. Americans still want religion, but not if it’s going to make them uncomfortable.

The problem is that, somewhere along the way, truth is going to make us uncomfortable. Too many people have come to the fork in road where convenience diverges from faith and have chosen the path of least resistance. What they haven’t stopped to consider is that resistance inevitably waits at the end of the road of convenience, a resistance that no man can bear (Mt. 7:21-23).

Global Warming Vs. Science

Monday, February 5th, 2007

Everyone should read Dr. Timothy Ball’s column in the Canada Free Press. In it he chronicles how intimidation and funding are behind the furor over Global Warming in this country. Science has been raped by politics, according to Dr. Ball. It would be easy to discount him, if he weren’t the first Canadian Ph.D. in Climatology with a degree from the University of London, England, and a professor of Climatology at the University of Winnipeg for 32 years.

Science has always been held in high esteem in this country. Americans have always treated their researchers as honest truth-seekers who were looking to solve the problems plaguing the human condition. The problem is, scientists have to eat. And special-interest groups and governments are usually the only source of funding. Therefore, conventional wisdom dictates science. If the world is looking for Global Warming, that’s all it’s going to fund. If it’s looking for the Easter Bunny, it may never find it, but there will be hundreds of paid scientists examining easter egg baskets and analyzing the structures of easter egg hunts.

Is it any wonder that the Intelligent Design Movement is struggling for an equal voice? Evolution was accepted as law, long before it was ever tested in the lab. While adequate proof has been found for evolution within species, scientists still have not found evidence proving that mutations cause plants and animals to leap from one kind to another. Because of my faith in God’s Word, I know they never will.

Independent thinkers are always mocked, whether they are researchers like Timothy Ball in the scientific community, or reformers like Martin Luther in the religious community. Still, God asks us to lean on him (Prov. 3:5). Devotion to the truth always cuts against the grain.

What Timothy Bell supplied on the scientific side of this issue, George Will supplies on the political side in his Newsweek column, “Inconvenient Kyoto Truths.” Another must read on Global Warming…er, excuse me, “climate change.”

Another theory: Cosmic rays blamed for climate change.

Where Did the Hurricanes Go?

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

This week, hurricane season will come to a close, but not without first embarrassing quite a few advocates of the Global Warming scare. Last spring, cataclysmic predictions were made, claiming that human-produced greenhouse gases warmed the earth’s oceans, which in turn would produced hurricanes in record numbers. Seventeen named storms would likely form in the Atlantic, experts said. One in six Americans could be directly affected. The Northeastern U.S. was “staring down the barrel of a gun.” As it turned out there were only nine named storms, five of which were hurricanes, compared to a record-setting 28 named storms during the 2005 hurricane season.

What happened? Neil Johnson of the Tampa Tribune points to masses of dry Saharan dust and a rapidly growing El Nino. But hurricanes are notoriously unpredictable. We used to accept this. Things changed, however, when the environmental Chicken Littles exploited the 2005 hurricane season to scare Americans into submission.

To date, scientists have not been able to establish a link between Global Warming and manmade greenhouse gases. That is not to say that the earth isn’t undergoing a warming trend. It is. Over the last century the earth’s surface has warmed by one degree Fahrenheit.

Furthermore, our cars and factories are producing more carbon dioxide, which is part of the greenhouse effect, the process by which the earth is insulated by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. However, water still accounts for 90% of the greenhouse effect. Nobody’s talking about reducing cloud cover.

Weather patterns are cyclical. We are presently in a warming trend. Thirty years ago we were experiencing a cooling pattern. (Newsweek is still licking its wounds after printing a cover story in April of 1975 predicting another Ice Age.) Before that, we were again in a warming stage. Warming and cooling patterns can be traced back to the creation of the universe. The truth of the matter is, Global Warming is real, but it is not as scary as politicians and the media make it out to be.

Christians ought to be interested in these things. After all, this is God’s world (Ps. 24:1; Job 41:11; Ps. 50:10-12). We are but stewards of our own environment (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15). In the days before Christ, God set forth laws to protect the land–a Sabbath rest (Ex. 23:10-11), the law of jubilee (Lev. 25:23), etc. There is no reason to believe these concerns should not be shared on the other side of the cross.

But let’s not get carried away. Politicians will always be haranguing about something. We’ll fix our thoughts on the Word of God.