Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Climate Craze—Making Biblical Sense of the Man-Made Global Warming Debate!

The headlines in the media have been relentless and extreme in their pursuit to convince us all that a climate apocalypse is just around the next corner. We have been told that unless we “act now”, by curbing our carbon emissions, catastrophic doom awaits us all. So what are Bible-believing Christians to make of all the scaremongering rhetoric? Further, in light of the Bible, what should Christians think about the whole man-made climate change debate? Is the sky really falling this time around? If so, how should we respond?

In formulating a response to this very important issue Christians need to remember the Wisdom of Solomon who said, “He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.” (Proverbs 18:13). In other words, there is usually more than one side to a story. It would be foolish only to listen to one person’s take on an issue, or circumstances related to an accident, or crime scene, and then make a final determination based on that lopsided knowledge. Yet, when it comes to the issue of man-made climate change, most people have uncritically embraced what the headlines declare without giving it another thought. I know I did until I began researching the issue for myself. What I learned was that there is a whole other side to the global warming debate that the media refuses to consider for a variety of reasons. Beyond that, I learned that there is no “consensus” amongst scientist on this issue.

In order to gain a better understanding of man-made global warming and the issues surrounding it, we first want to consider a few of the scientific assumptions taught as infallible fact. Then we will summarize the philosophical assumptions that serve as the launching pad for this contentious issue. Finally, we want to survey some of the biblical assumptions that will help you to piece together a wise and measured response to the headlines.

Here are but a few of the highly speculative scientific assumptions that have been used to convince the public that mankind is responsible for climate change:

Assumption #1: Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a pollutant that drives the temperature ever upward. If this is true, then by simply reducing the amount of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere the current trend of rising temperature should be reversed. But is CO2 really the bogey man in climate change? Consider the following observations from climatologists who disagree with the popular promotions of this issue:

• Historically increases in atmospheric CO2 have always lagged behind rising temperatures. Examples of this are cited during both the Roman Warming Period (200 BC—AD 400) and the Medieval Warming Period (AD1000-1400), which was 2 to 3 degrees Celsius warmer than it is today. Ice core samples and other proxies, like tree rings, bear witness to this fact.

• CO2 is but a colorless and odorless trace element in the atmosphere. In fact, the primary Green House Gas (GHG) is water vapor which accounts for at least 94% of GHG’s. Because CO2 is a trace element it is measured in parts per million (ppm). Most of the atmospheric CO2 is a result of water evaporation and is not due to man-made causes.

• To put the above thought into perspective, only 3% of the atmosphere is made up of GHG’s. Then, less than 4% of GHG’s is comprised of CO2. Of That 4% of CO2, less than 4% of it is man-made. That means 96% of the atmospheric CO2 is naturally occurring.

• CO2 concentrations are logarithmic, which means we could double the current amounts of CO2 (386 ppm to 772 ppm) without doubling the supposed negative effects of CO2, as increasing levels of CO2 would have a negligible effect. As Dr. Harold Ohlmeyer notes, “Yes, atmospheric CO2 is increasing, but most of it is due to the warming of oceans which releases some of the CO2 they contain. (Our oceans contain 50 times more CO2 than the atmosphere.) In other words CO2 increases did not produce much global warming; warming produced most increases in CO2.”

• One fact you will never hear the media or politicians talk about is that CO2 is a natural fertilizer for plants, without CO2 we could not survive because plants could not photosynthesize and produce the oxygen we need to breath. For this reason, greenhouses normally operate with CO2 concentrations between 800-1200 ppm, which allows the plants to thrive.

• It is a myth that CO2 is a pollutant. It can hardly be compared with other man-made emissions like sulfur dioxide, which, when it rains, returns as sulfuric acid.

• In the end, one must not confuse correlation (rising temperatures with rising levels of CO2) with causation. If CO2 is a catalyst for temperature increases, then why has the global temperature dropped in recent years while, correspondingly, atmospheric levels of CO2 have gradually increased? If correlation equals causation, then is the recent decline in atmospheric oxygen, since 2003, directly attributable to the rise in the use of biofuels, which began in earnest in 2003? In the words of one climate realist, to say that CO2 is the primary driver of temperature is a lot like saying lung cancer causes smoking.

Assumption #2: Computer Generated Climate Models are accurate in forecasting the future of climate. This crass assumption is the Holy Grail of the man-made climate change debate. Robbed of this presupposition, the whole foundation of the climate change debate falls flat. Yet, there are some climatologists who seem to have an almost infallible faith in their climate models. But is this an ill-founded faith? Are climate models really that reliable? Here are but a couple of important thoughts that must be factored into climate model equation:

•Climate is an extremely complex system and as such there are a multitude of unaccounted variables which drastically affect the outcome of the predictions. In order to accurately gauge the future of climate change, the current models would need to factor in all of the following variables into their equation: solar variation, gravity, pressure, temperature, cosmic wind, density, humidity, clouds, topography, rotation of the Earth, the sea’s changing currents, greenhouse gases, and CO2 dissolved in the oceans — to name a few of the needed variables. The current models are unable to include all of these vital factors, because they are either unknown or ever-changing.

•There are a variety of different climate models used, none of which completely agree with the others. Even in ‘hindcasting’ the past weather, which we do know, these models have proved imprecise.

•The following comments on climate models represent the assessment of many climatologists:

Dr. Patrick Michaels concludes that reliance on climate models amounts to “… scientific malpractice … If a physician prescribed medication that demonstrably did not work he would lose his license.”

A recent headline in the New Scientist warned, “Climate is too complex for accurate predictions.”

More to the point, Howard C. Hayden, in his book A Primer on CO2 and Climate (pg.33), claims “…it is impossible to perform the well established procedures for laboratory science on the climate system. Nobody has done it. Nobody can do it. Nobody will do it … All climate models are based on unperformed experiments for which the modelers presume to know the answer.”

Dr. Reid Bryson, considered by many to be the godfather of modern day climatology in the USA, concludes that data fed into the climate models overemphasizes CO2 and accounts poorly for the effects of clouds — water vapor. So when asked about the long-range predictive ability of climate models, Dr. Reid answers with another question, “Do you believe the five-day forecast?”!

Such an evaluation of climate models is hardly the stuff of “irrefutable science.” Some have gone so far as to call reliance on these models “climate astrology”.

Assumption #3: Sea levels are rising at an alarming rate. How often has this been used like a hammer to convince us all of the urgency of curbing our CO2 emissions? The images of melting icecaps and the corresponding rise of the world’s oceans, while polar bears struggle to swim to land to keep from drowning are emotionally effective. But are the world’s seas really rising? If so, how much are they rising? To answer that question one would need to consult a true sea-level-rise expert like Dr. Nils-Axel Morner from Sweden. Dr. Morner makes the following observations based on nearly 40 years of actual field studies. It is important to note that the UN IPCC makes its sea level rise predictions based on the notoriously faulty computer generated climate models:

• The actual data, via tide-gauges and satellite altimetry, indicates there isn’t any significant sea level rise — a uniform 1.8 mm per annum over the last 100 years, about 7 inches in the 20th century. At this rate it will take several millennia to reach Al Gore’s fictional 23 foot rise in sea level by 2100. Recent data suggests that sea level rise has temporarily halted.

• Dr. Morner discovered that in the early 1970’s the Maldives saw the Indian Ocean recede by 30 cm, a loss that has yet to be recovered.

• In the case of the South Pacific Islands like Vanuatu and Tuvalu, which are the poster children for sea level rise, local conditions like subsidence, erosion, tectonic uplift and the like are simple explanations for the seeming rise in local relative sea level.

• In order to fulfill the doomsday forecasts of rising seas, a substantial amount of land-based ice would have to melt at a rapid rate. Even if the arctic completely melted it wouldn’t affect sea levels, except for some expansion, as the arctic ice sits over open water.

• The embellished hype surrounding glacial melt in Greenland fades into the clear light of reason when one considers that while some of Greenland’s western glaciers are receding, others — sometimes a few kilometers away — are advancing. Dr. Morner believes this is a result of oscillating ocean currents rather than temperature increase.

• Even if the Arctic is experiencing a bit of melting at present, Antarctica’s massive amounts of land-based ice seem secure as current ice mass has advanced by 33% above recent norms. For that ice to melt the temperature would have to exponentially increase above the normal mean of -37C to facilitate such a scenario.

• In studies just released, it has now been determined that the world’s seas may actually be experiencing a cooling because of unanticipated shifts in ocean currents, which will produce cooler air temperatures in the days ahead. This is something the climate models did not anticipate.

• Even the UN IPCC has drastically altered its predictions of sea level rise in its most recent 4th assessment report (2007). In 1990 the IPCC forecasted a maximum sea rise of 367 cm by 2100. In 2007 they significantly revised their maximum prediction for 2100 to 59 cm, which is much closer to reality.

Assumption #4: The Polar Bears are in danger of drowning, and becoming extinct. We are told if the ice melts, then the Polar Bears won’t be able to hunt. This piece of propaganda has been a great marketing tool for the promoters of man-made climate change. It is especially effective when used on children who do not know any better. The thought of these seemingly lovable and huggable creatures vanishing really tugs on the heart strings. But do the Hollywood-type promotions of the vanishing polar bear mesh with reality? :

• I wonder how many people know that the images of the polar bear in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth were computer generated? Indeed, such a truth is inconvenient!

• The polar bear’s name Ursus maritimus, which means ‘marine bear’, or ‘sea bear’, indicates these bears can swim vast distances in search of food. Given their God-given aquatic abilities, drowning is very rare!

• In 1969 the number of polar bears was estimated at 5,400 bears. Today, I am happy to report, the number is five times what it was just 40 years ago. Presently there are an estimated 25,000 bears in the arctic region. The greatest threat to these wonderful creatures is not climate change, but man.

• If a warming climate is so catastrophic to polar bears, then why did they survive the Medieval Warming Period a thousand years ago, when temperatures were 2 to 3 degrees Celsius warmer than today? Undoubtedly the bears adapted.

Assumption #5: All true scientists agree that climate change is primarily man-made, ergo there is a scientific consensus. Based on this bold assertion, climate alarmists claim “The debate is over, so we won’t even discuss any dissenting views.” Any one who questions this democratically-determined science is classified as “a denier”, a “flat-earther”, even a “climate Nazi” who doesn’t believe in real science. But is this “consensus” contrived or real? Here are a few thoughts to consider:

• Since when is science determined by the majority-rules approach? Even if all scientists, save one, were in agreement on this, it would only take a Copernicus or a Galileo to cast a question mark over the consensus.

• Dr. Michael Crichton responds to the idea of a consensus saying, “Consensus is the business of politics … There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus … Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agree that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the Sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way.”

• If there is such an overwhelming consensus that believes man is the culprit in climate change, than why have over 31,000 scientists — 10,000 of them PhD’s and 3800 of them in the climate sciences — signed The Petition Project (www.petitionproject.org), which is a statement that rejects man’s responsibility for the change in climate?

Why have nearly 1,000 dissenting climatologists, atmospheric scientists, and economists joined the Non-governmental International Panel for Climate Change (NIPCC) if there is such an irrefutable mountain of evidence pointing to man as the reason for rising temperatures? The NIPCC serves to critique all the climate assertions of the UN IPCC. To this end the NIPCC is the unofficial watchdog of the UN IPCC.

• The truth is that every day more and more scientists are declaring their skepticism for man-made global warming, but they are ignored by the media and politicians who are on a mission to promote their green agenda regardless of evidence to the contrary.

The above are but a few examples that illustrate how lopsided the man-made climate change debate is. Those who disagree with the headlines are not saying the earth hasn’t warmed in the past 120 years, because it has experienced modest warming as we came of out the Little Ice Age (AD 1400-1850). In the 20th century the earth warmed .67 a degree Celsius. What is being argued here is who or what is responsible for the warming. There is a growing and substantial body of evidence that exonerates human activity as the cause of climate change. Many scientists now contend the recent rise in temperature has more to do with natural climate variation than CO2 produced by man. This is not to say that man doesn’t pollute, because he does, but that is a separate issue from climate change.

So why has this one issue of climate change received so much attention? Why all the hysteria and emotionally charged headlines? What is driving this issue? Why the adamant insistence that man is responsible? Essentially there are three primary reasons (philosophical assumptions) why some have become so rabid on this issue. These, whether taken individually or collectively, serve as the motivating force behind the headlines on this issue:

1. The first is politics. The first clue that this is a political issue is evidenced in the United Nation’s involvement—hence the UN IPCC. Here we have a political body doing science. True, there are a number of scientists they have assembled to gather some expert advice, but few know that the UN’s policy assessments on this issue are written by bureaucrats, not the scientists themselves. Consequently, much is left out of these documents. Any observations that conflict with UN dogma on the topic are conveniently omitted. The UN is hardly a dispassionate and objective scientific body. They are a political entity with the objective of promoting globalization. I can’t think of a better issue to achieve one world governance and a one world economy than the issue of human-induced climate change. As H.L. Mencken astutely remarked, “The urge to save humanity is always a false front for the urge to rule.”!

2. The second contributing factor to the popularity of the global warming craze is postmodernism. Postmodernism is basically a philosophy for interpreting life from the vantage point of the interpreter. In the postmodern scheme absolutes are banished while relativism is extolled. At the heart of postmodernism is deconstructive thinking. Deconstructionists vacuum meaning from words, history, religion, and even science. There are a number of scientists today who are concerned about postmodern deconstructive influence in the realm of science. It would be naïve to think that postmodern interpretation of scientific observation does not take place, especially in a highly emotive issue like climate change. Doubtless, the relativistic influences in postmodernism can and do lead to junk science.

3. The third major premise fueling this global warming debate is pantheism. Pantheism is the belief that “God is all and all is God”. In other words, God is not transcendent, but is in all that exists. This way of thinking leads to an impersonal view of God where all distinctions are erased to achieve some mystical union between ourselves and the universe. The creed of pantheism deifies humanity while doing the same for thistles and pigs. The result is that humanity loses all God-ordained uniqueness, which leads to the denigration of man. This is why many environmentalists are willing to sacrifice humanity for the sake of nature. Ultimately saving the environment becomes a religion in which salvation is found through the sacraments of recycling, vegan diets, hybrid cars, and compact fluorescent bulbs. It should be no surprise that Al Gore has pronounced pantheistic tendencies. In his book Earth In The Balance, Gore nails his pantheistic flag to the mast.

So what is a Christian to make of all this? Though the Bible doesn’t mention global warming, it does give some timeless principles which can be used as a guide for making a determination about how to both view and respond to the issue:

1. The Glory Principle (Psalm 33:6; 19:1-6; 8:1-2, & 9; Psalm 104; Jeremiah 10:12-14; John 1:1-3). As the Psalmist looked at the splendor of creation it produced his exuberant praise of Psalm 8:1 “O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Thy name in all the earth …” Creation is primarily meant to be a testimony to man of God’s glory and wisdom. As one gazes at the awesome beauty of all God made, it should evoke praise to His name. This is a strong inducement on the part of humanity to preserve and care for that which reflects the greatness of the one who made it. So the Believer’s motivation for maintaining the environment is first theo-centric before it is ever man-centered.

2. The Stewardship Principle (Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 8:3-8; 115:16). While God holds the title deed to earth, man is to be the custodian and manager of all that God has made. Humanity does not own the earth, but is granted the authority by God to adequately care for creation. This God-ordained stewardship has three prongs to it:

• Stewardship requires that we protect and preserve creation within the tension of the following two stewardship considerations.

• Stewardship includes wisely using the resources of creation for the provision of humanity. Simple examples of this include replacing trees used for building, requiring permits for hunting, and restocking fish from fisheries.

• Stewardship also includes the component of counting the financial cost of the above. Luke 14:28-32 reminds us that no king goes off to war before carefully counting the cost!

In light of these three prongs of stewardship, it is clear that what is being proposed concerning man-made climate change is poor stewardship. Given that most of the recent warming is part of a natural, varying climate cycle, the astronomical price tag for cap-and-trade schemes and carbon offsets is not equal to the supposed benefits gained. One Danish economist calculated that the annual cost of a climate initiative, like the Kyoto Protocol, would cost the participating countries one trillion dollars per annum. Even then, carbon-belching countries like China, India, and Brazil are exempt from such treaties, because they are developing nations. All of the proposed climate legislation is based on the faulty assumption that CO2 is the primary driver of temperature.

It remains to be seen how any of this will help the poor. What man-made climate promoters are loath to publicize is the stratospheric price tag of their “green” policies. This will result in much higher energy costs, which in turn will affect everyone, especially the poor. It is nothing but wishful thinking to promote wind and solar as viable alternatives. The present cost, effectiveness, reliability, and efficiency of wind and solar energy make them poor substitutes for fossil fuels. Given time and more research this may change, but we aren’t there yet — it is dishonest to imply that we are.

Our stewardship responsibilities certainly include investigating and pursuing technologies that are safer, cleaner, more efficient, and cost effective. But until those new technologies are proven, stewardship mandates we must continue to refine the current technology framework presently in use.

3. The Uniqueness Principle—humans are distinct from the rest of creation because we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:19-20; Psalm 8:5-8). The image bearing qualities refer not to the physical characteristics of man (i.e. men and women) or to our human essence, but rather to those intangible qualities that aid us in the fulfillment of the mandate to ‘rule’ and ‘subdue’ the creation in which God has placed us. The ‘who’ of mankind as an image bearer is directly related to the ‘what’ of man, which is to ‘rule’ and ‘subdue’ the rest of creation.

This derived stewardship to ‘rule’ and ‘subdue’ is well illustrated in Genesis 2:19-20 where Adam is commanded to name all the animals. To name something or someone was to exercise dominion and authority over the thing named. Admittedly exercising such dominion in a post-fall world is a lot like trying to push start a vehicle uphill with the handbrake on.

As an image bearing creation of God, mankind is meant to preside over creation, not the other way around. Sadly, many of the policies and legislation sought by modern day environmentalism are designed to ‘rule’ and ‘subdue’ humanity by allowing non-rational creation to preside over man. The sum of this equation is idolatry.

4. The Priority Principle—People are not a pathogen (Genesis 1:26; 2:15): This is alluded to in the previous point, yet it bears repeating that misanthropic (hatred for humanity) attitudes toward man are tightly wedded to the environmentalist movement. I have read outlandish and bizarre stories about young women in their prime getting sterilized so they don’t add to the world’s “carbon footprint” by bringing another human life into the world. In Australia, in a recent medical journal article, Dr. Barry Walters called for a “baby tax”, which would amount to an initial tax of 4,000 Australian dollars at birth, and then an annual tax of 800 dollars until the child is of age. Thus, it is no wonder that the vast majority of environmentalists are pro-abortion. After all, in the New Age scheme of things a rock is a tree, is a pig, is a boy. Only the credulous could deny the link between this misanthropic attitude and the solutions and policies proposed by many of the promoters of everything-green.

To illustrate the point, radical environmentalist David Forman said, “A human life has no more intrinsic value than an individual grizzly bear life. If it came down to a confrontation between a grizzly and a friend, I’m not sure whose side I would be on. But I do know humans are a disease, a cancer on nature.” With friends like that who needs enemies?

5. The Imposition Principle (Genesis 3:14&17; Romans 8:18-23). All of non-rational creation ‘groans’ and ‘suffers’ and is imposed upon as a result of the fall of man in Genesis 3. The fallout of human sin resulted in a cursed earth. This curse on the rest of creation is a lot like a world class marathoner, running a full length marathon with both legs shackled by leg irons.

As a result of the curse tsunamis arrive unannounced, volcanoes spew cinder and ash into the atmosphere, earthquakes rumble, tornadoes ravage homes, violent storms scar the landscape, heat waves blister the earth, and cold snaps silently kill man and beast alike. Where temperature is concerned, the Sun’s solar variables will change without notice. Why? Not because of man-made causes, but because of the curse.

Due to the curse, the balance of nature sought by many does not exist. There is no balance of GHG’s that is known to be optimum, so how do we know that current concentrations of GHG’s, like CO2, are not within an acceptable range? Because the earth ‘groans’ and ‘suffers’, natural disasters and altered weather patterns are the norm, not the exception. Someday the curse will be reversed when Christ returns, until then weather happens whether we like it or not!

Still, the curse does in no way abrogate our God-given mandate to act as God’s custodians for His creation. It just presents more of a challenge.

6. The Preservation Principle (Genesis 8:22-9:17; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3). Even given the fall of man and the resulting curse on the earth, God still preserves and sovereignly sustains His creation. Man may harm the environment, but God promises in Genesis 8:22 that “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” He will uphold all things by the word of His power. This is not an excuse for inactivity on our part, but it is a promise that the earth will never be completely destroyed by man. God’s providential care for His creation ensures the earth is more resilient than is often acknowledged by man.

How many times have we heard some headline declaring “This is it … we are all doomed for sure this time.”? In 1989 the UN predicted that we must act with immediate effect on climate change initiatives or we would only have another 10 years at best. That was 20 years ago, so they keep moving the goal post to save face. Likewise, all of the eco-apocalyptic predictions made at the first Earth Day in 1970 have come to naught 40 years later. God is in charge here, not the UN.

7. The Future-Promise Principle (Roman 8:18-23). God’s promise to non-rational creation is that the ‘anxious longing’ will give way to a future emancipation. The redeeming work of Christ on the cross for sinful humanity has far reaching implications for the rest of creation at the Second Coming of Christ, when the curse will be reversed. Then the wolf will lay with the lamb (Isaiah 11:1-10). Any damage done to earth by man will then be completely reversed. (Again, this is not license to do as we please with God’s real estate in the meantime. His command to act as stewards is clear and irrevocable.)

8. The Superiority Principle (Hebrews 2:5-9). The New Testament book of Hebrews portrays Jesus Christ as superior and supreme as the savior and redeemer. The superiority of Christ is amply demonstrated in a series contrasts with angels (2:5), man (2:6-8a), creation (2:8b), and even death itself (2:9). During His 3 year ministry Jesus tamed the colt, calmed the angry seas, stayed the wild winds, transformed water into wine, walked where most would swim or sail, healed the sick, and raised the dead. In His own death He demonstrated, through His bodily resurrection, superiority over the final enemy of the grave.

Because the wages of sin is death (both physical and spiritual), Christ tasted death, so that a fallen humanity might have a way of salvation. Christ, by virtue of His sinless sacrifice on the cross, provides eternal life for those will acknowledge their sin, repent of and confess their sin, while believing in Him as Lord and Savior.

Hebrews makes it patently clear that salvation is not by works of righteousness, whether they include saving the whales, cleaning up oil slicks, or curbing one’s carbon emissions. Good works, or sacraments of whatever kind, cannot undo what sin has done. Christ alone is the antidote for wages of sin. The risen Jesus is the sole agent of saving grace. Eco-philanthropy, no matter how noble and just, ultimately comes to naught in light of eternity. Saving the earth will not save the soul, but a saved soul should do all it can do to protect, provide, and care for the earth in a biblically prudent way, because God’s glory is at stake.

In the end we must “…examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). For the Christian this includes examining the issue of man-made climate change from a biblically informed mindset and then pursuing the most prudent course of action. While we pursue our God-given stewardship, we must also ensure that Christ the Savior does not become Christ the eco-activist!

Pastor Mark Christopher

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