Christianity & Climate Change


(Edgar Pollard) #1

Because of the relentless burning of coal, gas, and oil, and the logging of forests, our planet is breaking records for heat, month after month. The New York Times reports that: “The five warmest years in recorded history were the last five, and…18 of the 19 warmest years have occurred since 2001.” The oceans are also breaking records for heat and heating much more rapidly than many scientists had expected, with drastic effects on marine life and sea-level rise.

What should our response as Christians be toward God’s creation, the environment and the issue of climate change? As these are big global issues it can feel like we can’t do much at all or maybe these are the signs of the times and Christs returning.

Does God really care:
if I choose to eat less meat (cows are believed to be one of the greatest contributors to climate change through methane gas emission and forest clearance)?
if I choose to buy an electric vehicle or install solar panels to run my house off?

The bible says there will be a new heaven & earth, how are we meant to relate to the current old earth?


(Cameron Kufner) #2

Great question, Edgar!

First off, we all have to understand that climate change is real. You mentioned some great statistics about the issue. I would add, it is extremely alarming how much mankind contributes to climate change.

To the issue of whether we should care and if God cares, I would say that God cares a whole lot. There is such an emphasis throughtout The Bible on how we should take care of ourselves physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. As well as an emphasis on how we should help our brothers and sisters in Christ in the same way. If we are taught to care for all of mankind, then why would God not want us to take care of his created earth? After all, he did give us dominion. Nature does not control us, but we have dominion over nature. As to the example of the new heavens and the new earth; that this earth will pass away. Well, I will pass away too, but that doesn’t mean that I’m just going to treat myself terribly and be careless about my health. Human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, so if we are called to take good care of ourselves, then it would be more than safe to assume that we should take great care of the marvelous planet called earth that God has created and given as a gift. Furthermore, my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so I should treat it with respect in every area of my life.

Am I making sense, Edgar? Again, great question. God bless you, Edgar!

  • Cameron Kufner

(Andrew Shaw) #3

I’m going to hold off my own view of climate change initially, but want to throw this scripture into the mix:

The time has come for judging the dead,
and for rewarding your servants the prophets
and your people who revere your name,
both great and small—
and for destroying those who destroy the earth. (Rev. 11:18)

My plain reading of this is that there are consequences for misuse of the natural world, but maybe a scholar who understands Greek might help? Perhaps “the earth” means something different, or broader than planet Earth?


(Robert Anderson) #4

Hi Edgar,

I think we have to remember that creation is a gift from God and one that he has ultimate control over. So personally I don’t spend any emotional energy worrying about climate change, whether it is a real threat or not. But as far as our response toward God’s creation, I think examining Genesis 1:26-28 gives us some valuable insight.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

I believe we are called treat creation with respect and gratitude because of just how great of a gift it is and who it comes from. But I also think we have to remember that nature has no authority over us. Rather, God gave Adam dominion over the earth and a responsibility to be fruitful. Therefore, I think the proper posture toward creation is one of stewardship.


(Cameron Kufner) #5

Andrew, thanks for contributing. If you don’t mind me asking, I’m curious as to others’ thoughts as well, but what is your view on climate change?

I will add that, personally, I believe in climate change. Edgar listed a few, of the massive amount, of examples as to how we know that climate change is really happening. I can understand though if someone doesn’t believe in climate change because the issue has gotten way to politicized, which can be a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing to know that we have representatives in government who care about protecting the marvelous gift that God has given to us, the planet earth. But, we all know how government can be with the taxpayers money. Saying one thing, such as using taxpayer dollars in order to help fight climate change, but then adding that money to their yearly salary. Still, pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God. But, let’s look past those things and look at the statistics that are coming to light. That’s just my take on the issue of climate change.


(Roslyn Farmer) #6

I agree that we are responsible for taking care of the planet. I drive a hybrid, have all LED bulbs, shutters to control light & heat on all my windows, etc., etc.
But I too have some questions about climate change. If you look at this NASA graph below, the pink lines show the slope of the graph over various time segments from about the 1800s until present. (I added the slopes to the NASA graph) The slope shows the rate of reaction - in this case the rate of increase in global temperature (anomalies) per time. Note that this rate of increase is zero between about 1945 and 1975. So global temperature wasn’t increasing despite the fact that CO2 levels were greatly increasing over that same time period.
Also, from this graph, the rate of increase in the last decade is smaller than the rate of increase between about 1975 and 1995.
Does that not suggest that there is another factor, besides CO2, that is affecting global temperature increases?
Further, there was an article in March 5, 2019 on the NASA Global Climate Change site that said satellite technology has shown that a vent in earth’s crust opened up under the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica and is contributing to the melting of that shelf - and underwater volcanoes are contributing to the melting of sea ice in Greenland. https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2844/fire-below-ice-above-volcanoes-glaciers-and-sea-level-rise/.
My question is: Are climatologists looking for additional factors besides CO2?
image


(Andrew Shaw) #7

OK, so splitting the original question in two:

  1. Does God hold us accountable to be good stewards of the Earth?
    Quite clearly, yes.
  2. Is there climate change and is the climate being affected by humans in a negative way for which we will be held accountable?
    Yes, the climate is changing, but the extent to which humans are affecting it and the impact of carbon emissions is much less clear than you’d think. This short article by Hank Hanegraaff with several quotes from Jay Richards sum up my own position on the topic: https://www.equip.org/article/how-should-christians-think-about-global-warming/

As an Environmental Engineer I’m torn about the whole focus on carbon emissions. In many ways I feel like it’s pushing people to do the right things (use less resources) but for maybe the wrong, or at least tenuous, reasons. I do a lot of process modeling and one of the basic limits for any model is they’re terrible for extrapolation. I.e. you should only use your model for the range of conditions for which you have good data to calibrate and then validate it. I should probably dig into the models to know for sure, but I doubt they’re very good, despite the efforts people make. The data is incomplete and the system too complex to do correctly, and they’re trying to model very subtle shifts in the overall energy balance of the Earth extrapolated over a few decades.

A couple of other things trouble me about the focus on carbon emissions. Firstly, it’s a convenient scapegoat for politicians to blame when problems arise such as running out of water or catastrophic events of fire or flood, but when you dig into the root cause it’s often poor management of the resources, or poor planning that are to blame especially when there’s a rapid influx of people. Secondly it’s too simplistic and misdirects us from other, more pressing environmental issues such as eutrophication or deforestation.

On a more positive note, I’m intrigued by the ideas posed by some folks in Stockholm on planetary boundaries. My work is focused mostly on eutrophication issues (too much nitrogen and phosphorus getting into our waters) so it clicks with me that we’ve crossed those boundaries already. This site has some background info: https://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/planetary-boundaries.html


(Micah Bush) #8

This is a topic that I’ve given a lot of thought to in recent years, a process which turned me away from climate change denial. A considerable part of my undergraduate capstone final essay dealt with this. Rather than rewrite the same arguments, I’ve copied over the relevant paragraphs (if the format seems odd, the essay was written in the format of a Christian magazine article):

In America, the assumption is often held that free-market, laissez-faire economics produce the greatest benefits by allowing competition to lower costs. Unfortunately, this can lead to some rather ridiculous practices, like catching salmon on the West Coast, shipping them to China to be filleted, then shipping the cleaned fish back to America for marketing. Economically, this makes sense because labor costs are lower in China than in the U.S.; in all other regards, it’s a foolish waste of time and resources. We face the same issue with fossil fuels. In the short term, it makes sense to stick with an energy system that is relatively cheap and well-established; in the long term, it’s evident that the current system is unsustainable and damaging to the world we live in.

But why should we in North America care? First, because we are a disproportionate cause of the problem; the U.S. and Canada house less than 5% of the world’s population, yet they consume 18.9% of the world’s fossil fuel energy (BP plc 9). Secondly, as Christians, we ought to care because the Lord has appointed us as governors over the other creatures of this world (Genesis 1:28), and governors who abuse their subjects for personal gain are governors of the worst type. Thirdly, we ought to be concerned because climate change will affect the world’s poor first. While we in the West will have our wealth and technology to cushion the impacts of climactic shifts, the subsistence farmer in Africa and reef fisherman in Southeast Asia, who both live by threads as it is, will have little to fall back on if droughts lead to crop failures and the reefs are destroyed by rising temperatures and acidifying waters. The world’s poor don’t have the resources to spare to mitigate and combat climate change. That leaves the task in our hands.

Consider the words of James 1:27 ( NIV ): “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” In the ancient world, widows and orphans were the poorest and most vulnerable, the members of society who had no safety net. In our world today, that distinction goes to the world’s poor, and I believe that we as Christians are duty-bound to “look after them in their distress.” This means not only sending what money or resources we can to alleviate their suffering, but also considering how our actions here and now will affect their future livelihoods.

But what of the command to “keep oneself from being polluted by the world”? In our current context, I believe that this means avoiding materialism. While the world obsesses over having the most high-end food, the newest clothing, cars and gadgets, the biggest houses, and the most luxurious vacations, we in the Church ought to heed the words of Paul: “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (I Timothy 6:8-9). People of the world may live for themselves, but we who call Christ “Lord” are called to live for others.

Sadly, the Church that I see in America is preoccupied with possessions. Through such concepts as the Protestant work ethic and the prosperity gospel, we have come to assume that the more we have, the more God has blessed us, giving us a means of rationalizing greed. For people who are supposed to be living for a Kingdom that is not of this world, we are oddly obsessed with measuring success by the standards of this world. We’re given to taking the fastest, easiest path to “success,” just as our society takes the easy but destructive path of staying dependent on fossil fuels. And when we are faced with the realities of climate change, do we accept the science? No, we just dismiss the science because we don’t like the implication that our lifestyles need to change, and we’ve even found a phrase to spiritualize our apathy: “God is in control.” (Because there’s no difference between trusting God in matters we have no control over and being negligent in the tasks He has appointed us to carry out, right?)

So how should we in the Church deal with the issue of climate change? First, we need to stop picking and choosing which scientists and data we take seriously based on whether we like the implications of their conclusions. We also need to reject materialism in favor of contentment and start measuring success by how much we give rather than by how much we have. We ought to treat our world as if we really believe it belongs to the Lord and was put in our trust. To that end, and to alleviate the hardship of the world’s poor, we should make a point of investing in a sustainable future through funding research into renewable energy sources, both through business, government, and personal commitments. Finally, we must be intentional about enjoying the natural beauty of the world around us; just as a ruler disconnected from his people will not know their needs, we will be unable to sense and address the needs of our environment if we are not intimately connected with it.


(Edgar Pollard) #9

Hey guys thanks all for your thoughts and comments.

I am an ecologist by profession and come from the Solomon Islands in the Pacific, my home village is looking at relocating inland due to rising seas especially during king tides.

I do believe in the changing climate (what proportion of that is due to people is up for debate) but also have faith that God is in control.

I think that God does care about every little detail of our life, including the daily decisions we make to live a life that exhibits more stewardship & love and less selfishness & greed.

This leads me to ask the question; therefore if one lives a life that disregards the call to stewardship is that sin, or is it merely optional? Therefore should our churches be preaching the message of stewardship?


(Kevin Hurst) #10

Just a thought - Don’t trees need CO2 to thrive? It would seem to me the more CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere the better off our trees will be:smiley:
I loved the thought on stewardship of the earth. Genesis 2:15 And God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." Seems to fit that verse very well. We have been given these resources by God for the benefit of man and for the glory of God. But when the resources that God has given to us are not used for man’s benefit and God’s glory it becomes wrong in my thinking.
One question I had? Romans 1:25 They changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
How do we understand when we are exchanging the truth of God for a lie and begin worshipping the creation more than the Creator?