Friday, 4 December 2009

Climate Change Questions

The earth is warming up. This is referred to as Climate Change. This apparently is a catastrophic problem because it melts the ice caps which causes sea level rises which causes the loss of some islands. It is also catastrophic because it seems to be caused by a change in our atmosphere- namely, increased CO2 emmissions - which makes our air dirtier. It is a problem. But as the events of the past week in Canberra have shown, it has divided opinion among Australians like little else has done. On the hand there are the Climate-Change-Advocates (read: Priests) who warn of cataclysmic disaster and a global catastrophe if something is not done nearly immediately to reverse these trends. On the other hand are the Climate-Change-Skeptics who deny that global warming is even happening. (It's interesting that the language being used is religious. See an interesting article by Chuck Colson about this.) Dr Jay Richards of the Acton Institute suggests that 4 ("tough") questions need to be adequately answered before we decide which camp we will join.
    (1) Is the planet warming?
    (2) If the planet is warming, is human activity (like CO2 emissions) causing it?
    (3) If the planet is warming, is it bad overall?
    (4) If the planet is warming, we’re causing it, and it’s bad, would the policies commonly advocated (e.g., the Kyoto Protocol, legislative restrictions on CO2 emissions) make any difference and, if so, would their cost exceed their benefit?

Jay goes on to say that these questions can only be answered by science, not Scripture. However, what he says Scripture does say, which should guide how we continue to respond to this problem is: God has appointed us as stewards of this planet. In his other writings, Dr Richards reminds Christians that the worldview of many "climate-change alarmists" is a-theistic ("a"=no + "theistic"=God). That is, they regard this world as the result of a rather random, chaotic, sequence of uncaused events that somehow is governed by the illusion of "laws" (gravity, planetary rotations and orbits, the empirical laws of mathematics and physics). As such, Dr Richards points out, they suspect the earth is extremely fragile and that mankind is actually an accidental intruder who is really just messing things up (this is my summary of what he said in an interview with Hank Hanegraaff on the Bible Answer Man program). Jay Richards reminds believers that the Bible says that the earth is the Lord's and that He sustains it (Psalm 24:1). The earth, according to Dr Richards, is extremely resilient, because it has been designed that way by an all-wise Creator.

There are many Christians who would agree with Dr Jay Wesley Richards, but for different reasons. These believers are climate-change skeptics because they reject, not just the science, but the scientific data. This is because they have a way of reading the Bible that restricts them from accepting, what many Biblical scholars regard as the Biblically plausible, scientific evidence that the earth was created some 4.5 billion years ago. Instead, they claim, the Bible implies that the earth was created between 10,000-6,000 years ago. They base this assumption on the addition of the genealogical records in the Scripture and arrive at a date for Genesis 1:1 of around 4004BC. People who hold this view are referred to as "young earth creationists". Of course, the climatologists are basing their climate-change research on weather patterns that appear to be 80,000 years old (they can determine this from polar ice cores). As soon as Young Earth Creationists are asked to believe the scientific claim that the earth is older than 80,000 years old, they immediately switch off. I have written little bit more about this in another article on my website.
Psalm 78:69 He built his sanctuary like the high heavens,
like the earth, which he has founded forever

Dr Jay Wesley Richards' 4 questions are indeed tough questions. Perhaps they can be answered this way-
(1) Yes, the planet is warming.
(2) Perhaps, this warming is caused by humans emitting too much CO2 into the atmosphere. Perhaps though, there is more CO2 in the atmosphere because of a cyclical planetary global warming (which is thought to occur every 1500 years or so).
(3) Global warming may not necessarily be a bad thing, suggests Dr Richards. This might especially be the case if global warming (and cooling) is a part of God's design for our planet. There seems to be some evidence that our planet has experienced extreme warming and cooling in times past. Al Gore, though, claims in his Academy Award winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, that the earth has never before seen such dramatic rises in temperature than we are currently witnessing. He claims that this is having a devastating affect on our global ecology and therefore the survival of humanity.
(4) But if the planet is warming and humans are the cause, and it is bad, will the various carbon emission reduction plans - Kyoto, Copenhagen, C.P.R.S. (Carbon Program Reduction Scheme) resolve this? Dr Jay Wesley Richards argues that while these measures will have some benefits, it is highly doubtful that that they resolve the problem. Jay then factors in the economic cost of such measures, both directly and then indirectly. He argues that if these various treaties and protocols were introduced it could come at incalculable human cost. He wonders how ethical this would be. Reduce carbon emissions, says Dr Richards, but not at any cost! (Watch a video of Dr Jay Wesley Richards)
Psalm 24:1 The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein.

Little wonder the Liberal Party have been in such turmoil over this issue. We want less carbon emissions. This will be good for our atmosphere and our ecology. But it is highly doubtful that a new tax on carbon emissions would achieve this. Senator Barnaby Joyce expressed this doubt this way- "If a new tax could solve the problem, then why not impose a world peace tax on everybody?"

Much of the climate-change shrill is firmly grounded in the belief that the earth is a collossal fluke. But the earth is the Lord's. He created it and He sustains it. While some believers interpret the prophetic passages of Scripture as predicting God will one day trash this earth and create a new one (therefore why care for this one?), other eschatologists (such as myself) regard such references to a "new heaven and earth" in quite a different way. I have written much about this different (and dare I say it, more "exegetical") way of understanding such references on my website (

I propose that we consider Dr Richards' 4 questions as the beginning of our guide to understanding this crucial issue. Unlike many Climate-Change Skeptics, I think we should not merely dismiss the scientific data. But, perhaps we should factor in to our thinking that the earth is created by God and sustained by Him. Along these lines we should remember that God created us. He sustains us. Even though we have rebelled against Him and demanded that He stop interfering with our lives, He has reached out to us and opened our eyes to see our true condition. Amazingly, He has undeservingly lavished His grace upon us so that we can receive His forgiveness and can be eternally reconciled to Him.

As serious as Global-Warming is, it is nothing compared to the potential of eternal-warming! I hope we can make a valuable contribution to both warming dilemmas as we share the glorious Gospel and its implications for te earth.

For what appears to be a balanced summary of both sides of the Climate-Change Debate, visit-

    Father, help us to make a difference in our world today. Help us to care for our planet and enhance our ecology. But Lord help us to reach out to those who do not know You as beautiful. Grant it oh God that we can be used by You to lead people to the Ultimate Desire of their Soul: Jesus Christ. Amen.


  1. Very interesting. Agree that there is a certain amount of science in these sorts of things - but it also depends on who is doing the calculations and playing with the variables.
    Fortunately it seems that most people do agree they need to do more to lower wastage, emissions etc.
    Unfortunately the governments dont know (well wont use) the best way (IMO) to do this.
    Lower consumption.
    But no, we cant have that can we - bad for the economy.
    Copenhagen, just brings to mind the US PATRIOT Act of 2001.