Christianity and Climate Change – Heads in the Sand?

Bernie Diaz, September 24, 019

We know that President Trump is in the news virtually every day for something he has said or how he has said it, and occasionally gets some press- mostly negative from the mainstream media, for what he does.

This week the President may be raked over the coals for something he didn’t do- which was spend much time at the climate change summit at this past week’s UN (United Nations) General Assembly in New York. Instead, Mr. Trump opted to join Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (the latter two long-time professing Christians) in co-hosting a “Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom.”

That assembly long-overdue and much needed, was largely ignored by the secular press to no surprise. Yet, the President chose to attend and lead an international discussion on the import of religious liberty rather than hop on the climate change bandwagon which seems to again be sweeping much of the nation and its culture.

In fact, reportedly millions of students around the world skipped school on Friday of last week for a global climate change strike. The movement included more than 5,000 demonstrations in 156 countries, including Germany, Nigeria, and Tokyo. Young demonstrators held signs that read, “You are destroying our future,” and “There is no planet B.” Amazingly, New York City Public Schools said parents could excuse their students to participate in the strike.

Dozens of nations are committing to adopt stricter climate goals by the end of 2020, aiming to reach a net of zero CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) emissions by then, largely influenced by a campaign led by Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg, 16 years-old no less, and a group of other activists who filed a suit with the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child against five different countries——for failing to curb carbon emissions.

Thunberg gave an impassioned speech accusing world leaders of failing future generations, saying, “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

‘… Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot! …

Is there something to this idea of climate change and global warming? I don’t know about you, but my own South Florida experience has led me to believe that the last few years here – summers in particular, have been much warmer than usual, with several days of heat indexes (temperature including humidity) exceeding well over 100 degrees.

A recent news report and a follow-up analysis of it, illustrate the difficulty though, in pinpointing the level of climate change we may be undergoing much less what to do about it.

For instance, July was the hottest month ever recorded according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report. The scientists said July’s sizzling heat wave soared to an average global temperature 1.71 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average. The previous hottest month on record was July 2016.

However, as WORLD magazine reported, a meteorologist and principal research scientist in the U.S., said NOAA’s analysis is wrong, because it’s based on a limited and “error-prone” collection of mostly ground-level thermometers. His own website chart, based on satellite recording of temperatures in the lower atmosphere, shows the July increase as only two-thirds of a degree Fahrenheit: “not terribly alarming.”

So, which is it? Are we experiencing on our planet legitimate and disconcerting global warming or is science and society just reacting to politically motivated news and agendas with “global warming hysteria?” Theology may influence of course the answer to that question.

According to a Newsweek article, “The vast majority of scientists agree climate change is an existing, growing, and man-made threat to our planet. And yet the topic is a divisive issue in the U.S.—not least among people of faith.”

The article noted that White evangelical Christians in particular are, on average, more likely to question whether human activity contributed to the Earth’s warming, with research by Pew suggesting 28 percent accept this view, compared with 64 percent of those without a religious affiliation.

There is no doubt that the biblical worldview that disciples of Christ should follow, calls for obedience to the creation mandate God has given to his image bearers (Genesis 1:26-31), to subdue and have dominion or authority over creation, which means the environment.  Mankind is of greater value to the Lord and his kingdom than plants and trees, no matter how radical that sentence may read.

The secular left and its institutions which have little or no understanding of Christianity and its doctrines, would argue that evangelicals believe that global warming is of little concern when the end times are approaching. Indeed, it could even be proof of it.

Extreme and mistaken theology aside, Orthodox Christian doctrine teaches that believers are not only called to be stewards or managers, rather abusers of the environment, but to also continue caring for creation responsibly, as much as they are to preach the gospel and evangelize responsibly up to the moment Jesus returns to judge, rule and reign over his creation.

Climate Change is a controversial and complex issue. The scientific consensus even among Christian or theistic scientists, acknowledge that Carbon emissions that can adversely impact the environment are on the rise, having increased more than 20% over the last half-century and are above pre-industrial levels.

Burning fossil fuels (e.g. oil) undoubtedly contributes to that. And everyone agrees that CO2 acts as a greenhouse gas, and therefore adds increased amounts of CO2 to the air which should cause more heat to be trapped and warm the globe, all else being equal. Yes, an ice cap or two seems to be melting as well.

That said, the evolution of technology and industrialization over the past century plus, has greatly improved man’s quality of life and standard of living as efficient fossil fuels greatly contributed to that, including in the lives of ‘tree-hugging’ activists who are actually calling in some circles for the abolition of jet air-travel and automobiles, as they hop from plane to plane and into limousines for their next press conference.

Some countries including the U.S. have argued that they, and the world in general, will suffer economically from radical attempts to control CO2 emissions. Simply put, jobs, families and homes are at stake and are threatened by the more radical elements of the climate change movement currently dominating American media. So we better be sure.

‘How Now Shall We Steward?’  

The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s; But the earth He has given to the children of men. (Psa. 115:16, ESV)

As we think through this very difficult issue, let’s remind ourselves of who created the environment and why. God has given us all his creation to fully enjoy and to cultivate it for the sustenance and good of man-kind.

Christians however, can’t forget the fact that while enjoying it, we are not to waste, abuse or exploit the creation as Genesis 2:15 admonishes us to “tend and keep” (to guard) it, proclaiming the idea of stewardship.

Similar to lending a car to a friend; you’ve given that person a level of dominion over the vehicle while he’s driving it, but you expect it to be returned in good shape right? His creation is on loan to us and is not to be polluted. To that extent, God is “green.”

In summary, there is little to no objective evidence that man is definitively the main cause of global warming, nor that the effects will be catastrophic. Yet the fact remains that our world is wearing out and has been continually decaying since the fall of man and the curse of sin infected it.

Therefore, until Christ returns to work his “extreme makeover” over planet earth (2 Peter 3:9) which cannot be stopped, we glorify God and point others including environmental advocates to Christ and the gospel by only worshipping the creator rather than his creation or creatures (Romans 1), and proving to be God-obedient stewards over it as manifesting his kingdom rule.

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