Climate: Why care?

Catholics are often about solving climate change (Pope on Climate). Protestants often are not – in fact, only half of Evangelicals even believe warming is happenings (Yale – Christians on Climate). Democrat Christians are all about solving climate change. Republican Christians generally are not.

The division over the issue made me wonder:

Does the Christian faith address environmental concerns? If so, you’d expect most Christians to be on the same side.

Or are both sides focused on different passages and interpretations?

Christian Faith and Environmentalism

Whether you take it as history or symbolic storytelling, the Creation narrative reminds us we were given the Earth to steward. We were given dominion over nature, which means to govern and manage – not destroy. We are called to oversee it, not obliterate it.

EarthThe planet is God’s gift to us, a present he took great care to cater to human needs and desires. Genesis 2:9 talks about God placing trees in the garden of Eden “pleasant to the sight and good for food” – not just taking care of our physical needs but also aesthetic desires, for enjoyment. Earth is not just useful, but beautiful as well.

Beyond that, Scripture largely focuses on the needs of small groups of people in nomadic and agrarian contexts where modern concepts of conservation are largely off the radar. Peter was a fisherman, sure – but saving the Great Barrier Reef wasn’t particularly relevant because there weren’t enough humans to trash it yet (Great Barrier Trash).

It is frustrating that God didn’t just inspire a bunch of passages that say directly, “Don’t pollute, take care of your environment, it’s the only one I gave you.” But it wasn’t as applicable in 1000 BC when there were only 100 million humans and God was addressing just one million of them: Israel.

Now there’s 7.6 billion of us and a climbing population means a crowded world. Any healthy future is going to require sustainability measures, caring for the Earth as a means of caring for each other, and safeguarding those who are most at risk in a crowded, polluted world. I feel Scripture indirectly speaks to all three of these.

End of the World

End of the worldWe have an obligation to pass a healthy, useful and beautiful world on to the next generation. An important point in Christian environmentalism is that no one knows when the world will end (Matthew 24:36) – so we can’t afford to have the attitude of “God will destroy it in the end anyways, who cares if I cut down that forest?”

Imagine if Christians had that attitude one hundred years ago and left us a desolate planet. Imagine if Christians had that attitude two thousand years ago and left hundreds of generations with a desolate planet!

Christians know Jesus might come back tomorrow. Christians who care about the environment remind us that we’ve been repeating that claim daily for nearly 73,000 days now.

If we are honest with ourselves, it might be another 2,000 years before He comes back. Which means we need to live in such a way as to preserve the planet until He does.

Love Your Neighbor

Caring for Creation becomes even more relevant as the population climbs. We are above 7.6 billion people today. We’ll hit 8 billion in 6 years, 9 and 10 billion in our lifetimes. Insert every passage here about loving your neighbor and treating others as yourself. Christians have more “neighbors” than ever before, and caring for the planet is one of the ways we treat them with the same love and respect we hope they give us.

Care for the Least of These

plant-250x250Another important element is that the people most likely to suffer the consequences of environmental abuse are the poor, the weak, the ill, the powerless – all whom God commanded us frequently to care for.

Corporations often create profit at the expense of the environment and locals, for example. Poor and weak indigenous groups often get taken advantage by powerful, affluent groups who swoop in, take their resources and leave without compensating or caring for the people they’ve effectively plundered.

Caring for the environment – and forcing the rich, the powerful, corporations and even governments to be accountable in this – is a way to take care of “the least of these.”

Why Do People Doubt?

We should take care of the world God gave, we must protect future generations, we should love others, and we should safeguard the least of these. With that foundation, I’d like to address a few bad theology positions sometimes used to dismiss climate concerns.

God wouldn’t let us ruin the world.

We somehow have this “God wouldn’t allow” idea. “God wouldn’t let us clone things.” Guess what – He did. “God wouldn’t let us commit a holocaust.” Guess what – He did. “God wouldn’t let us pollute the planet.” Guess what – we’re well on our way and He isn’t intervening.

Behind these sorts of assertions is the poor theological idea that God would not let us suffer the consequences of our own behavior. Guess what – He does.

God may never let us completely destroy the world – He promised at least some remnants of humanity will still be alive when He redeems it fully. But nowhere are we assured He’ll magically save us from ruining the world. We may not obliterate it, but we sure do compromise it. And God lets us live in the consequences of our behavior.

It is arrogant to think humans can change climate.

Humans were able to unite and build a tower so grand God intervened to stop us. We also became so rotten in the time of Noah that God stepped in to drastically use climate against us. We built the pyramids. We landed on the moon. God has let us do things – good, bad, and ugly – that no one ever thought humankind could.

So is it really that arrogant to think we could have a profound effect on nature?

Is it arrogant to think we could drive thousands of species to extinction? We did.

Is it arrogant to think we could compromise the ozone layer? We did.

Is it arrogant to think we could kill 50% of coral reefs? We did.

Coral American Samoa
From “Chasing Coral” – documentary available on Netflix

No one doubts we can pollute a river, a lake, a sea – look at the damage of an oil spill like Exxon’s Valdez. Or just look up “great Pacific garbage patch” on Google.

So why do we suddenly doubt humans could change the climate by consistent poor choices such as leveling forests (like 20% of the Amazon already) and siphoning off entire rivers so they no longer reach the sea? From the Colorado River to the Rio Grande and even the Nile, many rivers no longer reach the ocean in the dry season.

If few of us can destroy our local environment, then enough of us can destroy our global environment.

God will burn it all in the end, why care?

The worst anti-conservation position I encounter is the belief God will destroy it in the end, so why worry? Part of this is addressed above – we don’t know when the end is, so we better preserve it in case God is more patient than we are. Another element is that this is a fundamental misinterpretation of Scriptures like Revelation.

For a thorough dealing of this topic, check out “The Rapture Exposed” by Barbara Rossing – an incredible book on how late additions to Christian End Times beliefs (such as the rapture) influence how Christians treat the environment.

It is important to realize that God has promised frequently through Scripture to redeem THIS world. We should keep it in the best condition possible to present his gift to us back to him well taken care of.

“Leave it better than you found it.”

Full circle back to Genesis 1. We have a responsibility to steward the things God gives us. Like the master who gave talents to his servants and then left for a trip, when he comes back he’ll expect ask if we’ve been responsible. Will each Christian generation be known for leaving the Earth better than they received it?

christianity-the-environment

For more on climate:
Millennials and Climate Change
Climate Change: Evidence

23 thoughts on “Climate: Why care?

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  1. I have been following what you have been talking about here. I respect the message you are trying to get. Please keep speaking the truth.

    If I might, I have a couple of observations. Please receive them in love.

    First, the generalizations about Protestants and Evangelical Christians isn’t helpful. It usually doesn’t help to disparage the people you are trying to influence. Individually and collectively we are all doing a lot to be good stewards of our world. If is helpful to see what is happening rather complain that we aren’t “as perfect” as others are. We aren’t evil people.

    Second, the label “Climate Change” is off putting. Of course the climate is changing. It leads to suspicion that the followers of “the movement” aren’t being forthcoming about the real intent. Transparency and authenticity is important. Geologic evidence shows our climate has been changing over millions of years. The warming and cooling of global temperatures are likely the result of long-term climatic cycles, solar activity, sea-surface temperature patterns and more. However, Mankind’s activities of the burning of fossil fuels, massive deforestations, the replacing of grassy surfaces with asphalt and concrete, the “Urban Heat Island Effect” are likely creating more harmful pollution.

    Our planet seems to be in a cycle of constant change. According to an article by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Climate.gov in August, 2014, our planet likely experienced its hottest weather millions of years ago. One period, which was probably the warmest, was during the Neoproterozic around 600 to 800 million years ago. Approximately 56 million years ago, our planet was in the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum as global mean temperatures were estimated as high as 73 degrees Fahrenheit, over 15 degrees above current levels. Ocean sediments and fossils indicate that massive amounts of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere.

    Be blessed. God is with you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Love all three of these points!
      Generalizations are an important means of communication – no offense is meant, and no disparagement need be taken from them. It goes without saying that just because most American Protestants (“most” defined as over 50%) aren’t on board with climate action, that also means that there may be as many as 49% who are. No offense is meant to them. I myself am a Protestant – but meaningful communication has to start somewhere and generalizations while never “always true” give us a “general” idea of what is most common.
      One of the crazy things about warming periods in the past is how high the oceans rose and how little it affected humanity. Millions of years ago the temperature went up 15 degrees and the seas rose 70 feet. But there weren’t 7.6 billion people. Up to 2.5 billion of us live within 70 feet of sea level – and not just in huts that can be moved, but in massive cities with billions of dollars of infrastructure. The earth can survive a massive warming; many humans will too, as will species that can adapt quickly; but it won’t be “business as usual,” particularly for humans.

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      1. Jared, thanks for the thoughtful response.

        I would suggest you consider your comments were not in love and hence offence seems to be “meant” and they were in fact offensive. Generalizations are not an important means of communication. This is simply not true: “Republican Christians generally are not.”

        Please reconsider and change your mind (aka repent). An apology would be more appropriate than defending the indefensible.

        Jesus is clear. ““Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

        Or … “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.”

        Or … John “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

        Or … “Do not judge according to appearance.” Perhaps this should say to not judge based on generalities.

        Or … “You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone.”

        Or … “If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.”

        Or from Paul … “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.”

        I’ll stop. All the best with your mission. I hope it all works out for you.

        Jesus is in a good mood and smiling.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I appreciate the spirit of your reply, but we’ll have to agree to disagree. If I said, “Most oranges are orange” you’d say, “But blood oranges are red, therefore you are being offensive by generalizing.” Generalizations are not offensive, particularly when they are true. They are a quantitative and statistical assessment of reality. If more than 50% of Republican Christians deny climate change, then “Republican Christians generally are not” on board with climate action is not only a non-offensive generalization – but also it is a true one.
        That doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions to the rule. It’s just that it turns out to be true more often than not.
        When it comes to offensiveness, you may be confusing “generalization” with “stereotype.” One of the problems in Christianity is people are too eager to take offense – something Scripture also tells us not to do. So while I appreciate your extensive copy-paste on judgementalism, that is not the attitude presented in my post. It’s a statement of fact that Republican Christians have less than a 50% chance of caring about climate concerns.
        If you’d like to do some further research, here’s some great articles on the link between Christian Republican conservativism and climate denial:
        Washington Post on Christian Conservative views on Climate Change:
        https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/06/02/why-dont-christian-conservatives-worry-about-climate-change-god/?utm_term=.34b3374d534f
        A Conservative and their journey to realizing their views on climate were incompatible
        http://thestewardsjourney.com/as-a-conservative-evangelical-republican-why-climate-change-cant-be-true-even-though-it-is/
        A study on how Christian views on the environment have not improved over half a century:
        https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/christianity-is-not-getting-greener1/
        How fundamentalism in particular is linked with climate denial:
        https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/qv4w8b/christian-fundamentalists-are-fueling-climate-change-denialism
        And a great article on a Christian Millennial who is challenging the norm in her Republican Christian community by championing taking care of the environment:
        https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2017/10/21/climate-change-fighter-in-conservative-iowa/759486001/

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with all of your points; godly stewardship is very important, given the fact that it was commanded by God! 🙂
    However, I don’t agree with popular scientists that think the earth is warming, cooling, or whatever the current consensus is. I think God created a basically self-regulating atmosphere that if we keep our hands off of, will be fine.
    Obviously, deforestation, pollution, and river destruction are very real problems that we need to stop, fix, and prevent as much as possible. But I don’t think “climate change” is something that needs addressed. The scientific research just doesn’t add up to the panic that everyone says it does.
    But, like I said before, you raise a lot of good points that I appreciate. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think this is huge – it is the common ground we could all meet on. If the climate is warming, that will show itself over more time.
      But if all of us could at least meet in the middle to agree that pollution and ecological habitat destruction (forests, rivers, reefs, etc) need to be addressed and quickly – the world would be a better place.
      And if global warming turns out to be something putting us at risk, we’d find ourselves already halfway to the solutions! Addressing pollution and sustainability are first steps, and ones we can take now, even if we are unsure if second steps need taken.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s a good point! If we could start working on the small things (recycling as an example, which is going well!), then we could be ready for larger things. I really like that rationale.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The up/down/”back” radiation greenhouse gas energy loop of the radiative greenhouse effect theory is pencil on paper, a spreadsheet cell, a “what if” scenario and NOT a physical reality.

    Without this GHG energy loop, radiative greenhouse theory collapses.

    Without RGHE theory, man-caused climate change does not exist.

    And with a snap of the fingers and “Presto!!” the bazillion dollar global climate change fantasy is suddenly unemployed.

    Must be why nobody is allowed to talk about this possibility. Not newsworthy enough? Or too far outside the fake news hysterical CAGW narrative?

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    1. If you can find any credible sources for your theory, feel free to share them. I’m going to have to side with the evidence, scholars, and scientists – even if the media agrees with them (which often makes me suspicious like you) and even if there is money involved – afterall, the fossil fuel industry is also bazillions. “They get paid” is never an argument against credibility when both sides get paid!

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      1. “…any credible sources for your theory…”

        It’s about how the S-B equation applies or not so pretty much the applied science of any engineering text book on thermo, heat transfer and HVAC.

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      2. Its weird no scientists in the world are advocating this realization you have had. I think you might be missing some info.

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      3. “no” !!! scientists in the ENTIRE world? Not only omniscient but WRONG!!!

        “I think you might be missing some info.”

        And it’s rather obvious that whatever that is you don’t have it either otherwise you’d ‘splain it!

        Once upon a time phlogiston, luminiferous ether and cold fusion were all the rage.

        1) the earth is not 33 C warmer w/ an atmosphere. It’s hotter. See Volokin’s and Kramm’s et. al. controversial papers abut the moon.

        2) the up/down/”back” GHG radiation energy loop that attempts to explain the erroneous 33 C assumption demands black body radiation which is a “what If” calculation that does not really exist.

        Rather basic. Just defend these two points with real science instead of appeals to authority whining.

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      4. This is the laughable substance I have come to be accustomed to from deniers. I delineated a plethora of science based arguments in three articles. You comment “I don’t agree, because pseudoscience logic can’t make sense of it.” I ask you to find scientists who agree with you, peer-reviewed research, published papers, any kind of evidence at all. Your reply is that I haven’t given a science based rebuttal to your nonscientific, un-evidenced dissent. I just wanted to know if you have any credentials and any evidence – or if you’re just a couch sitter who thinks they know what’s “really happening” with total disregard for the consensus of scientists across the globe who are actually gathering the data and analyzing it. I guess we have our answer.

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      5. More of that consensus crap and zero science.
        My creds: BSME, PE and 35 years of real life applications.

        Here are the bottom lines:
        1) RGHE claims the earth is 33 C warmer with an atmosphere, 288 K (WAG) – 255 K (240 W/m^2 at ToA).
        Simply not true.
        Volokin and Kramm moon studies show that the earth would be hotter not cooler with an atmosphere.
        The 30% albedo lowers the effective operating temperature from ISR 394 K / 250 F to ASR 360 K / 190 F and Q =U A dT explains the surface to ToA temperature difference.
        2) RGHE created THE GHG energy loop as an explanation for the 33 C difference that does not exist.
        The loop is an S-B “what if” theoretical calculation and not a physical reality.
        3) The upwelling measurement measures/trends the near surface air temperature not the ground and incorrectly assumes a BB 1.0 emissivity
        The downwelling measurement measures/trends the near surface temperature and incorrectly assumes a BB 1.0 emissivity. The radiation energy emitted by CO2 is dissipated within 15 to 20 m of air.
        These measurement problems are obvious from study of SURFRAD and USCRN data.
        No energy loop – no RGHE – no man-caused climate change.

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      6. Find me a scientist on record espousing your theoretical number crunching and you can have a seat at the table.

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      7. You whine that global warming is equations on paper. All the scientists in the field taking actual measurements and doing research over lifetimes and accumulating worldwide evidence – and to “disprove” it, you give us equations on paper. Bring on the evidence, brother. Without a single evidence of cooling, or evidence that something other than man is causing the substantial worldwide warming trends we’ve noted – just can’t take you seriously ha. Bigotry isn’t particularly useful in these discussions either. Bring some evidence to the table, or move along. I’m sure there’s plenty of other places you could be trolling. 🙂

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