The Heat Is On

Fire at Lake Elsinore, California (Credit: slworking2, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

by Jonathan Tame, 27th September 2018

This year has been remarkable for the range and intensity of extreme weather patterns. A heatwave in July affected much of the Northern hemisphere: fires killed 92 people in Greece; Japan suffered severe flooding then a deadly heatwave, with a total of 350 fatalities; wildfires in California have caused billions of dollars of damage; and nuclear power stations had to be switched off where river water became too warm to be used for cooling reactors. Dust storms in Northern India killed 125 people in May, while 450 died in monsoon flooding in Kerala in recent weeks. For once, high income countries seem to have suffered as many fatalities as poorer nations.

Meteorologists and climate scientists are still investigating the extent to which these events are caused by man-made climate change, but it’s clear that extreme weather patterns are becoming more common. 16 out of the 17 hottest years on record have been in this century, and multiple different studies show overall temperature trends rising on both land and sea.

Sir John Houghton, the Christian who first chaired the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), argued that responses to climate change should be two-fold: mitigation and adaptation.  The Paris Climate Accord is an international framework for mitigating the effects of man-made climate change, by seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such that global temperatures do not rise by more than 2oC above pre-industrial levels.  However, this is a very long term project as reduced emissions will take decades to work through to changed temperatures.  Adaptation, on the other hand, is about helping people respond practically to changes in climate already, so as to minimise the adverse effects of heatwaves, floods and drought.  Together, the goal is living sustainability over multiple generations, on a planet with finite physical resources.

As I have reflected on this I have been reading Matthew 24-25, which is one long discourse about the end of the age and the signs of Jesus’ return. Many Christians try to analyse the timing and circumstances around the second coming, but the overall thrust of the passage is being watchful and prepared for the Master’s return – as ‘faithful and wise servants’ (24:45) who do what pleases God.

The book-ends of this discourse are pertinent. Jesus begins by warning that there will be wars and disasters – great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven (24:6-8). Yet the end will not come before the gospel of the kingdom is preached as a testimony to every nation (24:14). The discourse closes with Jesus explaining that when he does return, he will gather the nations and separate people like a shepherd divides the sheep and goats (25:31-46).  The righteous are those who care for the hungry, the stranger, the sick and imprisoned.  If we connect these book-ends, then the way we respond to those who are caught up in disasters can witness to God’s kingdom and will also be evidence of our own discipleship.

So what are the opportunities for faithful and wise discipleship in the context of climate change?  Much has been written about personal responses – the many ways we can reduce the amount of energy we use directly and indirectly, by living more simply.  At the church level, we can make contingency plans for responding with practical love and care to people who get caught up in extreme weather events, both locally and globally – for example by forging partnerships with churches in lower income countries. More ideas, both to mitigate and adapt, can be found at Operation Noah, Climate Stewards, the John Ray Initiative and A Rocha.

At the public policy level, governments must be persuaded to stick to the accountability set out in the Paris accord. Both USA and Australia have pulled back this year because of pressure from groups that bear the short term cost of reducing emissions.  Our generation must speak out for the poor and vulnerable, and the generations to come, and not act as if history ends with us.

Jesus said we should learn to interpret the signs of the times. Could climate change be a sign that challenges the quality of our discipleship in a globalised world?

 

This article was first published in the October 2018 edition of our Engage News Magazine.

Share this post on your network
Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Category: Blogs

September, 2018

Comments (7)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anton Garrett says:

    Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chairman of an IPCC working group, stated in an interview (in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper, 14/11//2010) that: “we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy… one has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore.”

    Which is why historic temperature datasets keep getting quietly revised downward, the effect being to exaggerate the recent warming. Google readily provides examples. It used to be the future that was hard to predict. Today it is the past.

    I hold a doctorate in electron physics of the upper atmosphere from the University of Cambridge.

    • Bob says:

      Could not agree more. No movement has had more scandal than global warming, yet its followers remain committed. It is a belief rather than science. My suspicion starts from the fact that the agenda is pushed by the same people who have always had the same agenda–reduce the scope of freedom in the private sector, and increase the role of government in the economy. Whatever their issue, their solution is always the same: global socialism.

  2. John Steley says:

    Thanks for this article Jonathan.

    I would suggest that anyone who still has doubts about the reality of climate change should take a look at some or all of these sites:

    https://www.skepticalscience.com/

    https://climate.nasa.gov/

    https://www.edf.org/climate/9-ways-we-know-humans-triggered-climate-change

    https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/climate-change-evidence-causes/

    We have a duty to be good stewards of God’s creation. The groups you have mentioned can help us do that. Readers may especially like to consider the eco-church sites:

    http://ecochurch.arocha.org.uk/

    http://www.ecocongregationscotland.org/

    http://ecocongregationireland.com/
    .

    • Anton Garrett says:

      In a dry atmosphere the warming effect of carbon dioxide is not hard to calculate. It was attempted by Arrhenius a century ago. But warming might also cause more water vapour to enter the atmosphere from the ocean, and water vapour is another greenhouse gas. The models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change insist that the effect of water vapour is to amplify the heating effect of carbon dioxide threefold. But the water cycle also involves cloud, which reflects more sunlight back into space, and also the movement of (‘latent’) heat as a result of evaporation from the ocean and condensation to form cloud. The resulting calculations are so difficult that the best computer models still involve ­ frankly ­ guesswork, and when the data are consulted they indicate that the IPCC’s factor of three is a major overestimate. This is nevertheless the basis on which the IPCC ­ which was led from 2002 to 2015 by an Indian railway economist ­ cries danger. During that time the slogan for debate shifted from “global warming” to “climate change,” with the suggestion that climate change is man-made. But there have been many cycles in the earth’s climate in the centuries and millennia before the Industrial Revolution started to increase carbon dioxide levels. Some of these cycles are due to known variations in the earth’s orbit, but cosmic rays, solar cycles and better modelling of atmosphere/ocean interactions might explain the others; more research is needed.

      If the science is settled, why do the historic data keep getting massaged? If you have a good argument then it is not necessary to break the first command of science, learnt in high school – “the data are sacrosanct”. And if someone breaks that command then should we trust what they are doing?

      Churches mean well (I am a Christian) but it is necessary to understand the science before you can reason about what humans should do in a situation that involves science.

      As for extreme weather, there was no category 3+ hurricane landfall on the continental USA between October 2005 (Wilma) and August 2017 (Harvey), a record duration of 4326 days.

    • Anton Garrett says:

      Here are just a couple of examples of changes to the logged temperature in the past:

      http://www.principia-scientific.org/nasa-exposed-in-massive-new-climate-data-fraud.html?utm_campaign=nov-24-2015&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter

      and

      https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/gavin-caught-cheating-again/

      Satellite data are best because they look at the whole globe in one go (it’s called global warming!) and it can sample the atmosphere at differing depths, and satellites find that there has been little significant warming over the last 15 years even though CO2 levels have continued to increase as China and India industrialise. The climate establishment has done its utmost to discredit the satellite data because of its teething troubles (satellite measurement is of course a novel technique compared to the Stevenson screen), but it has not succeeded. As for the older terrestrial data, these are, disgracefully, no longer trustworthy as shown in the links above.

      In the long term, smart fusion is a highly promising way of generating energy, and the new designs of fission reactors together with fossil fuels can work happily in the meanwhile. Renewables are a useless diversion that cover our beautiful landscape with horrible turbines that can’t even boil a kettle on still days. No way of storing energy so as to buffer between natural supply and human cyclical demand exists on remotely the scale necessary. If you wind down both fossil and nuclear energy as the Greens want then the price of energy will rocket and someday the lights will go out. Today’s Greens are heirs of the Romantic movement which comprised writers from the wealthier classes who wanted everybody to go back to a rural idyll that had never actually existed. Let’s not find that out the hard way.

    • Anton Garrett says:

      Satellite data are best because they look at the whole globe in one go (it’s called global warming!) and it can sample the atmosphere at differing depths, and satellites find that there has been little significant warming over the last 15 years even though CO2 levels have continued to increase as China and India industrialise. The climate establishment has done its utmost to discredit the satellite data because of its teething troubles (satellite measurement is of course a novel technique compared to the Stevenson screen), but it has not succeeded. As for the older terrestrial data, these are, disgracefully, no longer trustworthy.

      In the long term, smart fusion is a highly promising way of generating energy, and the new designs of fission reactors together with fossil fuels can work happily in the meanwhile. Renewables are a useless diversion that cover our beautiful landscape with horrible turbines that can’t even boil a kettle on still days. No way of storing energy so as to buffer between natural supply and human cyclical demand exists on remotely the scale necessary. If you wind down both fossil and nuclear energy as the Greens want then the price of energy will rocket and someday the lights will go out. Today’s Greens are heirs of the Romantic movement which comprised writers from the wealthier classes who wanted everybody to go back to a rural idyll that had never actually existed. Let’s not find that out the hard way.

  3. John Dean says:

    I would go back to Psalm 2: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain…Let us through off the fetters (these out of date , restrictive and kill-joy Ten Commandments etc).’ The Lord warns before He judges.
    God’s people of old were warned repertedly through the prophets that unless there was repentance and turning back to Him, Jerusalem would be destroyed. Finally it was, and most of its people deported to Babylon.
    Climate change and its negative consequences are just one of the many ways in which the Lord is patiently and graciously warning us today. He is speaking increasingly loudly.
    ‘Kiss the Son lest He be angtry (make it up with Him), and you be destroyed…His wrath can flare up in a moment’.
    ‘Blessed are all who take refuge in Him’. We would expect it to read, ‘Take refuge from Him’.However, such is the gracious God that He is we take refuge from Him, His anger, in Him, His loving favour expressed in grace, favour to the undeserving, and mercy, favour to the helpless.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.