Change we need to believe in

It’s over 100 degrees outside my home in Michigan today.

Yet another heat wave in a year that’s seen three or four already — the first of which came in March. (Yes, March.) That one decimated Michigan’s cherry and apple crops. This one is baking roughly two-thirds of the country.

Last month, there were the Colorado wildfires, brought on by a severe drought affecting 98 percent of the state. In fact, according to the latest report from the National Drought Mitigation Center, 56 percent of the continental U.S. is experiencing some form of drought right now. That’s the highest measure since they started keeping track twelve years ago.

The month before that, we achieved yet another milestone: May 2012 was the 327th consecutive month with global temperatures above the 20th-century average. That’s 27-plus years of higher-than-normal temperatures.

We don’t have to wonder what global warming will look like anymore. We are seeing it now. And it’s unfolding more or less as climatologists have predicted for years.

Of course, it’s tempting to think back to the last severe cold snap or blizzard and dismiss such talk as alarmist. It would be comforting to see every record-breaking low temperature as proof that every heat wave is just another part of the cycle.

Come January, those of us in northern states will be muttering about how we could do with a little global warming right now.

There’s just one problem.

According to Kevin Tremberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, record lows aren’t keeping pace with the skyrocketing number of record highs.

In the 1950s, America experienced a fairly equal number of record-setting highs and lows. By the 2000s, we were setting two record high temperatures for every one record low.

So far this year, we’ve set ten record highs for every record low.

Natural variability does not account for the imbalance. In the same way, none of the culprits suggested by climate skeptics — El Niño, volcanic ash, solar activity, etc. — can satisfactorily explain the long-term increase in global temperatures.

In fact, some of these alternative suspects should’ve taken us in the opposite direction. The last 20 years of solar activity ought to have had a cooling effect, if anything. Which means the sun actually blunted the impact of all our greenhouse gas emissions.

We no longer have the luxury of skepticism. The earth is warming. We are causing it.

The science of global warming has been established for over a hundred years. Anyone can observe the basic principles of the greenhouse gas effect by leaving their car outside on a hot day, with the windows rolled up. (Won’t be too hard to do that in Michigan today.)

Yet there remains a reluctance to trust what nearly all climatologists are telling us, particularly among Christians like myself.

The church has long had an uneasy relationship with science, fearing that it will erode faith. But more often than not, the problem isn’t that science is hostile toward faith. It’s that some of us in the church have picked fights that aren’t worth fighting. Just ask Galileo. Or Copernicus.

And even if you won’t take the scientists’ word for it, listen to the scriptures.

The earth is the Lord’s. It is not ours to do with as we please. We are caretakers and tenants, not its owners. According to some scholars, the Genesis story goes even further, depicting the earth as God’s temple — a temple he is coming back to occupy once more.

We owe it to the God we serve — not to mention the future generations who will have to carve a home out of this rock — to treat it with care. Climate change is polluting God’s temple. We can no longer afford to stick our heads in the increasingly hot sand.

_______________________

Related: For one of the best summaries of climate change and answers to common objections, see “Responses to Questions & Objections on Climate Change,” published by Climate Works Australia. SkepticalScience.com is another helpful resource.

One thought on “Change we need to believe in

  1. Interesting thoughts Ben. I think we need to pay attention. The challenge is getting the whole world to pay attention and then do something about it.

    Like

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