Christians & Climate Change
Much of the world is talking about Paris this week. The focus is not on the aftermath of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks, but on the Global Climate Change Summit happening there. Many, including President Obama, seem to view climate change as one of the most pressing issues today. Still others, including those polled in a recent Pew Research Poll, do not think it is a major issue.
What should Christians make of all this talk about climate change? I offer four thoughts.
1. Christians care about creation. God made the heavens and the earth and put men and women in charge of creation. The word “stewardship” expresses the Christian idea of creation care, as found in the Book of Genesis. This means that Christians are opposed to pollution. Christians care about humane treatment of animals and are in favor of responsible use of land and resources. Individual views on climate change aside, the fact is that Christians do indeed care about the earth God made, and we want to be good stewards of creation, thinking about future generations as well. At the same time, we recognize that until the final day of resurrection, the earth is sin-effected and, therefore, is fallen and not able to be perfected.
2. Alleged ‘climate change’ challenges are confusing. Ask the man on the street what risks global warming or climate change pose, and you are likely to get a blank stare. For the last 15 years, I have tried on and off (mostly off) to understand the claims of those sounding the alarm. I watched the Al Gore movie. I’ve read articles and listened to remarks from so-called experts. I even once attended a University environmentalist meeting. The key worry appears to be about “sustainability;” the worry also appears to be that warming can lead to drought which can lead to famine and even more natural disasters. The cause and effect are disputed. The climate is cyclical, and we do not have data for centuries. Therefore, it is hard to believe all of the climate change models out there and assumptions that things are worse today than ever. Also, we must stop to ask, if warming is happening, is mankind having any effect on it? And, if so, how much of an effect? While I want to understand this more, it is hard to see why the challenges are settled science in the minds of some.
3. There are more pressing issues. C.S. Lewis said the Devil loves it when people are running around with fire hydrants during a flood. In other words, people are going to care about some issues, and the Devil is fine with that, so long as it is not the most pressing issue or what God wants them to focus on. Today, the world is faced with an explosion of human trafficking, abortion on demand, terrorism, a pornography epidemic, a foster care crisis and the very fact that nearly 6 billion people are in need of the soul-saving Gospel. Unlike climate change, there are immediate and direct ways to help on these people-centered issues, which therefore should get the higher priority. Through prayer and direction action, we can make a difference on important matters right in front of us. To rescue a young girl from human trafficking; to support a woman in an unplanned pregnancy; to give food and clothing and a job to our poor neighbors; to tell someone the Good News of Jesus Christ: these are actions that directly help people and should take priority over, say, what European countries have just the right balance of carbon emissions.
4. God is in control. After the flood recorded in the Book of Genesis (and verified by other cultures which have a historical remembrance of Noah and the flood survivors), God said, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Gen. 8:22). That is a promise that still stands and has been true in every generation. We understand that weather patterns change. We understand that the climate changes cyclically. But praise be to God, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). The world may change, but God is still in control. We rest in that thought. For those who are deeply alarmed, take comfort in this.
These are my thoughts on the issue. What do you think?