Last weekend marked the end of 196 nations hashing out how to solve the global warming issue…for the 21st consecutive year. What’s the problem, and will their new resolution be an effective answer? In an over-simplified nutshell, the problem is that many scientists (perhaps foremost, James Hansen, Director of Climate Science at Columbia University’s Earth Institute) believe an increase in temperature of even 2°C will eventually cause the Antarctic ice sheet to collapse, raising global water levels enough to put some island nations under water and make refugees out of millions in coastal cities around the world—for instance 100 million people in Bangladesh, much of NYC city and parts of our west coast, etc., which—if true—is definitely a cause for concern! These scientists also believe the major cause of global warming is carbon emissions.However, I’m not convinced we really “met the moment” with the agreement that was adopted over the weekend. I know Obama wants to leave a legacy of better carbon-emission controls, but the wording of “should” instead of “shall” in the document makes everything aspirational rather than legal. “The problem isn’t solved,” Obama admitted in his address, “but a framework has been put in place.” However, in order for the pact to be legally binding in any sense, it will have to be ratified over the next several years by 55 countries that produce 55% of the the world’s greenhouse gases. Will enough countries ratify it? I think the biggest hindrance will be that the agreement not only calls for a reduction of carbon emissions ASAP (which will be hard enough), but it also states that some countries (read that the U.S., EU, and other industrialized nations) will provide $100 billion yearly to developing countries for “climate-resilient development.” How are we going to pay for that, as appealing as it sounds?
I have no clue how to solve the problem of global warming, but I know I have a lot of questions. Is is really even true that the world is hotter now than it was 200 years ago? How do we know, since no one was keeping records on world temperature 200 years ago? Seems like the core temperature of Earth would be cooling down. Is it possible that the world’s surface is heating up primarily because the increasing population creates more heat, but that the core temperature is dropping ever so slightly, so that the overall effect will be no significant change? Is it possible that if the global temperatures rise, we will eventually have a world covered by a thick layer of clouds…full of water from the polar ice caps, but not raising the water levels on earth significantly? What about the biblical promise that the world will never again be overwhelmed by a universal flood, and the prophecy that the earth will be destroyed by fire? Is the feared temperature rise part of an inevitable process?
When I consider global problems, I think of the verse in Psalm 131:1, “Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.” I don’t know the answers at all!Although I’m glad world leaders are trying to put their heads together to solve world problems, I wish they’d be looking to God for the answers, because as the psalmist wrote: “Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man” (Psalm 60:1). There is one thing we can do as individual believers, and I suspect the true solution to the issue of global warming—as with all of life’s problems—is for individual people, one by one, to do what’s right before God…a “grassroots” movement to live responsibly day by day as stewards of this beautiful planet God has entrusted to our care. “Waste not, want not.” We can at least take responsibility for ourselves by eating simple foods …healthy foods. We can walk or use more public transportation, consume less, recycle… study, and then discipline ourselves to do the things we know are right.
“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28).
“Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”
1 Corinthians 4:2