Comments 14

  1. Of course, Christians can believe in climate change. Indeed, it is universally understood in the climate science community that climate has always been changing. I really think this question is faux, and has merely the effect of diminishing the position of those who disagree with the with the conclusions that climate change alarmists have come to (as does labeling them “deniers”).

    No, no one in the climate science community disagrees that CO2 has a green house effect and no one disagrees that CO2 is increasing. As the author states, the more meaningful questions relate to the extent of the effect. If the direct or net effect is negligible in a real world context, then increased CO2 is not a problem, let alone a crisis.

    Everyone in the climate community agrees the planet should be warming, naturally, as a recovery from an ice age period. Thus, when alarmists point out that this or that month, or even year, is the hottest in recorded history, as if that is proof of alarmist predictions, the general public needs to understand that fact is not in itself a confirmation of climate alarmists’ claims. After all, as the planet recovers from an ice age period, each year or month quite naturally has a relatively high potential to be the “warmest in recorded history,” even if the human population puts out no CO2 at all.

    Climate alarmist predictions, including by James Hansen (the scientist who in the 1980s brought this to national attention), have turned out to be remarkably wrong. That failure is indicative of the state of the science. Indeed, climate science is a remarkably involved science and we have been studying it for a relatively short period of time. The degree by which alarmist predictions have been wrong points that out in a meaningful, real world way.

    One may wonder why, if we can measure the effect of CO2 as a greenhouse gas, these predictions have been so wrong. The answer is that alarmist predictions about warming are based not so much at all about the direct greenhouse effect of CO2 but rather on the assumption that the relatively small direct effect of CO2 will initiate a positive feedback loop that will cause what did not in fact end up happening as predicted by alarmists decades ago. Does the climate science community know of all the positive feedbacks, and all of the negative feedbacks involved? Absolutely not. Rather, they run computer programs in which they provide their guess (even if educated) about what those positive and negative feedbacks are and then have the computer programs generate predictions. If those inputs turn out to be “GIGO,” those predictions may well be remarkably wrong. And they have been remarkably wrong.

    So where exactly are we in all of this? Frankly, we are still at the point where world class climate scientists disagree greatly about how much of the science is understood and how much is not, and whether we are able to reliably predict much at all. See, for example, the congressional testimony of brother-in-Christ, world class climate scientist John Christy, who with world class climate scientist (and brother-in-Christ) Roy Spencer developed the United States’ satellite based temperature measuring/monitoring system. (See testimony at: http://docs.house.gov/meetings/SY/SY00/20160202/104399/HHRG-114-SY00-Wstate-ChristyJ-20160202.pdf).

    We are also at a point where there is no significant real world evidence that clearly points to increased CO2 as having had a significant effect on global temperatures, even if the climate alarmist scientific community claims otherwise, and that claim/position has won the day with the Obama administration, the United Nations community and the community of state operated universities. In other words, at present, political power sides with the claims of the climate alarmist community. But then, the political/scientific community decided decades ago that low fat and compensatory high carbohydrate intake was the right way for the American population to eat, and it turns out they were 180 degrees wrong about that, and so we now have an obesity epidemic to deal with.

    No, it is not inconsistent with the Christian faith to “believe in climate change,” but neither is it inconsistent with the Christian faith, nor a commitment to “creation care,” to engage the science where it now stands and come to the conclusion that the climate alarmist community’s predictions and claims are less than clearly supported by the scientific information existing so far, nor that the science itself is still quite young, even if 40 years makes it seem old to some of us. In other words, oft-made accusations aside, Christians who disagree with climate alarmists’ conclusions can and do care about creation as much as those who conclude otherwise. Indeed, I would argue sometimes more.

    1. Thank you for your response, Doug. You sound like you agree that the climate is changing, trending warmer, and that you expect a high probability of reaching new record temperatures each year. In some way then, you agree with the first part of the piece. It is curious that you did not respond to the last part of the piece. If you agree climate is changing, and you recognize that this will cause suffering to people, especially the poor in developing countries, then what is the appropriate response for Christians? should we argue about the semantics of climate change? should we sit on our hands and wait to see if climate science reaches perfection in the next few centuries? or should we respond in love to those who are impacted by the changing climate today, and start to make plans for helping those many more who will suffer when, as you say, the climate keeps changing?

      1. Justin: At present, I would argue there is nothing different in terms of how we should respond to parts of the world that suffer, whether from climate change or otherwise, than there has ever been. Take Bangladesh, for example. It suffers from a goodly number of things, including climate change that is mostly caused by folks there altering their ecosystem by cutting down too many trees and doing other things that didn’t consider what they were doing to the environment. Should we help. Certainly. Do we. Certainly. (“We” being lots of folks, Christians and otherwise).

        In other words, there is no evidence suggesting there is more or less need now to “start to make plans” then there has been before. The idea that we NOW have to make plans is a by-product of alarmism that I just don’t agree is justified (based on the science of the question).

    2. While I appreciate those who break away from the status quo, I started to shy away from Roy Spencer and John Christy when Steve Milloy started using them to justify his “scientific” positions. As the former CEO of the now defunct Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, an organization that played a key role in obscuring the facts around the dangers of tobacco use, Steve Milloy makes it hard to take that position.

      1. John Christy’s credentials are world class and impeccable. If Steve Milloy uses ordinary math rules of multiplication, should we then shy away from the math teachers who teach those rules?

    1. The CRC OSJ presentation on Kenya is a great example of how we so badly want every problem to be one of “climate change.” Kenya has more than a few problems, not a few of which would be resolved by their having access to fossil fuels or nuclear energy. Indeed, one of the primary reasons third world economies are what they are is the lack of access to efficient energy systems. Burning cut down wood and collected manure are not solutions to products. Rather, that creates other and bigger problems.

      Certainly, some third world problems have much to do with their political system, but the one tool that would help third world economies more than anything else would be access to energy, and that quantity of access, at this point in history, must include access to fossil fuels and nuclear energy. I’m not saying energy product by solar or wind or other renewable means is bad. They are good. But they can’t produce the quantity of energy needed by third world economies and populations to solve many of the problems they have.

      A fixation on the purported dangers of CO2, especially when those dangers are not scientifically clear at all, causes us to deny energy resources to the poor (after all, if they have fossil fuels, they will put more CO2 into the atmosphere), and also causes them to use other resources for their needs (e.g., Bangladesh) in a way that substantially alters their ecosystem (e.g., deforestation). Hmmmm. Lets think about that.

  2. Thanks for the input and keeping the conversation going, Justin, Doug, and Robbin. Doug, I particularly wanted to ask you to explain your suggestion that “Christians who disagree with climate alarmists’ conclusions can and do care about creation as much as [and “sometimes more” than] those who conclude otherwise.”

    In my job in Washington DC, I have seen churches and Christians (who believe that humans are at least partially to blame for climate change) sign on to petitions and follow through with commitments to help those who are impacted by climate change; support CRC OSJ, World Renew, and others’ climate “refugee” work; make climate-smart upgrades to church facilities to reduce energy consumption; teach about recycling, composting, and the like; and more. However, I have yet to find (and I hope I am just looking in the wrong places) a Christian or church congregation (who believes that the earth is naturally warming and is not warming due to humans) that is urgently motivated to do things that are unarguably good for the earth. This counter-belief (or “denial” as some call it) just doesn’t seem to motivate individuals to move beyond the status quo. I would love to hear more from your perspective!

    1. Sure Nathan. Those on the alarmist bandwagon are usually particularly public and political about it, as well as particularly hyper-focused on one strand of what we might call “creation care.”

      I know if many farmers, just ordinary (not political) farmers, who are very focused on “creation care” as a part of what they do in their occupational life. They are concerned about and implement best practice policies to take care of their land and other “creation resources” so they can pass it down to their children and their children after them, etc. I remember when the farming community figured out that “minimum tillage” reduced the amount of soil that eroded from wind. These days, all of them have adopted that practice. Why? For the future, to care for creation. After all, erosion wasn’t going to take their soil in their lifetime.

      I also know many contractors and others who are very into building more efficient buildings, creating more efficient heating and cooling systems. Ductless heat pumps are an example of that, and lots of folks put solar panels on their houses and other buildings in order to be “energy wise.” Some call it “creation care” even if others don’t. But it’s the same thing. Most of those who do it don’t trumpet what they do, either publicly or politically, but that doesn’t mean they are doing it.

      Another revealing example would be nuclear energy. James Hansen, the NASA employee that started this all, is a big advocate of nuclear power, pitching the idea that current technology nuclear plants are extremely safe, leave very little waste product, are pollution free (not just CO2 by otherwise as well), and is the only real energy replacement system (over fossil fuels) we currently have that is capable of supplying the energy we need. Nothwithstanding, he can’t get the “climate change alarmism” community, many of whom were, or are children or grandchildren of, “anti-nuk protesters” from many decades ago. In that case, I would agree with Hanson, noting that alarmist opposition to nuclear has the effect of causing many in underdeveloped countries to cut down their trees for fuel. Indeed, had Bangladesh had nuclear energy available — or even fossil fuel available — they wouldn’t have had so much deforestation and would have better taken “care” of their corner of “creation.”

  3. This posting is, most likely, not the place for an extended discussion of climate and climate change, but I think it worthwhile to point out that several of Mr. Vander Griend’s statements are inaccurate.

    Earth climate is not warming “as a recovery from an ice age period” and I doubt that there is support for such a statement within the climate research community. Temperature reconstructions over the past 2000 years show little change from 0 AD to 1200 AD, then a gradual cooling to a minimum around 1600 to 1700 AD, followed by relatively constant temperatures until 1900. The warming of the last 50 to 100 years is unprecedented in the record and the current warming exceeds any warming in the past 5000 years.

    Mr. Vander Griend’s statement that climate model “predictions have been so wrong” is quite incorrect and confuses the difference between a weather model forecast and a climate model simulation of future climate. Sadly, this is a common mistake that leads to a lot of incorrect inferences.

    Regarding our understanding of climate feedbacks, it is fair to ask if we scientists have identified all possible feedbacks and the answer is probably not. A more useful question to ask, however, is have we identified the important feedbacks that operate on the timescale of decades to a century. We almost certainly have, given the scrutiny and extensive modeling of the climate system that we have undertaken in the last 3 decades. And the important feedbacks that we have identified are in fact working as hypothesized: the water vapor content of the atmosphere is going up and the amount of reflective snow and ice on the planet is going down, which both act to warm the planet further. If Mr. Vander Griend has other evidence, then it would be helpful for him to supply that rather than just raise the empty specter of some unknown process that will neutralize global warming.

    On a more personal note, I want to raise two issues. Mr. Vander Griend seems to be upset at being called a “denier”, but has no problem with calling others “alarmists”. My life’s work as a scientist has led me to a clear understanding of the danger to our climate posed by increasing carbon dioxide concentrations. What would Mr. Vander Griend have me do under the circumstances but raise an alarm? I feel compelled to speak on the issue. If that makes me an “alarmist”, so be it, but please understand that the alarm is being raised in good conscience.

    The second issue is Mr. Vander Griend’s decision to label John Christy and Roy Spencer as “brothers in Christ”. I know both of them personally (and have for many years; in fact, John and I have had conversations about faith and science), so I take no exception to that label. But, what is the point? If it is to imply that being a Christian adds somehow to their scientific credentials, then is he disavowing my faith or that of Cal De Witt, my friend and colleague from the University of Wisconsin, or Katharine Hayhoe, my friend and colleague from Texas Tech, who are Christians and think as I do about climate change? The vast majority (more than 97% by some count) of climate scientists have concluded that there is impending danger from a rapidly warming climate. There are a handful of climate scientists that argue otherwise. The fact that two of these handful are Christians is not particularly relevant because scientific conclusions, as I tried to point out, are not per se a function of our Christian beliefs.

  4. Doug seems to miss the point that an unacceptance of anthropogenic climate change (Katherine Hayhoe would be proud of me for eschewing a loaded term to refer to people who feel that way) is not motivated by the science per se. It may be partially motivated by a distrust of science and scientists. But it has been more than adequately shown to be firmly rooted in political ideology. In this nation your political ideology pretty much determines what you “believe” on climate change and evangelicals equally firm leanings to the far right seal the deal. And, in my experience, politics has rarely been interested in truth. Which should challenge us to more closely examine our politics and how deeply they affect our worldview.

    1. David: I’m not sure you or Katherine Hayhoe can even possibly know what motivates me or anyone else that agrees with John Christy. I can tell you this: at one point, I fully agreed with the conclusion alarmists had, and my change on that (quite a number of years ago before this was as badly politicized as it is now) came from reading in depth, what both so-called alarmists and deniers had to say. I tend to trust and distrust scientist about as much as any other category of people (for me in my occupation especially, police, district attorneys, defense attorneys, persons charged with crimes, etc) — none should be accepted or dismissed because they are of a occupational category, or even political affiliation.

      And while there probably is a correlation between political position and position on climate change, that correlation is hardly a precise one. Personally, I have never been a registered Republican or Democrat. I do agree with you that “politics has [or is these days] rarely been interested in truth,” but that cuts both ways, not?

      It seems to me that there is or could be common ground between the “two sides” (even if there are probably more than two), which is that nuclear energy should/could be aggressively developed as an alternative to fossil fuels. The “father of climate change alarmism,” James Hansen, pushes for nuclear energy, and says that while renewables like wind and solar are great, they can’t realistically supply the energy needed — not for the foreseeable future at least. So what is the hold up? Politics, I would suggest, but only politics on the alarmist side, the side that is heavily influenced by those who opposed nuclear power in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, or their friends, allies and children. Is it because there is a good science based objection to today’s nuclear technology? Not really. Its politics. My argument is that if alarmists actually believe what they say about CO2 destroying the world as we know it, they should be willing to take the time to look at current nuclear technology and dispassionately evaluate it. Or maybe they are they truly motivated by politics instead of science?

  5. Tom: Please call me Doug (better than misspelling my last name anyway 🙂 ). Your response post deserves a reply.

    First, let me reply to your question/comment about why I refer to John Christy and Roy Spender as brothers in Christ. You presume the wrong reason, suggesting I say that to add to John’s credentials or to diminish yours or Cal De Wit’s. I didn’t and don’t.

    My initial post said at the outset, “Of course, Christians can believe in climate change.” The more non-faux question is whether one can be regarded as Christian and NOT be a climate change alarmist, especially these days in the CRC community. You will recall of course your own involvement in the CRC Synod where you supported, and acted in a sense as an expertise witness for, the alarmist position (yes, I’ll get to that word, alarmist, in a bit). At least in the CRC world (to which you and I both belong), the declared truth is that “if you believe in taking care of God’s creation, you will of course take this position on climate change. Synod says so.”

    Even in the postings here to your article, someone wondered essentially how it could be that there were Christians who really cared about creation, giving the position on climate change he observed in Christian organizations. Indeed, the denominational/political line (just check out the CRC Office of Social Justice for more evidence) is this: “Are you a Christian who cares about God’s creation? Then join us in our official conclusion, supported by one Synodical expert witness climatologist (that was you), even if disputed by other climatologists who are ALSO Christian. Besides, we think more scientists line up on our side than don’t.”

    To be clear, I support good science and the idea of common grace, which means I don’t assume that being Christian necessarily gives a scientist an upper hand on truth. Nor do I cite the faith of John Christy and Roy Spencer to diminish your or Cal De Wit’s faith, but rather as a defense, to say that despite the repeated mantras as to “Creation Care,” by our own denomination, and the persistent corollary assertion that “we have to stop using fossil fuels or we are disobeying God and doing injustice to his creation and the poor.”

    My bottom line on the science (or multiple sciences, as climate change is) is first, that it is not all that mature. Even if much is known, much is also not known. And much is a bit of an educated guess. Second, the discussion about the science has become badly politicized, and not in a constructive way. Third, is that we make a big mistake when the institutional church, including a Synod full of non-scientists save one, takes a political position on a science and then suggests the point of the their pronouncement is to that you must be a climate alarmist if you care about God or his creation.

    Now to my reference of “alarmist.” When the matter of climate change (then called global warming) was first very publicly brought up (James Hanson, Al Gore), it was brought up as a clear “alarm.” The planet as we knew it was going to be gone. Hanson made in-public predictions about which streets in New York City would be under water in not so many years ago (I actually watched that on television and was convinced we needed to heed his warming). As I said, virtually no one believes there is no relationship between CO2 emissions and atmospheric warming. The question is one of degree. As I also said, alarmists (sorry) don’t believe CO2 itself creates the “alarming” amount of temperature or sea level rise, but rather that the positive feedbacks to some CO2 induced warming will be greater than the negative feedbacks and thus amplify the CO2 warming to the point where the warming becomes, well, “alarming.” As a corollary, alarmists do not assume a net negative feedback, as some so-called deniers would at least hypothesize.

    In other words, everyone (including John Christy and Roy Spencer and a whole host of other so-called “deniers”) believes in the “CO2 warming effect,” just as we know that arsenic kills but well water can have some arsenic in it and still be safe. In other words, “deniers” don’t deny, but the word was used to describe guys like Christy, likely because the word “denier” is used these days in the phrase “holocaust denier” and the connotation sticks, at least for some people. Indeed, this has become far more politicized than what is helpful.

    In response, the “denier community” — even though they don’t actually deny the CO2 warming effect — started using the word “alarmist” to describe what other believed, and frankly, to accurately characterize them for the most part. Even today, “alarmists” suggest “alarming results” if we don’t stop using fossil fuels. (For the life of me, I can’t figure out why they won’t join James Hanson’s call for nuclear energy if they really believe what they say — actually, I do think I know why — but that’s another discussion).

    Finally, you declare my assertion that we are recovering from an ice age to be factually false. Well, that’s what you say, but there is dispute among scientists about that as well. Indeed, Michael Mann’s hockey stick was taken as gospel until Steve McIntyre “debunked” it (at least to the satisfaction of the IPCC, at least for a time?) , only to have certain alarmists (e.g., the RealClimate guys) defend it after all. You may be right, or not. Whichever, you and John Christy and Roy Spencer, and many other climate scientists (Christian and not) with good credentials disagree.

    I suspect you disagree with much of John Christy’s congressional testimony from earlier this year (again, at: http://docs.house.gov/meetings/SY/SY00/20160202/104399/HHRG-114-SY00-Wstate-ChristyJ-20160202.pdf), but that’s OK. I happen to think he makes the better case. Christians can be alarmists (my word), or deniers (others’ word) and still be people who care about God’s Creation. I wouldn’t contend otherwise and hope you don’t either.

  6. Sadly the truth will be proven in the loss of hundreds of millions of lives, maybe billions. I hope there will be some kind of civilization on the other side of disaster, in which the lessons of our folly may be learned.

    The IPCC is awfully optimistic in its projections. They do not consider runaway feedback loops, like arctic or permafrost methane release that will lead to enormous increases in atmospheric carbon.

    Regional crises are possible at any point now, regardless of further atmospheric carbon increases. Monsoon seasons could dry up in the Indian subcontinent. Droughts and desertification are happening all over the globe. Cities from Jakarta to New York are poised to go underwater as sea levels rise.

    Dead oceans that can’t produce oxygen are also a possibility. Brazil’s new reactionary government is bent on logging the rest of the Amazon and wiping out the last indigenous people who live there.

    Sure, there could be an ice-age too — in Europe, which is basically in line with northern Canada but doesn’t have its weather only due to warm ocean currents. Imagine European refugees pouring south and east.

    At some point soon the conversation will change from climate reality versus denial to survival. Is that what it takes for people to come together?

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