[22]   Environment (1): Environmentalism & Global Warming

Background:

·       Almost every government in the world accepts the problem of rapid global warming as a fact. The result is the 1997 Kyoto Accord which specifies how countries commit to reduce their emission of greenhouse gases. However, there are also thousands of prominent scientists who refute the disastrous scenarios predicted by the environmentalists.

103.     What is the responsibility of Christians towards the environment?

a.   In Gen 1:28, God delegated some of His authority over the earth to man. We are to develop the environment to benefit mankind and to guard the environment from destructive problems.

b.   Three possible views on the relationship between mankind and the environment:

(1)  Dominion view (or the growth philosophy) with an anthropocentric emphasis:

o        Such view believes that the earth exists to serve human needs so economic growth always has priority.

o        However, Christians cannot justify irresponsible destruction of nature such as permanent pollution.

(2)  Citizenship view with a biocentric emphasis:

o        Such view believes that humans, like all other species, are only part of the biosphere.

o        However, this can evolve into radical responses which put the environment above man.

(3)  Stewardship view with a theocentric emphasis:

o        Humans are empowered as stewards on behalf of God. We are also dependent on earth and must try our best to maintain it. The emphasis in economic development should be on sustainable growth.

104.                         Should Christians support modern environmentalism?

a.   Definition: Environmentalism is the philosophy that stresses the importance of physical and biological environment as a factor influencing the behaviour of animals, including man. The objective therefore is to preserve the environment from pollution.

b.   Early environmentalism stressed conservation of the environment, such as stressing on the use of renewable resources and the prevention of resource depletion (such as overcutting of forests). Such emphasis on the responsible use of resources can be supported by Christians.

c.   Modern environmentalism, however, is based on a non-Christian understanding of the earth. They put the environment as more valuable than mankind.

d.   The underlying philosophy is the Gaia hypothesis (Mother Earth): life and non-life on earth interact as though they were a single organism. Everything on earth is connected to Gaia. Literally everything is a type of divinity mankind is not more important than anything else.

e.   Such belief directly contradicts Biblical teaching.

f.    Radical environmentalists (such as Green Peace) employ terrorism (such as sabotage nuclear plants, destroying logging equipment, etc.) to stop what they perceive as pollution.

g.   Recycling:

·         Recycling has been lauded as the best way to reduce garbage. Yet there are persistent questions about recycling. Before any definitive conclusion, recycling still appears a worthwhile cause.

h.   Christians can support efforts of conservation of natural resources and the reduction of pollution. However, Christians should not support modern environmentalist organizations.

i.    Christians should be careful about accepting facts with regard to the environment. Because of the agenda of modern environmentalists which puts the environment above mankind, they could even regard unproven hypothesis as irrefutable facts.

·         Example: The meaning of the term “pollution” has been extended to include industrial emission of carbon dioxide, which is beneficial to plant growth and harmless to human beings in ordinary concentrations. This is the result of the acceptance of the global warming hypothesis.

105.                         How should Christians react to measures to reduce global warming?

a.   Global warming is something that most people accept without any questions. The claim is:

(1)  There has been a rise in the temperature on the earth of historic proportion.

(2)  The increase in temperature is due to the greenhouse effect caused by an increase of greenhouse gases (CO2, methane) which block radiation reflected from the ground into the atmosphere.

(3)  There will be a doubling of the CO2 in the next century and temperature will increase 0.8°-4.5°C.

(4)  This global warming will in turn produce numerous natural disasters:

o        large-scale melting of the polar caps,rising of the sea level, coastal cities will be flooded

o        expansion of deserts, more violent weather patterns, such as hurricanes and tornadoes

o        decrease in agricultural production, massive extinction of species on earth

b.   However, there are many prominent scientists from around the world who believe that:

(1)  The last 20 years were not the warmest in history and the recent global warming is natural change.

o        Past research was questionable.

o        Two scientists from Harvard reconstructed the temperature estimate for the last millennium.

~         Temperature around AD1000 was about 1°C higher than today.

~         They reviewed 102 studies on climate change. The majority concluded that the 20th century was not the warmest or contained the most extreme anomaly.

(2)  Recent global warming is not caused by the increase of greenhouse gases.

o        When CO2 increased rapidly after 1940, there was actually a drop in temperature between 1940 and 1975.

(3)  Environmentalists exaggerate the possible consequences with unfound speculation.

o        In 1990, U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted an increase of 3.3°C between 1990 and 2100; this was revised to 2.8°C in 1992, and to 1 to 2°C in 1995.

(4)  Even if global warming can be reduced by controlling greenhouse gases, the overall effect will be too insignificant and the cost is too high and the money will be used in better ways elsewhere.

o        In the US, complying with the Kyoto Accord will reduce the GDP by $200 billion per year, with 500,000 jobs lost. If the money is used to provide clean water and sanitation, 2 million lives could be saved.

c.   As global warming is a main topic of radical environmentalists, any opposing viewpoints are systematically silenced.

·         The media do not report any large-scale refutation of the global warming theory.

o        Petition Project signed by 19,000 working scientists from all over the world states that “the large temperature increase predicted by the IPCC has not happened” and “contrary to the conventional wisdom, there does not exist today a general scientific consensus about the importance of greenhouse warming from rising levels of carbon dioxide.”

·         When a prominent Danish scientist (their head of environmental research) presented an opposite point of view in a UN-sponsored conference in South Africa in 2002, he was shouted down.

·         Past predictions of long-term impact have all proved to be wrong in the past.

·         Question: Why are global warming proponents act irrationally, not allowing objective discussions? Because the hypothesis cannot stand up to scrunity and the defeat of the hypothesis will spell great defeat of the whole environmentalist movement. Their objective is to uphold the importance of the environment (above man), not objective scientific facts.

d.   Christian attitude:

·         “Global warming” is not proven fact as there is no irrefutable evidence one way or another.

·         We should remain open-minded and accept results of objective scientific research.

·         We can provide qualified support for actions to reduce pollution.

·         But we cannot support drastic actions such as those specified in the Kyoto Accord as the Canadian government openly admitted that the impact has not been fully studied. Some estimates put the job loss at 100,000 (some estimate even much higher) if Kyoto is fully implemented in Canada.