Is the extreme heat and drought we are experiencing part of climate change?
If you have been watching the weather forecasts or the news you have probably heard talk about how the extreme heat we are experiencing this summer and the prolonged droughts are due to the effects of climate change. Politicians, scientists, and the media are urging the public to take steps to reduce green house gases and your own carbon footprint in order to change the apparent cataclysmic path on which planet earth is headed.
But are we headed to a cataclysm or from one? As a scientist and environmental consultant who takes God's Word (the Bible) at face value, I can see a clear impetus for climate change and what our world is experiencing. To me it is amazing that those who are sounding an alarm for an upcoming cataclysm and global flooding due to higher ocean levels are the same ones who reject a past cataclysm that resulted in global flooding and high water. When we accept the truth of a global flood as described in Genesis, it is then not hard to see that the oceans warmed by the flood and volcanism set up the perfect conditions for an ice age that happened, not millions of years ago, but only 4,000 years ago. The ice age deposited the ice layers of Greenland, the North and South Poles, and the glaciers in the high mountain ranges around the world. But as the Second Law of Thermodynamics states, everything is increasing in entropy - heading towards equilibrium. We are seeing the return to equilibrium right before our own eyes - in our life times! That's pretty cool! (or maybe warm!)
But, are we worsening climate change and accelerating the approach to equilibrium by producing green house gases? Well, that's a difficult question to answer. But, let's try a couple of antidotal responses. First, if I take a cup of salt and dump it into the Pacific Ocean, have I made the ocean saltier? Technically, we would have to answer "yes" - we have made it saltier. But, the increase in saltiness is most likely not measurable or observable.
Second, glaciers have been melting, even at a pretty fast pace, long before industrial gases and cars were present. In his journal, John Muir writes about exploring Glacier Bay in Alaska in 1879. He was one of the first non-native Americans to explore the Bay. But, he noted that the maps he was using, which were made by famous explorer George Vancouver, did not show the location of the Bay. This seemed incredulous to John Muir, because George Vancouver was known to be a detailed and extremely accurate cartographer. Then John Muir realized that the reason the Bay went unnoticed by his predecessor was because the glacier extended all the way to the Pacific Ocean and there was no Bay present when George Vancouver visited the area nearly 100 years before in 1794. Between the time of Vancouver and Muir, the glacier had receded nearly 40 miles! Now, since John Muir's visit in 1879 to today (approximately 143 years), the glacier has receded another 20 miles - half the distance! Were automobiles and industrial emissions responsible for the glacier diminishing? I don't think so! I think it points more to the movement away from an earlier cataclysm. The farther away we get from it, the more asymptotic the change will be.
So what does this mean for someone who holds to a Biblical climate change perspective? Burn as much fossil fuel as we want and forget the energy and climate saving initiatives? Of course not! The Bible teaches that we are to be good stewards of God's created world, environment, and creation. We need to take care of it and do things that might help our local environment, soil, and water. Will we be able to make measurable changes? I don't know. But, one thing I know for sure, that God's Word says that there will never be another global flood. I don't have to worry about the consequences from climate change, because my life and our world is in His capable hands!
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