Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What Should Christians *Do* About Global Warming?

My friend Kevin Nelstead -- a Christian and scientist and all-around clear thinker -- points out some evidence for global warming that we should pay attention to.

There are credible scientists who are concerned about poor data and poor interpretation of data from the "Inconvenient Truth" crowd.

I think it's reasonable to believe at this point:

1. The earth is warmer than it was. There have been cycles of warming and cooling in the history of the planet.
2. A warmer earth will be different than what we think of as 'normal' -- there would be higher sea levels, for example, and some species would be affected. Of course, we could also grow crops like corn, wheat, canola, and soybeans at higher latitudes in Canada and Russia, which might become significant for feeding a growing population.
3. It's still uncertain to what degree (pun intended) human activity has caused warming. Consider the estimate that Mt. St. Helens eruption released more "greenhouse" gases than all the automotive emissions in history. (Read that somewhere, can't locate a reference right now, so take that as 'volcanoes release a LOT of gases that contribute to warming.')

Update 10/2/06:
Kevin Nelsted corrects me on this one with a good source of data about CO2 emmissions:

In regards to your third point on your blog entry:Here are the numbers on human vs volcanic CO2:--annual volcanic production of CO2: 130-230 millionmetric tons--annual human production of CO2: 22 billion metrictons--therefore human production of CO2 is at least 100times greater than volcanic productionSource: USGS(http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/Hazards/What/VolGas/volgas.html) Other sources have similar numbers.I see the "Mt. St. Helens eruption released moregreenhouse gases than all the automotive emissions inhistory" concept on Christian web sites often, and asfar as I can tell it is completely untrue.

4. No one knows for sure what humans can do to create global cooling trends.
5. The economic price of the recommendations to limit warming, or create cooling trends, are staggering. The political reality of the Kyoto Treaty is that the worst polluters on the planet (China, India) are exempted. The US Senate unaminously refused to approve the treaty.

So what's the Christian to do?

We pray for wisdom. We celebrate God's goodness to us. We act as responsible stewards. We love people over things. We point people to Jesus. We remember that we are the created, not the Creator, and our Creator gives all things we need.

Those are important, but easier to say than do consistently. And they're general in nature.

What do we do, specifically?

I frankly am unsure what political leaders should do at any significant level. I'm concerned that the rational level of discourse is poisoned and almost impossible to get to with current media practices and a culture of people untrained to thinking. Reasonable people will point out that the demonstrable short-term impacts of Kyoto-type solutions are tremendously expensive when you consider there is NO evidence they will help the problem. [And what is the problem, exactly? What are you trying to solve or prevent? We need to define that better.]

I think Christians should be the best thinkers on the planet. So perhaps one specific thing that we do is insist on good data, humble interpretation, and rational discourse that does not dissemble into polarized half-truth. And is there some way to design an experiment to test possible solutions? (Computer models are only moderately useful, no matter what you see in scifi movies.)

I also recommend we pursue rational, clear thinking about how nations should adapt to higher sea levels and shifting growing zones. What would be a 25 year plan, for example?

Finally, we don't lose sight of Jesus.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just checked your reference about CO2 emissions of volcanoes compared to humans. I went to the site and read it. The quote says that humans release 100 times more carbon NOT carbon dioxide. I tried to click on that reference and it just links back to the same site. The USGS does not back up their claim.