Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Convenient Truth

BBC Washington correspondent Matt Frei takes a look at how the issue of climate change (global warming) is dividing America's evangelical movement on 15 May 2007.

Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia, is one of the biggest evangelical colleges in the world. With more than 20,000 students on and off campus, it is the creation of the Reverend Jerry Falwell, one of America's most influential Christian leaders who died on Tuesday.

"The jury is still out on global warming," said the Rev Falwell, in a sermon broadcast on the internet in February this year….Despite all the hype by liberal politicians, the media, Hollywood and so forth, it is not yet proven by any means that greenhouse gas emissions are the cause of global warming."

But just as America is bitterly divided on the issue of climate change, so is the evangelical movement.

At Eastern Mennonite University, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, concern about the environment is so high that the college has employed a full-time recycling officer and assistant. Mr Swartzendruber (the university’s president) is one of 86 Christian leaders to have signed an open letter calling on all Christians to battle global warming.

Students at Eastern Mennonite see climate change as important "We understand that the Earth is important. We view it as a gift and it's just been part of who we are for many, many years," he tells me. He rejects out of hand the suggestion that global warming is a hoax. "It's primarily, first of all, a scientific issue and secondly, it's a theological issue," he says.

So, how much is truth, how much is partial truth, and how much is speculation? I am sure that many of those who have watched the documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, are totally convinced that we are heading towards a global catastrophe.

“What is truth?” asked Pontius Pilate before he handed Jesus over to be crucified. According to some scientists and politicians, the climate forecast will make earth uninhabitable in the next 50 or so years.

To understand the basics, let us look at an animated “how greenhouse effect works”. Playing a part in the greenhouse effect is the carbon cycle, the feedback effect, and the “low probability, high impact” role of the Gulf stream.

However, the climate system is so complex that there is at present no computer model that can predict weather changes. Will the United States still face disasters every year if they can predict where the hurricanes will hit the South-Eastern coast every year? If they are unable to predict conditions in the Caribbean region which is a relatively small region, why should we accept their predictions for the whole world? Anyone heard much about the ozone hole lately? Is it due to the Montreal Protocol or to normal seasonal variations?

Let us ask a simple question. For example, where do they get their data in Africa? Having a few weather stations will not get the scientists enough raw data for a computer simulation model to predict weather forecast in Africa. And I am sure China is not sharing their meteorological and industrialisation data. Without raw data, how is it possible for them to formula their computer models? And that is what the argument is all about. We are arguing over a few simulated computer model forecasts as if they are the real thing. Anyone read Michael Crichton’s State of Fear? Check out his bibliography on authors and scientific publications that argue for the opposite.

I am not saying we should not take care of our environment, reduce our production of carbon dioxide and methane, and be responsible for the care of the earth. However, it must not be done by using a “scare tactic”. We are responsible for the earth because God has appointed us as stewards or caretaker of the earth. To our shame, we have not been faithful stewards. However, our shame should not be because of extrapolative sciences and speculations.

I believe that the earth is a wonderful creation and God has built into it the ability to rectify changes. It is a very large and complex ecosystem. How do we know that the ‘apparent increases’ in temperature is not part of the earth’s own system of self correction, or we are heading towards another ice age?

And we continue to argue…

picture credit



Post a Comment

<< Home