Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Christian Response to Global Warming

I recently took on the challenge of preaching two topical sermons on current ethical issues. The first was Euthanasia (see here) and the second was 'A Christian Response to Global Warming'.

I have to say that the first topic was much easier to tackle - mainly because the Bible has more to say about the topic. But how to tackle the topic of 'Global Warming' (GW)?

I began by doing some research on the scientific views on GW. With some background in science (B Sc in 1986!) I was confident I could get a handle on the issues. What I discovered is that it is not as straightforward as I had thought!

If we accept the argument of Al Gore and friends (from the movie 'An Inconvenient Truth') then an increase in pollution caused by human activity has led to an increase in greenhouse gases - especially Carbon Dioxide. This has led to an increase in the average temperature of the earth by about 0.6 - 0.8 degrees C in the last 40-50 years, or about 1.5 degrees over the last 100 years. The concern is that this increase in temperatures is already having significant negative effects, and that if it continues we could see an increase in the world's temperature of 4-5 degrees in the next 50 years - with catastrophic consequences. (A Short Video by national geographic explaining Global Warming can be found here: Global Warming 101.)

Al Gore claims that the scientific facts are not disputed - which is only partly true. The fact of global warming - the rise in the average temperature of the earth - is generally not disputed. What is disputed more is the cause. More specifically, whether humans are the main cause. There actually seem to be quite a few scientists who have alternative explanations (see for example the arguments of Bob Carter, an Australian from Townsville who does not deny the facts, but the conclusions drawn. His new book is called Climate: The Counter Consenus). The 'international consensus' on human induced global warming is presented here (Australian Government Dept of Climate Change) and here (Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change).

In a short period of time I went from being fairly convinced for Human-caused global warming to very sceptical, and then back to cautiously accepting.

Another side of the issue is to consder the political organisations that are pushing the for an integrated international solution - which generally involves heavy taxing of carbon emissions. Led by the beauracracy of the UN, it is strongly supported by many socialist organisations around the world who are keen to see this as a way to redistribute the world's wealth. At this point we can get into any number of conspiracy theories - many of which I consider crazy! However, there is at least a grain of truth coming from those who warn against handing over power to an unaccountable world-wide beauracracy.

Taking all this into account, I then tried to consider the Christian response. I decided that perhaps the most  important passages are in Genesis 1 and 2 which remind us that God is creator of our world and he has given us an authority over the creation - not an authority to exploit, but rather an authority that involves caring for his creation. Very important is to remember that we are to worship the creator, not the creation, and that in whatever we do we are to see to love both God and our neighbour.

So, I asked, how should we love our neighbour who is possibly affected by Global Warming? I think the answer is that we as individual and as societies ought to take 'reasonable means' to lessen our impact on the creation. Having said that, I am sure that there are more significant issues of exploitation (of people as well as the environment) and pollution that ought to be addressed as a priority over 'carbon emission'. Nonetheless, I believe that in this we ought to err on the side of caution and begin to implement measures that will reduce our the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Here is the outline of my talk:


Sunday October 31st, 2010. A Biblical Christian Response to the Environmental Issues of Global Warming and Environmental Degredation.

1. What is Global Warming—and why should I care?

2. Basic Attitudes

a. Confident in God’s word, but not wanting to go beyond what the Bible says.

b. Not afraid of the Scientific evidence

c. Seeking to be Generous in Love.

3. The Bible On ‘the Environment’

a. God’s Creation

b. God gave man dominion over creation—under Him

c. The World Is Groaning With Sin and Will End

d. Our Rule Over Creation Must Consider Others

4. What Can We Do?

(i) Don’t accept Exploitation of Environment or People

(ii) Seek to Live Simply – Leave a Small Footprint

(iii) Support ‘Reasonable Steps’ to protect the environment

(iv) Proclaim that God is the Creator (- and Jesus is Saviour)

5. Conclusion: God’s servants caring for God’s creation

You can download the sermon on the website


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