Faith and Climate Science

Faith and Climate Science

The role of the church is to remind the world and its leaders that this is God's good world, and we owe it our affectionate care.

As someone who teaches and writes about faith and science, I’ve noticed a troubling disconnect between many Christians and the work of scientists. The problem is apparent in a variety of scientific disciplines, but the consequences of the widespread rejection of climate science are devastating. According to the Pew Research Center, only 50 percent of American adults (and just 28 percent of white evangelicals) believe that global climate change is caused by human activity. This wholesale rejection of scientific opinion is surprising, considering that we live in a scientific society. We unconsciously think scientifically even about things that are clearly not scientific. We ask about the evidence of our faith. We look for scientific approaches to parenting. We try to prove our affections. In our culture, scientists are positioned in a role that is almost priestly, as the wise ones who know the mysteries of the universe and have the power to bless with a bountiful harvest, healthy offspring, or long life.

Perhaps this priestly role has contributed to the strain between science and the church, but there are other causes as well. Scientific findings in evolutionary biology and genomics have led to insights that challenge traditional Christian interpretations of Scripture. Advances in scientific technologies, such as those around genome editing, grant scientists possibilities that some believers think should be reserved for God alone. But I’m convinced that some of the tension between science and the church regarding climate change has little to do with theology. There is ample motivation among Christians, like everyone else, to resist scientific discoveries that demand lifestyle changes we would rather avoid.

Tension Between the Church and Science

When faced with challenging science like global climate change, Christians too often respond in ways that are unhelpful for the church, for science, or for our broader society. Our gut reactions tend to arise from fear, skepticism, or unwarranted optimism. We show our fear by lashing out at those with whom we disagree. We prove our skepticism by sowing dissension with rumors and doubt we barely understand. And sometimes we embrace unwarranted optimism by refusing to believe God would allow humans to ruin God’s creation.

The division between science and Christianity has consequences that reach beyond climate change. Our inability to engage difficult science—including climate science—robs both the church and the scientific community of gifts we have to share with one another. When Christians reject science generally, and scientific findings specifically, we are deprived of more fully understanding God’s majesty as Creator, and we ignore our responsibilities to be stewards of God’s creation.

This division also hurts our gospel witness. Our neighbors, and particularly our young people, are paying attention. When the church is wrong about things that are easily proven, it is difficult for people to trust the church with matters of faith that are not easily proven. In You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church . . . and Rethinking Faith, authors David Kinnaman and Aly Hawkins report that up to 30 percent of young people who leave the church do so because they think churches are out of step with science. We have inadvertently taught Christian students that the relationship between science and faith is a war in which they must choose one side or the other. When students come to believe scientific findings that come with difficult implications, they are only following that logic when they decide to leave their faith.

In my position as a biology professor at a Christian college, I have seen gifted students disengage from challenging science, knowing that their home churches approach science with fear and skepticism. Instead they choose careers in health or leave the scientific world altogether.

When Christians disengage from the scientific community, not only do we rob ourselves and hurt our gospel witness, we also deprive the scientific enterprise of the gifts of the Christian worldview. The church should be reminding scientists to share the redemptive gifts God grants through their work—gifts that reduce suffering and bring life. The church must also caution science as to its limitations in making claims only about the observable world.

The church has blessings to offer, and the scientific community has gifts to share. In order to develop a healthful relationship within which these can be exchanged, we must adopt a more productive means of engaging challenging science, including climate change.

One way we as believers should be giving these spiritual gifts to the scientific community is by encouraging our talented young people who are blessed with the interests and aptitudes to become scientists.

A Global Response to Climate Change

The science of climate change is widely available online for scientists and ordinary citizens to read (the Intergovernmental Council on Climate Change was established in 1988 to provide the current state of global knowledge in the science of climate change; see www.ipcc.ch/organization/organization.shtml.) As in any field, the language scientists use is loaded with technical jargon that may make it difficult for non-scientists to understand. But while those of us who can read the science directly should do so, church members can look at how other organizations have responded to the science. In December 2015, at the Conference of Parties 21, world leaders responded by signing a statement called The Paris Climate Agreement. The product of 20 previous global meetings, the statement begins by laying out the threat of global climate change that is already disrupting society. Next it explains the best-known solution for minimizing the consequences (increases to world average temperature must be stopped at 2 degrees Celsius). Then it explains how that ambitious solution will be carried out (each nation will voluntarily but publicly commit to specific greenhouse gas reductions). Finally, and very importantly, the agreement addresses issues of justice (such as why rich nations were allowed to use coal as they developed but currently developing nations cannot). Through negotiation, compromise, good faith, and the work of the Holy Spirit, nearly every country on Earth signed the document.

At the most recent Conference of Parties, COP-23, Syria (which had been delayed by its brutal civil war) signed on to the agreement, so that now every nation on the planet has signed the document. (Since then, as has been well publicized, the United States government has vowed to leave the agreement.)

Fear works its effects on all extreme views. Some people, including Christians, lament an almost immediate and irreversible destruction of the entire world order because of climate change. These views spread fear—and when they fail to materialize, they provide talking points for climate change deniers on the other extreme. Many deniers also work from a place of fear. I have heard charges that “the climate change movement is embedded with corruption and political agendas.” Underlying such comments is a fear of cultural forces, hidden agendas, and perverse motivations—none of which is suggested by the science. In either extreme, fear prevents the hearer from thoughtfully engaging the science.

Skepticism is particularly common among Christians when discussing climate change. It’s not unusual for me to hear comments along these lines: “There is no consensus in the scientific community about what (if any) correlation there is between the activities of man and climate change.” Any clear-headed analysis of the situation suggests that there is more than a likely correlation between our actions and climate change; indeed, there is causation. Nearly every expert in the field agrees that climate change is a serious and human-caused problem; every country in the world has agreed to address this problem; and major corporations are investing serious money into preparing for climate change. If the whole world is convinced by the science of human culpability to the problem and human responsibility for addressing it, we need to push beyond our skepticism.

Unwarranted optimism has a particularly interesting manifestation among some Christians engaging climate science. It typically sounds something like this: “From a Christian standpoint, to suggest that we are the cause places our actions as more powerful than God’s creative acts.” From this perspective, God made the world good and would never allow humans to harm it. This argument is not new. In the early 1800s, Christians rejected the idea of extinction by arguing that God would never allow a species to disappear from the earth. Now we know that climate change, habitat loss, and other forces push between 150 to 200 species to extinction every day. This position represents a misunderstanding of God, creation, history, and sin. As the consequence of our sin, we are permitted hope but not unwarranted optimism.

A Better Way: Critical Reading, Thoughtfulness, Gratitude

I believe a more productive way of responding to the science of climate change involves critical reading, thoughtfulness, and gratitude. Critical reading of the science offers clear, robust, evidence of a serious worldwide threat. The exact extent of the threat varies by model, location, and our future decisions, but the overwhelming scientific consensus is that human action has led to higher temperatures, which will result in harmful consequences. Stronger hurricanes, more widespread fires, and more frequent droughts are just a sampling of these predicted results. Critical reading demands that we respond, no matter how difficult that may be or what lifestyle changes may be required. But in the face of a problem so big, how do we respond as families, churches, and as the church?

A thoughtful approach will allow us to shape our answers to the difficult questions that arise. Is responding to global climate change in line with our Scriptural mandates? We are called to steward God’s world and to be God’s image to the world. We are expected to care for people who are poor, for widows and orphans. We can remember, with trembling, that to those whom much has been given, much will be expected. Engaging climate science with thoughtfulness reveals that we who live in developed nations need to make changes in how we eat, how we drive, and how we live. Our current lifestyle cannot be sustained. Churches need to educate members and function as examples of ecological stewardship. In our denomination, the Office of Social Justice provides resources for doing just that. The global church should be leading efforts against climate change, and as we lead we should be constant advocates for the poorest populations in the poorest nations. This work is being carried out by groups like Climate Witness Project, Climate Caretakers, and Young Evangelicals for Climate Action.

As we learn to engage the challenging work of climate science with critical reading and thoughtfulness, we can learn to face this sobering field of science with gratitude. Just as it is possible to experience gratitude for an abnormal mammogram or colonoscopy, and just as we can be grateful for a friend who calls out our sin, we can be grateful for the warning climate science has given us. Debates about how to address climate change can easily devolve into discussions of dollars, percents, and degrees. But the role of the church is to remind the world and its leaders that this is God's good world, and we owe it our affectionate care. We must guarantee that while the world responds to climate change, the burdens of expense, effort, and hardship must be paid first by those of us with the most to give.

Science continues to find new insights about God's good creation. As it does so, the church must finds ways to engage those results productively. For the sake of our witness, our young people, and our world, we must rise above fear, skepticism, and unwarranted optimism. May God grant us experts to guide us through critical reading, wise leaders to shape our conversations into thoughtfulness, and hearts of worship so that we might lift up each new scientific discovery to God with gratitude.

 

Christian Reformed Church Resources on Climate Change

CRCNA Position on Creation Care and Climate Change

Centre for Public Dialogue (Canada) 



Discussion Questions

  1. How important do you think it is to take seriously the issue of climate change? Why do you feel that way?
  2. Have you witnessed the phenomenon of young Christians leaving the faith or avoiding scientific professions because of a perceived tension between science and faith? How can we reduce such occurrences?
  3. The author states that “we are permitted hope but not unwarranted optimism”. What makes optimism unwarranted? And what gives us hope in the midst of sinful consequences?
  4. The author suggests that a better way for Christians to respond to climate science is with critical reading, thoughtfulness, and gratitude. What steps or actions you could take in that direction?

About the Author

Clayton Carlson is an associate professor of biology at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill.; his work is supported by the Oxford Interdisciplinary Seminars in Science and Religion. He attends Hope Christian Reformed Church in Oak Forest, Ill.

See comments (13)

Comments

I think the folks in the pew often have more sense about things than this article's writer give them credit for.

Take just one example raised by this article: the Paris Accord.  James Hansen, former NASA head and father of climate alarmism himself, believes the Paris Accord is essentially a political show hoax, that it will not, cannot, do anything to significantly help with the climate crisis he believes exists.  Hansen's prescription?  Lots and lots of nuclear plants.

So what are folks to make of climate alarmism when it becomes highly politicized and the movement's own founder (and a highly regarded climate scientist at that) so disagrees with what is to be done?

And then there is John Christy (one of many), a brother in Christ who is universally recognized as a world class climatologist.  He thoroughly disagrees with the UN proclamations about climate change, as a matter of science.

This article portrays the questions as simple, that the conclusions of those with whom the author agrees are "easily proven."  Nothing could be further from the case.  Climate change involves a multiplicity of highly complex sciences and definitive answers as to what is, let alone what should be done, are not easy to come by at all, even among the experts, the suggeztions of this article notwithstanding.

The author has brought up a number of very interesting topics that all deserve attention and discussion.  I'd like to deal with one; that young people "leave the church because it is out of step with science."

The question is asked, "Is faith and science at war?"  I would say they are not in conflict, but there is a war going on.  As Mr. Carlson points out: "The church must also caution science as to its limitations in making claims only about the observable world."  When science remains within its limitations, there is no conflict between science and faith.  But when science assumes authority to make claims about things that cannot be observed, there is conflict.  Take evolution for instance.  We cannot observe it, we cannot reproduce it in a lab, and it is of little practical importance.  (We observe "adaptation" which is a filtering of the genetic information God gave us, but "evolution" is based on assumptions about time scales and violent processes that contradict our faith.)  Yet evolution has become a litmus test for advancement within the scientific community for, in my opinion, the express purpose of shutting out Christians.  There is a war between faith and science in the sense that the scientific community at large hates Christians just as Jesus told us would happen; that we would be hated as the world hated him.

We should be preparing our young people to engage the scientific world by instilling a Biblical worldview:

1)  They should be aware that not everything that is presented as "science" is really science.  There are boundaries to what we can know.

2)  Our youth should know that the world is not our friend.  It hates good and loves evil.  Be wary when it befriends you.

3)  Our young people need to be aware that human nature is corrupt and prone to evil.  Scientists are not always right or good.

4)  They should know that human wisdom is prone to error.  God's word is our foundation.  Science does not carry the same authority.

With a Biblical and realistic worldview, our youth will be better prepared to engage the scientific world and test what is true and knowable.

Wonderful article!  Thank you, Dr Carlson.  There is clear consensus that Climate Change is real, human caused, a significant threat, and our duty to address among: 

Now is time for all of us to join the effort to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  Please become a Partner of the CRC's Climate Witness Project and get your congregation involved through:

  1. Worship
  2. Education
  3. Energy Stewardship
  4. Advocacy

Click here to register as a CWP Partner

As a former science teacher in Christian schools, I can barely express the unbelievable stress that I was under very regularly because parents told their children that they shouldn't believe the stuff I was teaching them...that I was "deceived" or had a "political agenda" or some other such nonsense that led me to teach them about things like climate.  Obviously, there are a lot of conscientious Christians who do understand that science is the study of God's creation, but there are most certainly others who think science is the devil's handiwork.  And sadly, those that mistrust science are often very vocal, very judgemental, and very very good at making your life miserable if you have anything to do with science.  

I think articles like this are kind of preaching to the choir; we've seen a LOT of articles like this before.  Books are written on it. And this by no means is the first article in The Banner on this topic.  If there are climate science deniers reading this, they will likely just dismiss it as yet another political lefty snowflake apostate whining about climate.  We can't keep rehashing this topic in the same way over and over, because it doesn't accomplish anything. 

If you want to call Christians to do something different, I would suggest a call to support your local Christian school science teachers, and other Christian scientists in your community who struggle with the stress of dealing with their brothers and sisters who are climate change deniers. Publically let others know you support them. Invite them to speak at church events (and NOT at "debates" where they get raked accross the coals for thinking the Earth might be more than 6000 years old). Talk to your children about climate change and how understanding it fits in with faith. 

Some Christian schools won't hire a teacher that wants to teach about climate change and other "controversial" topics like the genetics of sexuality, or evolution.  But this can be incredibly destructive to students who go on to study the sciences in university, and discover that much of what they were taught is not correct.  Instead of just adjusting their understanding of faith and science, they often reject faith wholesale.  That's how compelling the evidence in God's creation is.  When are churches and Christian schools doing to deal with this? Again, we've called attention to this over and over and over, and so often it falls on deaf ears. I've come to the conclusion over the years that most churches and Christian schools don't actually care about whether their young people stay in the faith.  Despairing about youth leaving the church is just a fashionable thing to do to prove to your friends how much you care about Jesus.  Very few people are actually willing to do anything practical about it.  And no, having a better youth band in church isn't going to solve the problem of young people rejecting church because of their views on things like climate change and sexuality.    

It would be very helpful in these discussions if we were careful to be respectful, loving, and patient with our fellow Christians.  We should be careful not to include phrases like "Any clear-headed analysis ..." which implies that the reason people disagree is because their reasoning ability is clouded.  I would like to see The Banner post an article by a "denier" to get both sides of the story.

Here are some of my thoughts on Global Warming (yes, the underlying premise is that the world is getting warmer.):

1) We have been told for decades that the Arctic ice sheet will disappear in a few years.  This was the bellwether indicator for warming because a small change in temperature dictates whether water is in the form of ice or liquid water.  The ice sheet is still there as it has been for a long time.

2) We have been told that the ocean levels will rise dramatically.  However, The Republic of Maldives is still with us even though it has a maximum elevation of about 10 feet above sea level.

3) We have been warned of more violent and extreme weather as well, but that is more difficult to observe since there is a lot of statistical variation in those events.

The point I'm trying to make is that the predictions made by scientists have not come true.  Something must be wrong with their models.

One might argue that globally, temperatures are indeed rising according to the data.  But there are some problems with that as well:

1) The temperature record has been changing over the years.  If you look at an early climate report, the global temperature record looks different from a more recent report.  That is because the temperature record has been "adjusted" a number of times.  There may be good reasons to adjust the data, but for many, this is tampering with the data and that is not good science.

2) Satellite temperature data has not shown the same warming trend as ground based thermometers.  However, now the satellite temperature record has fallen out of grace in favor of the land based measurements.

3) The use of proxy data.  There are fewer temperature records in the Southern hemisphere.  And in some places of the world, there are no records.  So one thermometer reading is taken to represent the temperature of a large region perhaps hundreds of miles in diameter.  I would not look at a thermometer in Wisconsin to decide what to wear when I live in Michigan.

The point I am trying to make is that it is nearly impossible to measure the temperature of the earth.  And that temperature can be altered / manipulated by subtle changes to the way it is interpreted.  This is one reason I look at the ice caps rather than thermometers.

But the mechanism for global warming is so clear; an increase in greenhouse gases traps radiation.  Well, that isn't quite so either.  Carbon Dioxide may absorb infra-red radiation very well, but only in narrow bands of wavelengths.  It then re-radiates that energy and transfers it to other molecules which then re-radiate that energy.  By the time that radiation gets to the upper atmosphere, the energy at those wavelength is mostly gone.  In other words, the atmosphere is already mostly opaque at those wavelengths.  Adding more CO2 will not make the atmosphere much more opaque.

The point I am trying to make is that the mechanism for man made global warming is not clear.  It exists in computer models.  But as we have seen before, those computer models have not proven to be correct.

Is the climate changing?  It is hard to tell.  My guess is yes as it has since the time of Noah and the flood. 

Are humans the cause of the change?  It is hard to tell.  The mechanism is uncertain.  But we know that sin has affected everything in creation.

So what are we to do?  I have not seen specific proposed action from the denomination.  Wind, solar, and nuclear power all have their pros and cons depending on the region.  A carbon tax only makes energy more expensive for the poor and the resulting concentrated wealth is a recipe for corruption.  There are some calling for one-child policies, but that doesn't agree with the "be fruitful and multiply" instruction.  Laying guilt on people for something they cannot help doesn't seem right either.  In the end, we don't have any real options just like we don't have a way out of our sin except for Jesus.

In my opinion, the best thing the church can do is bring people to Jesus, tell them that their sins can be forgiven, and assure people that there will be a new heaven and a new earth when Jesus returns.  Social justice causes and creation care efforts are good, but they shouldn't be our focus because it obscures the church's primary and most urgent message of Jesus' death and resurrection.

Anyone would to well to read the congressional testimony of John Christy, a univerally recognized world class climatologist (he and partner Roy Spencer developed satellite based global temperature recording).  See at: https://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/HHRG-115-SY-WState-JChristy-20170329.pdf

It is not helpful to call folks "climate deniers."  No one denies climate.  Indeed, next to no one denies that humans have an effect on climate.  The question is "how much?"

As has been said in a prior comment, the climate change models that have predicted climate armaggedon have been remarkably wrong (enough time has passed since computer simulation predictions were first made to know).  The simulations predicted much more increase in temperature (by 2018) than what has happened.  The reason we (scientists) can't predict climate change well is that we (scientists) don't know enough of the variables in the total equation.  There are quite a number of unresolved variables, many of which deal with positive and negative feedbacks.  Ask any climate scientist: the straightforward effect of atmospheric CO2 (about which there is really no meaningful disagreement) isn't what causes the predicted climate problem.  Rather it is the presumed that a relatively small amount of direct CO2 effect will set off a large positive feedback.  But we (scientists) don't know what all the "positive feedbacks" and "negative feedbacks" are or what their net effect is.  Thus, we (scientists) guess about them.  And when we (scientists) put those guesses into a computer software program, they get a prediction based on, well, a great deal of guessing.  And to date, the predictions based on those guesses haven't turned to be very accurate. Again, read Christy's congressional testimony (link above).

"Climate alarmists" try to explain away the inaccurate predictions by positing "reasons" for them.  For example, most alarmists would argue that the temperature increases are being temporarily "masked," that is, there are reasons out there (like the ocean absorbing the heat) why the prediction were inacurate, but those reasons are temperary, and the "masking" will soon be overcome and then the predictions will then come true with a vengeance.  Is there proof of that?  No.  Is there evidence for that?  Yes.  Is there evidence for the other side of the argument?  Yes.  Is the supposed "masking" also guessing?  Yes, to a great extent even if some masking is pretty well known and agreed to.

In other words, the "science is not settled," even if the current political mantra is: "the science is settled."  Which is why the IPCC still expresses their predictions as a "percentage" (e.g., there is an "80% chance that this or that will be the temperature increase by 2050").

John Christy and Roy Spencer aren't the only universally recognized climate science experts who are unconvinced there is no cause for alarm at this point (they aren't denied climate though, nor warming, nor that human activity has an effect and always has).  There are many others.  Again, the "science is not settled," whatever the political mantra is.  That this has become so political is indeed unfortunate.  That the CRCNA has gotten caught up in it all is also unfortunate.  It's not like the CRCNA is a orgnization specializing in climate science.  Which means the CRCNA's opining and declaring about climate change is also, well, largely political.

The reason I point out that James Hanson disagrees with his "alarmist" friends about the solution to the supposed climate change problem is to point out that as non-scientific organizations like the CRCNA (and many others) get on the political bandwagon, they fail (or refuse) to note that there is a great division within the alarmist community itself as to what to do.  James Hanson (the "father" of of all of this on the alarmist side, whose predictions have not panned out well) is still a climate alarmist but he thinks the Paris Accords are a cruel joke, that they will accomplish nothing (even if OSJ says otherwise).  James Hanson says it is clear our building lots of new nuclear energy plants is the solution to the CO2 crisis.  Go Google for it (James Hanson nuclear power).

Well OK then.  It would seem that a path to compromise is sitting right in front of us.  John Christy and his side aren't convinced that the amount of future warming will be a crisis, or even a big problem, but I'll bet they can agree with James Hanson to promote more nuclear energy.  So if there is common ground to be found, why doesn't the CRCNA get on that bandwagon, instead of just picking sides in a political struggle that goes nowhere?

I think I know why the common ground doesn't materialize.  Left side politicals have a long history of hating nuclear power.  Still, that shouldn't keep the CRCNA from taking note, and perhaps think about deparing from left side political positions.  Of course the CRCNA may not be aware of this potential common ground, but it should be, assuming it knew enough to take sides on this in the first place.  

If I recall correctly a number of years ago scientists said we were entering an ice age, and now they say the climate is warming. Obviously there was no ice age so please explain exactly how they were so wrong then, not only in degree but in the direction of change and why they are now so certain they are correct.

Maybe this is good advice from 1 Timothy 6:20-12

20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith.

Grace be with you all.

Perhaps it is best to turn away from the godless climate change chatter that is falsely called knowledge.

   I do not fear science, but I am skeptical when I read sweeping general statements like "overwhelming scientific consensus".

   And there is a political factor involved when data is ignored. Global temperatures are not on a continual rapid rise.

Climate model predictions were shown to be wrong by at least three studies. The official NASA global temperature data shows that from Feb 2016 to Feb 2018 the "global average temperatures dropped by 0.56° C."  That is the biggest two-year drop in the past century.

  This may or may not be part of a trend. But critical thinking should not jump ahead of facts.

  

Thank you Clayton, but reading your article makes me feel like I’ve just been hit by a truck,

You show a total lack of respect for opinions other than your own.

You seem to believe that all Christians who don’t agree with your opinions don’t care about God’s charge of good stewardship. How wrong you are.

You tell us that Christians don’t think elevated thoughts, they are unable to read and understand complicated articles like you can, are not clear headed, live in fear, cause the churches to go empty, are ignoring scripture, and are too optimistic about God’s power.

Your article is so unbalanced that I had to smile every time you inserted another tidbit of information while twisting and misusing it to support your views. You don’t see the irony in this?

Although I am sure you mean well, stop treating people who disagree with you as if they’re automatically wrong. That is a trap that too many people have fallen into these days.

After all, science doesn’t have a great track record of being correct. We read new and changing ‘facts’ and ‘truths’ every day based on today’s (lack of) understanding of God’s creation and influenced by – yes, it’s true – politics.

The Bible on the other hand does a lot better with its timeless advice of loving and trusting God and loving your neighbor.

This fallen world is full of wrongs and it hurts. And it is our task as Christians to always seek to do what is right. And God in his love for us has given us the freedom and ability to do so.

But things do often take time, just like it has with the injustice of denying women equal rights, of not loving homosexuals as if they sin more than you and I do, of ignoring the injustice done to indigenous people.

Take heart, God is at work. Kids are now being taught good stewardship at public schools. What an achievement! Climate care is being discussed at the highest political and corporate levels. Rejoice and praise God! But don’t use God to advance your agenda.

I’d love it if you could take of your science blinders and come back with a balanced article including real facts and what God is doing.

As it stands your article has brought me closer to becoming a sceptic than I have ever been.

Respectfully,

Ronald

Dear Readers,

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Thank you.

After reading though the comments on this article few weeks ago, I wrote this blog piece. I thought I would share it with the people on this site.

As Christians, our commitment to truth is a core part of our faith. Jesus calls us to affirm the truth of his gospel, but also to love in deed, and in truth, and to speak truthfully to our neighbor. Christian philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga also affirm that Christian commitment to truth grounds the reliability of our senses and the reliability of our reasoning in a way that the secular world struggles with. Much of the world challenges the very notion of truth and whether it exists at all. Christian faith asserts that truth is not just real, but also that our experiences can reliably affirm it and that human minds can reliably deduce it.

Clayton Carlson’s April 16th article in the banner called “Faith and Climate Science: Why the Church’s Response to Climate Change Matters,” triggered a number of comments that essentially challenge the institution of scientific reasoning and the reliability of science. I would like to explore three of these claims in briefly before making a theological point about science and faith. The first comment pointed to the work of scientist James Hansen who criticizes the Paris Accord, and asserts that this undermines OSJ and CPD’s endorsement of it. The second is an assertion about how the climate went through a period of cooling from February 2016 until February 2018. The third is the science of John Christy and Roy Spencer, which challenges conventional climate change models and the degree to which humans are thought to be responsible for climate change.

The position of James Hansen does not conflict with our position on climate change. Hansen has repeatedly criticized the Paris Accord claiming that it doesn’t go nearly far enough to solve the looming climate crisis. Though the Office of Social Justice and the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue advocate for adherence to the Paris Accord, it is because it is abundantly clear that government action is one of the few effective mechanisms available to coordinate the necessary action, and the Paris Accord affirms this. CPD’s position is not fundamentally different from Hansen, who advocates for court action and carbon pricing. We agree that these are potential responses. Hansen’s position not in conflict with our endorsement of the Paris Accord.

The assertion that the climate cooled between February 2016 and February 2018 is curious. The only source I could find for this claim was a Breitbart article which cites Real Clear Markets and the NASA GISS Surface Temperature records. The NASA site cited in the article provides the data in tabular format, and their claim was indeed warranted. However, the NASA GISS site also states that February 2018 was the sixth warmest February on record while February 2016 was the warmest February ever. Short run fluctuations are not indicative of warming or cooling and the NASA GISS community has consistently affirmed the long run trend of global climate warming. It is a misrepresentation to claim that the GISS climate data represents cooling trends.

John Christy and Roy Spenser by contrast represent a different category of criticism. Many of Christy and Spencer’s studies are published, peer reviewed articles which are critical of the degree to which humans are responsible for climate change. A 2013 article by Cook et al. investigated 11 944 peer reviewed scientific articles on climate to quantify the degree of consensus. Of the articles that took a position on the cause of climate change, 97.1% endorsed the view that humans were the cause while 2.9% were either uncertain or rejected humans as the cause. Christy and Spenser’s work only challenges the degree to which humans are responsible, yet both had published papers that were among the 3% outliers found in Cook et al. Though Christy and Spenser make valuable contributions to the scientific community, their position does not represent the most accurate information we have.

There is considerable misinformation about climate change science on the internet. If we in the church are committed to values such as truth, we have a faithful responsibility to use our capabilities to assess it. The Reformed tradition has expressed this commitment by pursuing quality Christian education and has played a significant role in shaping modern philosophical discourse. We have also have affirmed a call to play a role in shaping every square inch of the world into one where the widows and orphans are cared for. Climate change will profoundly impact the poor. We may disagree about the degree or precisely how it will impact us, but the science is in: climate change is real, and we are the cause. If there is a debate to be had, it is about what we can do about it.

The author expresses concern that 50% of American adults don't believe global climate change is caused by human activity.  My concern is that if the science is so conclusive, why have so many experts and references used false information or cherry-picked information to prove man made global warming.

 

The Medieval Warm Period between AD950 and 1250, which experts say was warmer than today, proves the falseness of the hockey stick graph.  William Connolley of Wikipedia has been found to have changed 5,428 entries to hide the Medieval Warm Period and other evidence contrary to global warming. http://www.wnd.com/2009/12/119745/  If you are on the side of truth, why do you need to hide evidence?

 

Scientists who believed the sea ice is retreating were stuck in the ice in Murmansk in the summer of 2016, another frozen ship was locked in ice in 2014, and a third expedition in 2015 became locked in the sea ice while attempting to prove global warming. http://dailycaller.com/2016/07/20/global-warming-expedition-stopped-in-its-tracks-by-arctic-sea-ice/  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/03/antarctica-ice-trapped-academik-shokalskiy-climate-change

https://www.mrctv.org/blog/worst-ice-conditions-20-years-force-ice-breaker-stop-global-warming-study-and-help-ships-stuck-ice

 

It has been found out from leaked e-mails that University of East Anglia Centre for Climate Prediction and Research has cherry-picked their facts, omitted data that had inconvenient facts, and have organized boycotts of scientific journals which publish material contradicting their findings.  https://www.inhofe.senate.gov/download/?id=ce35055e-8922-417f-b416-800183ab7272&download=1

 

Al Gore said the sea levels are rising up to 20 feet, a British court ruled that 9 of his claims were false (others have found up to 30 points of misinformation), he used photoshopping to make some of his points, he refuses to debate his ideas, and his lifestyle shows he has little regard for what he claims.  (He uses much energy at his two large homes and flies in private planes.)  He is not a scientist and has said outrageous statements such as the temperature of the earth's mantle is "several million degrees."

 

A NOAA whistleblower in February 2017 pointed out that fraudulent data was used in a paper meant to impact President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron https://alethonews.com/2017/02/05/climate-scientists-versus-climate-data/

 

East Anglia scientists refused to follow that nation's freedom-of-information law about their work.  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/environment/climatechange/7538446/University-of-East-Anglia-refused-to-share-information-on-global-warming.html

 

An Indian climate official admitted to falsely claiming that Himalayan glaciers would melt away by 2035 to prod governments into action.  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/jan/20/ipcc-himalayan-glaciers-mistake

 

Dozens of weather monitoring stations in rural China apparently have simply disappeared.  This would lead to higher temperature averages since city levels frequently are warmer.  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/feb/01/dispute-weather-fraud

 

Statements made by environmentalists on and around Earth Day 1970 have proven to be false.  ("Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken…"  "The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years."  "By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine."  "In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…" http://tfrlive.com/13-worst-predictions-made-on-earth-day-1970/

 

When I see researchers or scientists who have hidden the truth or cherry-picked their data, it leaves me wondering if the point they are trying to make is really what I want to believe.

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