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Monday, December 21, 2009

Climate Change: Why I'm convinced


I'm not a scientist. Nowhere even close. I barely passed physics and biology GCSE's, I'm fairly rubbish at maths beyond mental arithmetic (as long it doesn't include long division) and I think the periodic table is a piece of antique furniture. So why am I convinced about the science of climate change?



Firstly, it's a debate you can't ignore. A side must be taken because, while the future of the planet is not in jeopardy, the form of human civilisation could drastically alter and as always the poorest will be hit hardest. For some of our brothers and sisters we're not talking about paying higher energy bills we're talking about them living or dying. So decide I must. Will the streams of justice roll or will they have dried up in western greed and apathy. I think justice demands I make my mind up.

Having decided to decide, I have to decide who to trust. I respect theologians but I don't listen or believe all of them, same with most experts really. But I don't dismiss them out of hand. And while not all scientists agree, the vast majority of climate scientists do. That's a point worthy of note. Given they know more about this than I do, am I going to choose to listen to their warnings.

This group is not a small group, nor is it a group that obviously has much to profit by championing this cause. They're not backed by big oil companies. Some may make their name, so ego isn't to be discounted, but for the majority this argument doesn't apply. It's a global group - from many different countries, not just liberal, eco-friendly, tree-hugging, atheist Scandinavians. The scientific panels now have decades long body of evidence, they have been subject to scrutiny by peer review, the media, governments and public opinion.

But there are the nay-sayers. The sceptics and climate-gate has only roused them in their conspiracy theory anger. Are they right? Is this whole thing some excuse to sneak in a one-world government through the back door or worse socialism? Well maybe, so what? Anyway, here's my conspiracy theory in reply. Doesn't it seem odd to you that the most vocal opponents of change are the ones accused of being the most guilty? That the ones that might actually have to pay up and change are the ones fighting the hardest against it, how strange is that, how unexpected and inconsistent with human nature; wouldn't you agree?

So here are the sceptics and the pretty robust response from the believers. (HT: Jeremy - read this post!).

But even if the climate isn't changing (and it's not just about the planet getting warmer) there are good reasons to work with not against this movement. Here are a few:
  1. They have a better response to stewarding and caring for creation and not just using it's resources
  2. It's not quite as man-centric as we are today, and we always need reminding that we're not the only thing on the planet, nor the centre of the universe.
  3. It's likely that more just economics, new technologies and in the long run healthier lifestyles will emerge
  4. For the Christian this means rejecting the doctrine of greed that so often lies behind consumerism and adopting as part of our lifestyles - a pattern of simplicity, generosity and treading lightly on the earth. Which in the end is I think the more biblical route.

Not so long ago, there was the brief whiff of debate on the blog about climate change. It seems to me that evangelical Christians (especially in the US) are sceptical about climate change (they don't have a great record of trusting the scientific establishment) and here in the UK, the more reformed you are the less likely (in general terms) the issues of climate change, the environment, consumerism etc are going to be taken seriously. This is a shame and a cause of sadness. I'm convinced one of my roles is to make a contribution to that debate to bring more of the church round on this one. So I'm convinced, are you?

3 comments:

Toby said...

There's nothing more annoying than the phrase "I'm a scientist I'm impartial". Scientists are as human as the rest of us and it would be naive to suggest that people working for or against the argument are unswayed by factors such as pleasing those who fund them.

My understanding of the debate is that climate change itself is uncontested (in fact there's never been a time in the Earth's history when the climate hasn't been changing) the questions are how significant it is and what control does humanity have over the process.

However your penultimate paragraph brings it brilliantly into perspective. The science is largely irrelevant when you consider how strongly God has spoken to us about living in simplicity and contentment.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but the reason many people are climate skeptics is that the science is just not convincing. It isn't about guilt or money or anything else, we just want the truth. The climate changes naturally so we ask Are humans responsible for changing the climate? The Believers say yes so we ask for the proof; They show us pictures of melting glaciers and polar bears. But these are evidence of climate change only, they are not evidence that CO2 is the cause. So we ask again, show us proof that CO2 controls climate and we go around and around in circles again. The skeptics want to know the truth that's all.

Phil Whittall on 21 December 2009 at 20:25 said...

Hi Anonymous
Thanks for the comment - I guess it again comes down to who do you choose to trust? So the science from the IPCC http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg3/en/spm-ensspm-b.html has some pretty strong evidence - here are the highlights

1) Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have grown since pre-industrial times, with an increase of 70% between 1970 and 2004
2) Between 1970 and 2004, global emissions of CO2, CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs and SF6, weighted by their global warming potential (GWP), have increased by 70% (24% between 1990 and 2004), from 28.7 to 49 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (GtCO2-eq)[2] (see Figure SPM.1). The emissions of these gases have increased at different rates. CO2 emissions have grown between 1970 and 2004 by about 80% (28% between 1990 and 2004) and represented 77% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2004.
3)For instance, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by about 35% in the industrial era, and this increase is known to be due to human activities, primarily the combustion of fossil fuels and removal of forests. Thus, humankind has dramatically altered the chemical composition of the global atmosphere with substantial implications for climate. (http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/faq-1-1.html)

It seems to me that they have the weight of evidence behind them...

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