Sermons

Summary: The world is in distress and men are running to and through, Is this the end?

Does the Bible say there will be climate change? This is an important question. If the Bible—our most reliable source of wisdom and guidance—says something about climate change, that could inform what’s an otherwise fairly murky discussion. Getting reliable guidance would have tremendous implications. However, before we look at what the Bible says, let’s specifically define the term climate change.

If you’ve been paying attention to the stream of scientific reports related to climate change, you know that the vast majority of scientists are expecting marked changes to the earth’s natural systems—our oceanic, atmospheric, fresh water, and soil (food production) systems. These changes are expected to have a profound impact on society. If the scientists are right, then what they predict is critical to understand because it’s one of the most profound threats the human race has ever faced.

At issue is what, if anything, human society will do about this apparent threat. The implications are massive; mobilizing to effectively deal with climate change will require rethinking global industrialization, which in turn will substantially alter the global economy and redirect the development of new technologies. All of this will likely alter the global power structure. So, yes, it really is a big deal.

What does climate change mean?

A series of studies over the past few years point, not to just some warming of the world’s atmosphere and oceans, but to fundamental changes in the operation of the earth’s natural systems.

For example, a study on climate change led by Rutgers University scientist Dr. Jennifer Francis reported that large northward bulges in the upper atmospheric jet stream are linked to “extreme weather events, such as the severe cold spells in the northern hemisphere this winter (2015), the enduring drought in the west, and major storms like Hurricane Sandy in 2012.” Overall there appears to be a slowing and meandering of the jet stream, which means a disruption of normal weather patterns.

We’re also seeing changes to the currents in the world’s oceans. A Washington Post article published in March 2015 reported that “according to a new study just out in Nature Climate Change, . . . we’re now seeing a slowdown of the great ocean circulation that, among other planetary roles, helps to partly drive the Gulf Stream off the US East Coast. The consequences could be dire—including significant extra sea level rise for coastal cities like New York and Boston.”

There’s also an astonishing loss of sea ice and land ice in the Arctic. This drives a whole series of changes, such as extended heat waves and droughts in the Northern Hemisphere and decreasing rain in the mid-latitude, which is where much of the farmland is located. And all these changes are accelerating. The results are powerful: increased drying and subsequent fires and significantly decreased food security, especially in the underdeveloped parts of the world.

So we can define climate change as the widespread and accelerating decay in the earth’s natural systems. But that’s not a complete definition because it fails to include impacts on human society. Fortunately, a great deal of highly credible analysis on this point has been done by threat analysis think tanks—quiet organizations that usually do all their work for various agencies of the United States government. One such organization is the large and influential Center for Naval Analysis Corporation (CNA), which has a military advisory board made up of a number of retired generals and admirals. This board regularly engages in threat analysis, including climate change threat analysis.

Thus far this board has released two nonclassified reports on the emerging and accelerating threat of climate change. These reports warn of a significant increase in global instability and conflict because of threats to food and water supplies for a fairly large portion of the world’s population. As to the seriousness of global problems that result from climate change, the board stated that “we have addressed many national security challenges, from containment and deterrence of the Soviet nuclear threat during the Cold War to political extremism and transnational terrorism in recent years. The national security risks of projected climate change are as serious as any challenges we have faced” (emphasis supplied).

Some think tanks, such as the New England Complex Studies Institute (NECSI), argue that we are well into the era of conflict that results from climate change because of food insecurity and the destabilizing effect of food price spikes on fragile, Third World societies.

There are also organizations that focus on the effect that climate change is having on the health of our human society. They tell us to expect the global incidence of disease to increase significantly. An article in Scientific American lists 12 diseases that climate change may worsen. Among these are cholera, Ebola, Lyme disease, sleeping sickness, tuberculosis, and yellow fever.

With all this in mind, our definition of climate change might read, the widespread and accelerating decay in the earth’s natural systems that profoundly threatens human society by causing conflict, hunger, disease, and increases in natural disasters.

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