End Times: Scripture vs. Climate

The mainstream press has not yet picked up on the most pressing issue of our time, which is rapid warming of the Arctic with a consequent colossal release of methane into the atmosphere, threatening an extinction event. On the other hand, the press has no problem castigating Iran and North Korea for going nuclear!

The warming Arctic is clearly the single most threatening event in human history, much more so than Iran and North Korea, as detailed by the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG), a hard core group of the world’s most accomplished climate scientists whose initial public assessment headlined as follows: “Could the World be in Imminent Danger and Nobody is Telling?”, which expression references the following: (1) the serious warming and ice loss of the Arctic, (2) extensive release of methane into the atmosphere, (3) concern that this massive release of methane may trigger runaway global warming, and (4) fear of the onset of an extinction event. In summary, somewhere between points (3) and (4), the ‘event’ is comparable to the Titanic hitting the iceberg.

Not only has the mainstream press not picked up on the gravity of this massive release of methane, America’s political constituents are largely blind to the threat. In this regard, skeptics and quasi-skeptics who rely upon tokenistic articles, lame news reporting, and fierce opposition from within Republican ranks vastly outnumber environmentalists who have taken the time to study the issue in-depth.

Meanwhile, an extinction event may be brewing up north and nothing is being done about it. Still, if the political will were there, AMEG has some ideas that might help.

Scripture

It was two thousand (2,000) years ago when the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth asked him the big question: “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3, King James Version)

Jesus responded to his disciples by first warning of imposters, religious teachers who claim to represent Him but actually deceivers who practice false Christianity. Additionally, he spoke of many wars, conflicts between nations and ethnic groups, and he spoke about famines, disease epidemics, and earthquakes.

Jesus said it would be impossible to calculate End Times ahead of time. Rather, it was imperative that humankind prepare, and according to Peter the Apostle: People need to turn from their own sinful, selfish ways and to seek God’s ways – and to be baptized (Acts 2:38) At his second coming Christ will reward those who do so.

Climate Change Skepticism is Pervasive

As time turns, and as of today, it is astonishing that the belief in biblical End Times is a significant factor behind staunch opposition to the necessity to curb climate change.

This stiff resistance is the subject of a scholarly article by David C. Barker, Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh) and David H. Bearce, Ph.D. (University of Colorado) “End-Times Theology, the Shadow of the Future, and Public Resistance to Addressing Global Climate Change,”1 which states: “The fact that such an overwhelming percentage of Republican citizens profess a belief in the Second Coming (76 percent, according to our sample) suggests that government attempts to curb greenhouse emissions would encounter stiff resistance even if every Democrat in the country wanted to curb them.”

Likewise, and lending powerful top-level political support to this alliance of resistance, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, declared: “The Earth will end only when God declares it to be over.”

Adding further depth, and complexity, to the issue, according to a survey, as of December 2012, by the Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with the Religion News Service, forty percent (40%) of Americans blame End Times for the severity of the weather and natural disasters of 2012, e.g., Hurricane Sandy, extreme heat, and the worst drought since 1950. As a consequence, and according to the Second Coming school of thought, End Times is not a human affair. Thus, there is nothing that can be done about it.

Whether these ardent believers of religious prophecy are ultimately correct is not as important as their current threat to modern day society. They are entitled to believe End Times is only the handiwork of God as much as believers of climate change believe an extinction event may occur because of human-made interference with climate. And, this is precisely what makes the world-go-round.

Regardless of whomever may be right, the evidence of human-induced radical climate change is indisputable and must be dealt with, prophecy or no prophecy. This article will delineate a sampling of some of the scientific evidence of radical climate change.

Garden-Variety Journalism Undermines the Issue

As well, an equally disturbing part of the climate change puzzle is the severe damage to efforts to halt climate change caused by journalists who opt for the safe middle road by discounting its dangers. This, in turn, provides a tremendous boost to the influence of the Second Coming crowd by enhancing the numbers of skeptics and quasi-skeptics.

Along these lines, prominent articles published in popular mainstream journalistic magazines that take a middling stance on the issue blunt the arguments of climate change proponents. In fact, a case can be made that middle-of-the-road journalism hurts the climate change issue more so than do the outright skeptics. At the least, their position is known. Whereas, middle-of-road, indecisive positions actually lean towards skepticism if only because ‘not being sure’ is synonymous with ‘I really don’t believe it is a problem’.

For example, Matt Ridley’s “Apocalypse Not: Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry about End Times,”2 is typical of articles that blunt the climate change issue by first, detailing prophecies over the past decades as demonstrative of the fallacies perpetrated upon the public. As for one example, quasi-religious zealotry predictions like the Mayan calendar fiasco gone wrong in December 2012. As well, books like Silent Spring (50 years ago), claiming synthetic pesticides cause human cancer resulted in hysteria, and Ridley’s article goes on to explain how the pesticide concern shifted in the 1970s to air pollution hysteria, predicting that urban dwellers would have to wear gas masks by 1985, and then, in the 1980s the alarm shifted to acid rain, and Ridley goes on to say, “…repeatedly throughout the past five decades, the imminent advent of a new pandemic has been foretold” Ibid.

Ridley’s central thesis is that threatened “eco-pocalypses” have not played out as predicted. Some were only partly true, some were averted by innovative corrective action, and many were wholly chimerical.

As such, Ridley concludes: “In the climate debate, we hear a lot from those who think disaster is inexorable if not inevitable, and a lot from those who think it is all a hoax. We hardly ever allow the moderate “lukewarmers” a voice: those who suspect that the net positive feedbacks from water vapor in the atmosphere are low, so that we face only 1 to 2 degrees Celsius of warming this century; that the Greenland ice sheet may melt but no faster than its current rate of less than 1 percent per century; that net increases in rainfall (and carbon dioxide concentration) may improve agricultural productivity; that ecosystems have survived sudden temperature lurches before; and that adaptation to gradual change may be both cheaper and less ecologically damaging than a rapid and brutal decision to give up fossil fuels cold turkey.”

The problem with Mr. Ridley’s thesis, aside from factual errors, is that it puts the reader in a comfort zone, not to worry, things always work out just fine because of human ingenuity or because of phony signals from extremists. In turn, his article motivates additional people, who are borderline skeptics, not to support the aggressive action needed to halt radical climate change and the consequent threat of an extinction event.

Ridley’s article is solid in many respects, and yes, there have been numerous instances where alarmists were proven wrong; however, because the evidence of radical climate change is so overwhelming today, it is patently dangerous to assume the nonchalance of Ridley’s article. Unfortunately, this attitude is found in almost all mainstream publications. This feeds into the hands of skeptics, and Mr. Ridley’s article is decidedly skeptical in content, and in conclusion. It’s better to say nothing, especially when you’ve got the facts wrong.

Climate Change Threatens an Extinction Event

Frankly, there is no middle ground with climate change as it stands today. Here’s why: The following questions about climate change expose the potency of the problem:

Why are the glaciers of the world melting like there is no tomorrow?

The Columbia glacier in Alaska has retreated 13 miles up the fjord over the past 30 years, and the melt is accelerating. As well, Chinese scientists have measured Tibetan glacial melt, and they are taken aback by the extent of the loss because these glaciers feed major commercial waterways and provide irrigation for 80% of China’s crops.3 And, the Andes has lost one-half its glaciers over the past 30 years.4 And, on it goes around the world; after all, the “Iceman” of Europe was discovered because of glacial melt.

What’s behind the ice shrinkage and rapid temperature rise of the polar ice cap?

The Arctic ice mass has shrunk by more than one-half over the past 30 years, and temperatures in the Arctic are increasing 2-3 times faster than elsewhere on the planet. The source of this potentially devastating problem originated over 30 years ago from warm ocean currents as a result of global warming.5

Why is methane, which has been trapped in hydrates and permafrost for millennia, only now spewing into the atmosphere like never before?

Russian and U.S. joint scientific research teams have measured the massive release of methane, CH4, from the melting Arctic; surveys found methane plumes more that one-half mile wide coming to surface with 100 times the CH4 concentration of previous measurements, enough to raise immediate concerns about the onset of runaway global warming leading to an extinction event (source: International Arctic Research Centre at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.)

Why is the entire surface area of Greenland turning to slush during summer months for the first time in recorded history?

According to NASA and European Space Agency scientists, “… the pace of ice loss from Greenland is extraordinary, with nearly a five-fold increase since the mid 1990s.”6 And, Greenland’s average temperature has risen by 5 F.

Why is acidification of the oceans happening ten (10) times faster than at any other time in recorded history?

According to Dr. Andy Ridgwell, University of Bristol, School of Geographical Sciences, this is the result of excessive CO2 absorbed into the oceans. The aftereffect is a measurable loss of marine skeletal structure, including loss of the basic building blocks for the ocean’s reefs, home to nine million species. According to Dr. Alex Rogers, Scientific Director of the International Programme on the State of the Ocean, “I think if we continue on the current trajectory, we are looking at a mass extinction of marine species… by the end of the century.”7

Why is the amount of methane in the atmosphere extraordinarily high at 1,874 parts per billion?

This is more than twice the level of any time over the past 400,000 years. Based upon scientific studies, methane levels have run between 300-400 ppb during glacial periods and 600-700 ppb during warm interglacial periods.8

Why has CO2 risen to levels (400 ppm) last experienced millions of years ago?

Studies show that it normally takes about 10,000 years to change the concentration of carbon dioxide by 100 ppm. Based upon the current rate, we are doing it in 30 years.9 As a result, the world is already in the preliminary stages of a danger zone of runaway global warming.

What is influencing the atmospheric jet streams and causing an outbreak of embedded droughts, as well as torrential downpours, throughout the Northern Hemisphere these past years?

For example, a couple of years ago, for 35 days straight Pakistan was flooded as Russia baked, resulting in over 50,000 climate-related deaths (mostly Russians.) As a cause, scientists have discovered that the warming Arctic alters/distorts jet streams, causing adverse embedded climate conditions throughout the Northern Hemisphere.10

Ridley suggests additional rainfall and moderate levels of CO2 may help crops grow.

On the contrary, climate change is causing the worst drought conditions in a lifetime all across the planet because of a warming Arctic impacting/distorting the jet streams. Russia has been hit hard by drought (twice w/i four years.) India has been hit hard. The Middle East has been hit hard. China has been hit hard. The U.S. has been hit hard.11

The evidence is overwhelming that, coincident with the onset of the industrial revolution, the planet increasingly, and now at the fastest rate ever, suffers from abnormal climate change, but what does the Bible say about the environment and climate?

The Green Bible

According to Dr. Jim Denison,12 “Genesis 2 is God’s commentary on Genesis 1: ‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it’ (v.15). ‘Take care of it’ (shamar) is literally ‘guard’ in the Hebrew; the word means to superintend and protect in all ways.”

As follows, it is puzzling as to how and why the faithful believe End Times is entirely in the hands of God, and yet, at the same time, God’s people do not follow his words to “Take care of it.” But, what if God’s End Times is conditional upon how his people “Take care of it”? If this is true, then disruptive climate change at the hands of humankind is surely to hasten End Times one way or the other. This is a difficult and complex situation without an end in sight… but maybe not. What if God’s people husband the planet? “Take care of it,” as instructed by God. Then what?

As follows, if God’s people correct their errors by ‘caring for the planet’ and converting from fossil fuels to renewable fuel sources, as quickly as humanly possible, plus take corrective action as suggested by top climate scientists like the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, then, maybe, End Times will not be hastened.

As such, the fate of the climate is in the hands of politicians, not God.

God did not cause excessive quantities of CO2 and CH4 to emit into the atmosphere. Assuredly, God is too enlightened to carry out such a feat!

  1. In Political Science Quarterly, June 2013. []
  2. Wired, August 17, 2012. []
  3. Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Tibetan Research in Beijing. []
  4. Source: Dr. Edson Ramirez, Universidad Mayor de San Andres and the World Bank. []
  5. Source: Arctic Methane Emergency Group. []
  6. Alan Buls, “Ice Sheet Loss at Both Poles Increasing, Study Finds,” Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, Nov, 29, 2012. []
  7. OneWorld Video (UK), August 2011. []
  8. Source: U.S. Dept. of Energy, Office of Science. []
  9. Source: David Wasdell, International Coordinator, Meridian Programme and Member Arctic Methane Emergency Group, 2013. []
  10. Source: Joint Study – Rutgers University and University of Wisconsin and separate study at UCLA. []
  11. Source: Earth Policy Institute. []
  12. Is God Green? Climate Change and the Scriptures, Center for Informed Faith, 2009. []

Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide, like Z magazine, European Project on Ocean Acidification, Ecosocialism Canada, Climate Himalaya, Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Comite Valmy, and UK Progressive. He has been interviewed about climate change on Pacifica Radio, KPFK, FM90.7, Indymedia On Air and World View Show/UK. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.