200+ US evangelical scientists call on Congress to act on climate change.  This is what they say in the opening paragraph

As evangelical scientists and academics, we understand climate change is real and action is urgently needed. All of God’s Creation – humans and our environment – is groaning under the weight of our uncontrolled use of fossil fuels, bringing on a warming planet, melting ice, and rising seas. The negative consequences and burdens of a changing climate will fall disproportionately on those whom Jesus called “the least of these”: the poor, vulnerable, and oppressed. Our nation has entrusted you with political power; we plead with you to lead on this issue and enact policies this year that will protect our climate and help us all to be better stewards of Creation.

Here is a copy of the full letter together with the list of signatories, which includes very prominent climate scientists, such as Tom Ackerman and Katherine Hayhoe.

Hayhoe’s work has been shared here before (see blog post An Evangelical Climate Scientist), but Ackerman has also written and spoken on his perspective as a climate scientist and an evangelical Christian (see webpage).  His views are outlined in the paper

T. Ackerman. Global Warming: Scientific Basis and Christian Responses. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, 59, 250-264, 2007.

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The other day I read an article from rejectapathy.com that asks: Does the Church need to become more unified in the fight against climate change?  They answer yes and you can read the full piece here.  I was particularly struck by a biblical analogy to our current inaction in responding to climate change and the prevailing attitude that says or implies we don’t need to worry because “at least it won’t happen in my lifetime”.  The analogy is with Hezekiah’s reaction to being told that his children would be taken into exile:

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: A time is coming when everything in your palace which your ancestors have stored up to this day will be carried off to Babylon; nothing will remain behind, said the LORD. And some of your sons, your own issue, whom you will have fathered, will be taken to serve as eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon.”  Hezekiah declared to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.”  For he thought, “It means that safety is assured for my time.”  2 Kings 20: 16-19 (JPS)

Well today sees Rick Santorum finally calling an end to his bid to become the Republican nomination for US president. I’ve been meaning to blog about his views on climate change for a while so hear goes.  Santorum went further than all the Republican candidates who ran for the presidental nomination, the vast majority have stated that the science on climate change is unsettled.  However, Satorum goes further and says climate change is “an absolute travesty of scientific research …”.  Indeed he has called Obama’s theology phony and not based on the bible because he sides with radical environmentalists!  For reporting on this Bible-tinged climate change denial see this article.

Unfortunately the Christian theology of “dominion” has and still is contributing to environmental degradation.  You can read my own views on the use of dominion in Genesis 1 here.  The Bible actually says is that the Earth is not ours to use and misuse as we please, but

“The Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it” (Psalm 24:1)

According to recent polls evangelical Christians are the least likely to agree that humans play a role in climate change and also the most likely to indicate that there is no scientific proof that climate change exists.  Yet, some scientists and Christians are suggesting that this has nothing to do with theology, and more to do with political science.  Environmental issues are often seen as liberal agenda items and many conservative information sources present climate change as a theory rather than scientific fact.  A recent study stated that views were strongly partisan, with 78% of Democrats believing in climate change and only 47% of Republicans.  Although, I have heard of a study that shows that the carbon footprints of Democrats and Republicans are no different, in other words whatever you believe people are not doing anything about it! Incidentally I also heard that this is true of climate scientist themselves who have the highest carbon footprints of any discipline.

Here is a neat little animation that illustrates the time history of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) from 800,000 years ago until January, 2011.

The animation begins with the CO2 variability (based on direct measurements from key observation sites) from January 1979 until January 2011.  There are several patterns that are worth noting, firstly the relentless upward trend of the globally averaged carbon dioxide concentration beginning in January 1979 at 336 ppm (parts per million) and ending with a concentration of 391 ppm, the average in January 2011.  Strong inter-annual variability are also evident, particularly in the northern hemisphere – we are essentially seeing the Earth’s breathing pattern!  Fluctuations follow the growing season, peaking in spring with widespread plant greening and minimizing in autumn when biomass is greatest.  During the growing season photosynthesizing plants suck up CO2 whereas during the colder part of the year respiration dominates – plants and animals exhale CO2.  As shown on the graph these fluctuations are far greater in the northern hemisphere than the southern hemisphere (where land area and vegetation cover is much smaller in comparison).

To go back further in time from the preindustrial era to 800,000 years ago requires the careful analyse of ancient air trapped in ice-cores drilled from Greenland and Antarctica.  (Blog posts on detecting past climate information from ice-cores can be read here and here).  Long timescale variability reveals cycles of ~41000 years and ~100000 years, which mark the intervals of glaciations.

Finally, the data clearly shows that current concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide are at levels not seen in the last 800 thousand years (and actually most likely not even the past 20 million years).  This rapid rise of atmospheric CO2 to such heightened levels is worrying for our planet and those who (will) live on it.

A major international conference (Planet Under Pressure) is currently underway in London.  The conference has commissioned this 3 minute film, a journey through the last 250 years of history charting the growth of humanity and how we are transforming the planet.

An accompanying website www.anthropocene.info seems to have a very good collection of resources on this topic.

Operation Noah (a UK-based organisation) has released an Ash Wednesday Declaration on Climate Change and the Church.  I’ve signed it so I thought I would share it with you and perhaps you may see fit to sign it as well.

 

Here’s an interesting analogy to explain the differences between weather and climate, it’s taken from the Norwegian TV series Siffer.

The video was featured in a recent New York Times blog Can Better Communication of Climate Science Cut Climate Risks? by Andrew Revkin.  The communication of climate science for public consumption remains a major task, especially in light of current political inaction.  A recent (Jan 2012) editorial in Nature urges Scientists to Reach Out about Climate stating:

 “… scientists and their organizations need to do more to help citizens engage with the issues and not be misled by travesties of the evidence.”

Climate communication outreach projects such as the website http://climatecommunication.org/ have some great resources.