Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Global Warming

"The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences." - Winston Churchill, 1936

In his recent movie, An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore borrows this quote in which Churchill was referring to another looming crisis of our modern era, and applies it to the situation we now find ourselves in regarding global warming. You may remember that several months ago I posted my friend's review of the movie. Well, I just got the DVD myself as a present and had a chance to watch it the other day. While I already knew most of the facts presented, to see them illustrated with graphs and photos and hard evidence still just blew me away. Global warming is no longer just a theory, or a down-the-road possibility - it is a reality. We are already seeing the effects - from receding glaciers, to dried up lakes, to massive hurricanes.

In the past, for some inexplicable reason, this issue had gotten politicized into a liberal-conservative debate, with conservatives trying to deny that global warming even exists (or if it does, that it is just a natural cycle). While that opinion still exists, it is a rapidly diminishing minority. The vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is real, it’s already happening, and that it is the result of our activities and not a natural occurrence. The evidence is overwhelming and undeniable. The question is not whether it is happening (the answer is yes) or whether we've caused it (again, yes), the question is what are we now going to do about it.

I'm glad to say that these days even conservative evangelical leaders are waking up to the urgency of this global crisis. This past year dozens of prominent evangelical leaders signed their names to the Evangelical Climate Initiative, affirming the following four statements:
  1. Human-induced climate change is real
  2. The consequences of climate change will be significant, and will hit the poor the hardest
  3. Christian moral convictions demand our response to the climate change problem
  4. The need to act now is urgent. Governments, businesses, churches, and individuals all have a role to play in addressing climate change — starting now.
It was the second of these statements that struck me the most when I saw the movie. It might be easy to see pictures of receding glaciers and shrinking lakes and think "So what? No big deal." But when you start to think about the human impact these changes are having, especially on the poorest members of the human family, suddenly it's more than just an environmental issue, it's a justice issue.

For instance, the receding glaciers in the Himalayas provide water for nearly 40% of the world's population, mostly in the developing world. If these glaciers disappear, there will be massive drought and water shortages across most of southern and eastern Asia.

And Lake Chad is right next door to Darfur, and has supplied water to that region for centuries. It is no coincidence that a region facing such dramatic climate change and the resulting resource shortages, is also plagued by ongoing war and genocide.

And I shouldn't even have to mention the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the poor and marginalized of our own society. Katrina was as massive as it was in part because the Gulf of Mexico is a lot warmer than it used to be - and warm oceans produce big hurricanes.

That's what I think a lot of people, Christian or otherwise, don't realize: caring for the environment isn't just for nature lovers and tree huggers. Caring for the environment is about caring for the least of these - for it is always the poor who suffer the most when we trash the natural wealth of Creation which God has given as a gift to all people - both rich and poor.

This global climate crisis is not something that can wait. We have to do something now. According to many scientists, we have less than 10 years before we start to see cataclysmic changes in the earth's climate. So what can we do? First, see the movie, if you haven't already. (If you live in my area, the Congregational Church out here in Yorkville is hosting a showing of it on February 18 that our church will also be attending.)

Second, spread the word. Host a showing of your own. Talk about it with other people. Write to your congressmen or women. Tell them that you care and you want them to do something about it. (They could start by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol and repealing the grossly mis-named Clear Skies Act.) Personally, I'm working in conjunction with the Kendall Environmental Coalition to put on another Faith & Politics Forum in early March regarding Environmentalism and caring for God's Creation. Again, if you're in our area, come on out and join us for that.

Third, change your own habits to reduce your personal CO2 output. The Inconvenient Truth website has a list of Ten Things to Do to reduce your carbon output. They include:
  1. Using compact fluorescent light bulbs
  2. Driving less
  3. Recycling more
  4. Checking your tires
  5. Using less hot water
  6. Not buying products with lots of packaging
  7. Adjusting the thermostat
  8. Planting a tree
  9. Turning off electronic devices
  10. Sending this list to others. Spreading the word.

If more and more people start to implement even a portion of this list, it could stem the tide and avert disaster. As they say on the website:
There is no doubt we can solve this problem. In fact, we have a moral obligation to do so. Small changes to your daily routine can add up to big differences in helping to stop global warming. The time to come together to solve this problem is now!


posted by Mike Clawson at 7:02 PM | Permalink |


At 1/03/2007 04:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

hey dude, do you have a link for that marc driscoll interview? i cant find it...


At 1/03/2007 09:29:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Hey Matt,
Do you mean the one from Relevant? I don't think they've put it up on their site yet because the issue is still on the racks. Check the Christian book stores. Maybe you can find a copy.

The interview wasn't just with him. They talked to several other Christian leaders, including Rob Bell, Lauren Winner, Erwin McManus, and Frederica Matthews-Green. Most of the rest of them had pretty intelligent things to say.


At 1/04/2007 12:01:00 AM, Blogger JoshuaWatson

Hello, I read your film review/thoughts; and plan on frequenting your site from here on, so I had some comments.
First, I agree with most of what you're saying. I definitely agree that mankind (and especially Americans) need a shift in their energy consumption habits. I also agree that Christians need to be on the forefront in defending and aiding the poor and otherwise marginalized.
However, I think you may be too quick to call global warming a "reality," as I think you called it, based on one viewing of a movie. I am sure that you have done your own independent research to coroborate your beliefs in this matter, but I hardly think that the evidence is conclusive in any direction at this point.
I point this out because so many people that watch "An Inconvenient Truth" come out of it declaring global warming an undeniable fact. Yet readers of Michael Crichton's "State of Fear"--a fiction book that uses (supposedly real, or at least as real as Al Gore's) facts--declare that global warming is merely a myth.
Even scientists--the bastions of modern truth--operate under their own worldviews and follow paradigm shifts. An excellent detailing of this is found in "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by Thomas Kuhn.
I guess I'm just saying that I choose to remain a skeptic. It is unfortunate, as you said, that this has been turned into a political issue, but in the mean time I agree once again that we should err on the side of helping the environment.
But one last thing. It seemed to me that you drew a corollation between climate change and the violence in Darfur and other poor countries. I find this very hard to believe. I know that you're not pinning this violence solely on climate change, but still, this is a rather tenuous connection to be making.
Your sister referred me to this blog, so blame her.

--Joshua Watson


At 1/04/2007 01:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

thanks mike... ill have to pick that up or see if steve (roomate) has the new issue.
btw i think john moreland and i may be starting an uprooted south (or some variation). we met last week, things went well (i think i told you that), and we're planning on meeting in the next few weeks. ill keep ya updated if youd like.


At 1/05/2007 10:45:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Hi Josh, welcome to my blog. I appreciate your comments.

Have you seen the movie? I have heard a few other people also reference Michael Crichton as evidence against global warming, but, while Crichton might tell good stories, they are just that, stories. Fiction. "An Inconvenient Truth" is not. Cricton writes psuedo-science fiction, based on some real facts, with with a lot of fictional overlay and interpretation of those facts for the sake of his story. To compare Crichton's story to the hard data of actual environmental scientists is a little absurd, and perhaps slightly naive.

Skepticism is good, and you're right that scientists also operate with a worldview, but that doesn't mean we should just throw science out the window. What if turn that skepticism the other direction? What is the agenda and motives of those who try to write off global warming as mere "theory"? Were you aware that we have memos that show how opponents of global warming science made a deliberate effort to recast global warming as a "theory" rather than "fact" (their exact words)? What is their worldview (or rather, their financial and political interests) that would lead them to try to undermine near universal scientific consensus?

Again, skepticism is good, but there is no longer a serious scientific debate about global warming. The debate only still exists in the mind of journalists, politicians, and apparently some fiction writers. An independent study surveyed hundreds of news articles about global warming and nearly 50% wrote as if it was in doubt. However, this same study surveyed nearly a thousand recent scientific studies of global warming (10% of the total existing studies - a huge statistical sample!) Do you know how many of those studies concluded that there was any doubt about global warming? 0% - none. To have that much scientific consensus about anything is overwhelming. There is no doubt among scientists about the reality of global warming. Almost every study conducted confirms it. What more evidence are you waiting for?

As for the Darfur connection, I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean about it being a tenuous connection. Obviously people fight about many things, but limited natural resources has to be pretty high on the list as the cause of many conflicts, especially in places like Saharan Africa where resources like water are so scarce. As global warming continues to make such resources increasingly scarce why shouldn't we expect to see a rise in conflicts over control of those remaining resources?

But you don't have to take my word for it. If you haven't seen the movie yet, please do so before you make up your mind. And if that doesn't satisfy you, then research it more thoroughly yourself. There are plenty of resources to be found online.




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