Denying Climate Change is Stupid

How can people can still deny climate change and humanity’s culpability for it? Why are Christians so heavily represented in that group of denialists? There is no legitimate debate over what is happening. The greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, a has increased exponentially in our atmosphere over the last 200 years to almost 400 parts per million, a level not recorded since at least 400,000 years ago. There is only one viable explanation for these elevated levels: human activities. Simultaneously, our planet’s carbon-sinks, or those features like healthy oceans and rain forests that absorb carbon dioxide, have been polluted, deforested and generally damaged at an unprecedented rate and scale (also by human activities). The only things we don’t know about climate change are: 1) how quick and disruptive the effects will be, and 2) what, if anything, humans are going to do about the problem they created.Image

In a particularly troubling move, I have noticed that those who have long rejected science (at least when it suits their political allegiances) have jumped from denying climate change altogether to claiming that there’s nothing we can do about it now, so don’t bother trying. It is pretty clear that these folks’ pretext has ALWAYS been: We’re never going to do anything about climate change, and we’ll find whatever excuse is most convenient to avoid taking any responsible action on it. 

Even more troubling is that some of my fellow Christians deny science and refuse to support action on climate change because they’ve allowed it to be dictated in political terms. Since Democrats (in general) accept the reality of what our atmosphere and science is telling us about climate change, and Republicans (in general) deny it, respective supporters of these political parties often fall in-line with those partisan positions. This isn’t unique. It happens all the time, but the atmosphere (and science) don’t give a damn about our political or religious beliefs. We desperately need a reality check. We cannot continue to plod along blindly because of our political dogma.

What About God?

Speaking of dogma, can we talk about some of the wacky religious ideology on this issue? Perhaps it would be more accurate for me to say, “the wacky dogma of some religious people.” It’s a subtle but important difference. What I mean is that we don’t have to look too far to find some Christians professing faith that God won’t let humans wreak havoc on the climate. In a not-too-distant disagreement with one of my old friends from elementary school, he vehemently denied climate change (because he couldn’t see it with his own eyes), and subtly accused me of some type of apostasy when he asked me, “Are you going to believe man, or God on this issue?!?!

I didn’t realize God had spoken on climate change. Oh. Wait. He didn’t. I don’t precisely know where this “logic” comes from, but it’s not the Bible. I suspect it’s linked to the belief that only God will destroy the Earth/ Universe, but this fails to be applicable to climate change.1  Let’s not blow things out of proportion. Climate change won’t destroy the celestial mass we call Earth, nor the universe. However, it will accelerate the already-happening mass extinction rate on Earth, as well as general destruction of natural habitat, biodiversity, and stable sea-levels. Climate change will also aid in the spread of disease, pestilence, forest fires, floods, droughts, and extreme weather in general. It will also disproportionately and negatively affect impoverished individuals and nations who have not the means to relocate or adequately cope with the effects of climate change. Continued belief that God won’t let these sorts of things happen is disconnected from both human history AND Scripture. God seems quite comfortable letting humanity deal with the deadly consequences of its own stupidity. There is no reason to believe this time will be any different.

It All Comes Down to the Dollar (doesn’t it always?)

In one of its oddest forms, anti-climate folks proclaim that climate change is a money making scheme perpetrated by the likes of Al Gore to make money off of gullible types (as if the fossil-fuel industry doesn’t see us as cash-cows and has no interest whatsoever in maintaining our addiction to dirty energy). Right. Even a family member claims that in the 1970’s, “all the scientists were saying the planet was in a horrible cooling period and that we were well on our way into another ice age.” Then the person declares that it was just a money-maker for “those people” and a way to manipulate the political landscape.2  The result is that this anecdote is used as a pretext to dismiss what scientists say about the reality of climate change. Fail.

In its slightly more plausible form, the money argument against taking on climate change is that acting ethically will be expensive and damaging to our oh-so-fragile economy. I understand the sentiment. Transitioning away from dirty fuels and towards alternative, clean renewables certainly comes with a price tag. Nevertheless, this fails to consider that if we screw the climate, our global economy gets screwed too (not to mention your beach house).

The Economics Protest fails to consider the following:

1) The true cost of NOT doing anything to mitigate and reduce climate change is likely to FAR exceed the costs of transitioning away from fossil fuels. We are simply messing with forces we do not understand on an unprecedented scale, the consequences of which are not fully known. The exacerbation of super storm Sandy by climate change/ risen sea levels is but a foretaste of the kind and cost of costal damages that our nation (and world) are in for. Considering that dirty fuels are going to be depleted at some point anyway, transitioning to clean, sustainable alternatives sooner rather than later makes the most sense. It’s not a matter of IF we must transition away from dirty fuels, but when. Citing economics as a reason for refusing to act on climate change is both short-sighted and stupid.

2) Transitioning to alternative, renewable, clean means of power creation/ consumption will mean the exponential and sustainable growth of new jobs and industries. The first nation(s) to make this transition and sell it to others will be a global game-changer. Transitioning away from fossil fuels like oil will also put many nations and groups who hate the United States out of business. Believing that transitioning to clean, renewable power will cost us jobs and security is plainly wrong.

And please, for the love of God, stop throwing Solyndra into this argument. Using that failed solar company to try and make a point is like saying that we should have given up flight after the first few attempts to build airplanes came to nothing. Or that we should have given up fighting polio when the first efforts at inoculation foundered. Or the moon. Or the computer. Or…  I think you get the idea.

3) Finally, and with particular regard to Christians, it ought to be considered that, as per the Bible, God cares infinitely more about his creatures (all of creation) than he does about fickle human wealth and political allegiances. If we were to ask Christ, “What should we focus on, economic development that permanently damages creation OR a sustainable economy that seeks balance between human activities and the rest of his creation?” I think we can predict what he would say and all the more so when we consider that our present economic system (here’s looking at you, capitalism) favors the wealthy at the expense, subjugation, and desolation of impoverished nations and people. Favoring destructive environmental practices for micro-term wealth creation is not just stupid, it’s unChristian.

I could go on, but it’s unnecessary. Chances are that if you understand the reality and threat of climate change, you don’t need me to tell you about it. Similarly, if you deny the reality of climate change, you probably wouldn’t read this blog-post in the first place. I hope I am wrong on both counts, but even if I’m not, I hope whoever reads this found some part of it helpful or at least mildly interesting.

Thanks for reading me,

-Lambeth

1: The popular Christian conception that the entire cosmos will ultimately be destroyed by fire is grounded in a particular interpretation of 2Peter 3:10-12. All too often, the resulting attitude is that we shouldn’t be so concerned with conservation or limiting our destructive activities because it’s all going to burn anyway. This is stupid. Even if this interpretation of the verse were accurate (and there is reason to believe that it is not), we simply have no idea when Christ will return. To use an analogy, sound financial planning posits that retirement be constructed to reduce the possibility of running deficits before a person’s body becomes worm food. From a self-preservation and care-for-our-progeny perspective, I think we should at least consider treating our planet in the same way until the truly unpredictable moment of THE END. Put another way, when we consider that we have no idea when history will end, we had better take care of what we have for as long as we can.

2: A Brief Review of the peripheral 70’s cooling fear can be found here: http://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2014/01/the_myth_of_the_global_cooling_consensus.html

And just for a little extra reading: Climate Change Skeptic Sees the Light, Changes Mind

-CL

This post was last edited on 12/31/14.

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About C_Lambeth

I currently live in the Pacific Northwest. I graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor's of Science and from George Fox Seminary (now Portland Seminary) with a Master's of Divinity. In addition to knowing Christ and helping others know him, I am passionate about peace, the environment, Christian feminism, justice for all (not just the wealthy) and being a lifelong learner. Please feel free to comment on any of the posts here or to suggest new posts altogether. Thank you for reading me! -CL
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5 Responses to Denying Climate Change is Stupid

  1. C_Lambeth says:

    For the record, I do not think people who deny climate change are necessarily stupid and unChristian. It is their reasons for denying it that I have a problem with. Denying science because it is perceived as some sort of political threat is offensive and all the more so when such denial entails a serious threat to the world that my children (and others’ children) will have to live in.

    This isn’t some idle philosophical issue. Taking care of others (our neighbors in Jesus’ language) is a core part of what it means to be a Christian, and that necessarily includes the environment that our neighbors (and ourselves) depend on for life and vitality. It also includes being good stewards for the non-human components of creation. Unbridled, human-caused climate change threatens all of these things. We have to take it seriously if we call ourselves Christians.

    -CL

  2. C_Lambeth says:

    PS: We are more than 30 years on when it comes to awareness (even among oil companies) that climate change is real and human-caused. How long until all the holdout political conservatives and evangelical Christians come to terms with reality?

  3. C_Lambeth says:

    Recently ExxonMobile experienced a document leak that exposed internal memos revealing a coordinated, decades-long deception campaign to deny climate change and misinform the public.

    If there was ever any doubt about the oil industry’s guilt and disgusting efforts at protecting their business at the expense of everyone else, it has since been removed (if we have the guts to look).

    All 330 pages of the leaked documents, organized into seven dossiers, can be found at this link:
    http://www.ucsusa.org/decadesofdeception

  4. Dustan Moss says:

    Different opinion. If climate change does not happen naturally how do you explain the ice age? Yes there needs to be restrictions on what we put into the atmosphere, and should find cleaner energy, but climate change does happen naturally as well.

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Everyone is free to have their opinions, but they are not free to have their own facts. No one is saying that the basic greenhouse effect our planet has is not natural, Dustan. There is absolutely no debate over whether or not the greenhouse effect is real or that carbon dioxide is a key part of that. Of ourse some of the greenhouse effect is a natural temperature regulating feature of our planet, but the greenhouse effect is not the same thing as climate change. They are related but absolutely not the same.

      Climate change is directly connected to the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere which are at levels that have not been present on Earth for more than 400,000 years. Our climate is destabilizing at an unprecedented rate, and that, short of a meteor, is not something that occurs so quickly on its own. There is only one explanation for it. It isn’t volcanoes or solar activity, the latter doesn’t produce any CO2 anyway. No, the levels we are seeing aren’t part of the natural cycle at all. They are the result of the copious amounts of CO2 that human activities are pumping into the atmosphere while at the same time reducing or destroying natural carbon-sinks (like rainforests, boreal forests and coral reefs, etc). This is as well documented as it can be. There is no real debate about human-caused climate change outside of batshit bloggers, American culture, and politics. Reality doesn’t care about political ideology. We also seem to thrive on the annoying and ridiculous fallacy of false equivalency, or the practice of presenting differing views as being equally valid sides of an argument, even if one side is objectively true and the others are not. And this feeds right back in to a political agenda that wants to create doubt about climate change where none exists. Human-caused climate change is a fact and it’s one that we need to take serious action on and soon. Ok, done preaching. If you want to fact-check a few of my claims, here’s some data from that crazy propaganda machine that goes by the name NASA: http://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/

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