- - Wednesday, December 21, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

CARING FOR CREATION: THE EVANGELICAL‘S GUIDE TO CLIMATE CHANGE AND A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

By Mitch Hescox and Paul Douglas

Bethany House Publishers, $14.99, 192 pages

”Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment” by Evangelical Environmental Network president Rev. Mitch Hescox and broadcast meteorologist Paul Douglas is exceptionally well written and reflective. The book gives compelling arguments overall for attaining and maintaining a healthy environment and for transitioning to cleaner technologies for energy production. I found myself using checkmarks and writing “good advice” and such in the margins frequently. But the admirable goals and practical solutions found in the book are based on a wrong premise, one that is grounded on a belief in anthropogenic climate catastrophe.

“Caring for Creation” proffers many sensible actions to resolve personal and national air and waste issues. Recommendations focus on reduction of food waste, energy efficiency, preparedness for extreme weather events, use of safe, nontoxic cleaning products, boosting investment in basic research, and the like. The authors point out the increasing cost-effectiveness of alternative energy sources, such as from sun, wind and sustainable biomass. In addition, the book encourages more awareness and care for the needs of the community both inside and outside the church walls.

All these recommendations are appropriate for encouraging actions to benefit the earth and its inhabitants. But to promote these on the basis of what the authors identify as “the greatest moral challenge of our time” — man-made climate change — is to do the right thing for the wrong reason. That can lead ultimately to inefficient, ineffective and even harmful, actions.

Make no mistake, global challenges are serious. The authors note that “[a]bout 1.2 billion people have no access to electricity, another 2 billion have only limited electric availability, and approximately 2.6 billion people still use traditional cooking methods, causing 1.5 million deaths per year from indoor air pollution.” Yet, contrary to arguments made or implied in the book, the fastest, most direct and proven way out for those in such energy poverty is the tried and true route of traditional and plentiful fossil fuels.

The authors correctly observe, “God provided all means for abundant life .” However, apparently to climate-crisis advocates, somehow God designed and created an atmosphere that goes haywire when His provision of copious natural resources are extracted and harnessed to advance civilizations and alleviate the suffering of the world’s poorest populations.

Using the authors’ own compassionate advice, “[w]e need to care for the least of these, as the Bible commands us, and stop fearing fear itself.” To me, that entails responsibly accessing and distributing what God has provided in abundance. As the authors continue, “[t]hat’s not to say we ignore safety or health risks. We just put it into perspective .” We learn “to understand and then address the risks.” Good advice.

Most fearful statements on climate conditions and projections may very well originate from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports — the default bible on all things climate. Yet the foundational covenant and goal of the IPCC reports was to assess “the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of the risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation .” Regarding the profusion of research work that seems to fulfill this goal, the authors quote from Upton Sinclair may be appropriate: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Regardless of the recycled, refuted argument cited by the authors that “97 percent of climate experts” agree on a disastrous vision of climate, the science on climate change is definitely not settled. That is why I and about a third of American Meteorological Society membership still have considerable questions about the natural and human contributions to and long-term outlook for Earth’s changing climate.

Solid scientific evidence leads many good, hardworking, knowledgeable, Christian climatologists and meteorologists to doubt the faith so many other Christians have in the prospect of certain climate doom from humans continuing to live comfortably off of fossil fuels.

I have been an atmospheric science practitioner for nearly 40 years. In my specialized field of air-pollution meteorology, I have witnessed too much diversion of time, talent and tax dollars away from more critical conditions adversely affecting the atmosphere and public health, like hazardous air pollutants, and toward dubious causes like assailing “carbon pollution” for its supposed outsized control of climate change. Although discouraged at times, I take heart that future climate conditions will continue to unfold contrary to the dire predictions proffered by doomsayers (conditions like climate-prediction models overstating actual planetary warming by a factor of two, and the substantially reduced number and severity of land-falling U.S. hurricanes for more than a decade). Once again, quoting the book, I acknowledge that “God is in charge. Without the hope of faith, I would be despondent.”

I trust that more reasonable dialogue and wider science-based perspective will prevail in the near future on the important climate issue. But to get Christians and non-Christians alike to understand that God’s glorious plan for people and the planet is far beyond the reach of climate-change activism (or activism for any other cause), may truly be “the greatest moral challenge of our time.”

Anthony J. Sadar is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist and author of In Global Warming We Trust: Too Big to Fail (Stairway Press, 2016).

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