• sunset

    FAITH ... And God saw all that he had made ....

  • glacier

    SCIENCE ... and behold, it was very good.

  • girl-holding-hand

    JUSTICE ... As you did for the least of these brothers of mine...

  • people-holding-buckets

    ACTION ... you did it for me.

  • banana-leaf

    RESOURCES ... books, videos and online tools for earthkeepers

I know, I know. Donald Trump once claimed that climate change was a hoax developed by the Chinese to scam American manufacturers. But come on. He recently argued that his Scottish golf course needed a sea wall to protect it from rising seas due to climate change. In the end, we assumed, he’s not insane, and would not sacrifice our children’s future on the altar of climate denial.

But Wow! Have you seen all the nutso climate stuff he’s put out for years now? I’m beginning to think he actually believes what he says. The League of Conservation Voters has assembled a list of his climate pronouncements and Tweets, and it’s terrifying reading from someone who is that close to the Oval Office.

Consider this little one: On New Year’s Day 2014, Trump tweeted: “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.”

So, according to Trump. global warming was “bullshit.” Where did he get that? Well, for the record, 2014 turns out to have been an all-time record hot year for the planet, a record broken only 12 months later by 2015.

2013, which is probably what Trump was thinking of, was among the top five hottest years on the global record. But it was downright chilly in New York on that New Year’s Day. It’s cold! Right here. Right now. So global warming science must be “bullshit.” Who needs the scientists when you can take the escalator down, step out onto 5th Avenue and see for yourself?

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Trump has sworn to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement endorsed by all the world’s nations. He would renegotiate it “at a minimum,” even though the entire thing was made voluntary so that the U.S. Congress couldn’t kill it. American military planners should not be allowed to plan for climate threats, even though all naval bases are threatened by rising sea levels.

In the waning days of 2015, he told a campaign rally: “It’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a money-making industry, okay? It’s a hoax.” Three months earlier he told the Wall Street Journal “I don’t believe in climate change.” He criticized Pope Francis for warning the world about climate risks. “Where the hell is GLOBAL WARMING?” he tweeted on a cold winter day in 2015.

The U.S. Senate is about half full of people so addicted to oil money that they block climate action at every opportunity. What if they had someone with this mindset in the White House?

Reader’s Poll: What January’s Record NYC Snowstorm Tells Us

During the three days from January 22nd to the 24th, a mammoth blizzard paralyzed New York City with 27.5 inches of snowfall – the city’s biggest snowstorm since record-keeping began in 1869.1171676_630x354

Beloved Planet wants to know what you think about this. Please choose the answer that most closely reflects your response to this news:

  • Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe and his Congressional allies are right in dismissing climate change as “a massive hoax” perpetrated by greedy scientists getting richer and richer.
  • NASA, NOAA and the EPA are right in stating that “as temperatures rise and the air becomes warmer, more moisture evaporates  into the atmosphere. More moisture in the air means we can expect more rain and snow.”
  • Yet another example of President Obama’s feckless leadership. Thanks Obama!
  • The square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.
  • It’s mainly Elsa’s fault, with all that stuff about “I don’t care what they’re going to say. Let the storm rage on ….”

Coal is Bankrupt: Who’s Left Holding the Bag?

The American coal industry has collapsed. This is not hyperbole.

In the last few years, at least 28 coal companies have gone bankrupt and 264 mines have closed. The suffering extends from the smallest companies to the behemoths. Those that haven’t gone bankrupt are trading at small fractions of their values of just five years ago, when the U.S. Coal Sector Index stood at $481. On Friday, the index closed below $32, a loss of more than 93 percent in value.

Peabody lost almost all its value over five years before bankruptcy

Peabody lost almost all its value over five years before filing bankruptcy

And last week, the largest US coal producer joined the march into bankruptcy court. Peabody Energy, the St. Louis-based coal giant cited “a dramatic drop in the price of metallurgical coal, weakness in the Chinese economy, overproduction of domestic shale gas and ongoing regulatory challenges,” as the reasons for its bankruptcy filing. Peabody joins Arch CoalAlpha Natural Resources, Walter Energy and Patriot Coal among American coal giants that have filed for bankruptcy in recent months.

In 2009, Peabody’s stock traded at $718 per share. Today, you can pick up a share for 73 cents – a loss of 99.9 percent. Too bad for shareholders. Looks like they’ve lost a bundle. But who else is losing? And how did this all happen?

It isn’t the “war on coal”

Did you notice Peabody’s bankruptcy statement? They blamed the drop in coal prices, weakness in the Chinese economy and too much cheap natural gas. Oh, and yes, they threw in “ongoing regulatory challenges” as a fourth culprit – but only after citing the massive structural changes affecting the coal industry. Here’s the most obvious fact: Natural gas, a cleaner substitute for coal, is very, very cheap. Back in 2008, natural gas ticked above $12 per thousand Btu’s (MMBtu). But in Chicago last week, traders bought and sold gas at $1.92 per MMBtu, a small fraction of the price seven years ago. At these prices, almost nobody is building new coal plants when they could generate electricity with gas, solar or wind.

Coal Moratorium

Bankrupt coal companies have left behind enormous reclamation and cleanup liabilities

Sure, you’ll hear candidates for Congress complaining about Obama’s climate initiatives, or EPA regulations. True enough, in the long run, everyone knows that coal will have to start paying its health and environmental costs.

But the politicians seldom mention this fact: The industry is going belly-up BEFORE any of the Administration’s regulatory actions have taken place. The EPA enacted rules a few years ago to make sure coal plants didn’t emit too much mercury pollution that poisons children; but the Supreme Court blocked the rules last year. And the hotly-debated Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of Obama’s climate program, is also on ice, thanks again to the Supreme Court. Even if the EPA gets the green light, no state will have to submit any plans before 2018.

And yet, the coal industry has already fled en masse to the safety of bankruptcy, long before government action will force them to clean up their act.

Then what happened to these guys?

We don’t minimize the collapse of coal and gas prices worldwide, and the virtual disappearance of Chinese demand. But there’s so much more. First, virtually all the big coal miners layered on mountains of debt to finance enormous acquisitions in recent years. Alpha Natural Resources bought rival Massey Energy for $7 billion. Arch Coal bought International Coal for $3.4 billion. Peabody paid $5.1 billion for MacArthur Coal. And Walter Energy bought Western Coal for $3.3 billion. And what did they get from the feeding frenzy? Lots of coal reserves that few people really want these days. But the debts are coming due, and they simply can’t pay.

Second, the coal industry faces structural changes that have sent bankers and investors packing. The sustained glut of natural gas has encouraged utilities to build gas-fired power plants, a move that locks in the natural gas advantage over coal. In 2013, for example, natural gas represented more than 50 percent of new power generating capacity in the United States. Coal accounted for just 11 percent, putting it a distant third, behind solar (22 percent) and only slightly ahead of wind (8 percent).

Natural gas prices continue to fall, undermining coal markets

Natural gas prices continue to fall, undermining coal markets

And even though coal still has the lion’s share of overall electric generating capacity, U.S. coal-fired power plants are aging, and many are nearing the end of their useful lives. Without new plants, coal demand is destined to plummet. And there are very few new plants.

Third, these changes pale in comparison to the sea change in public thinking. Whether it’s mercury, or greenhouse gases, or sulfur oxides or acid runoff, the American public is waking up to the reality that coal pollution is too expensive for the public to bear in the name of private profits. Whether or not the Clean Power Plan or EPA mercury regulations survive in their current form, no serious observer can imagine a future in which coal plants pollute the world and jeopardize its climate systems, all for the sake of their own profits. In fact, the whole world has confirmed this reality by agreeing to the terms of the Paris Treaty, under which every country will make substantial cuts in climate-warming emissions. Coal, everywhere, will have to remain in the ground.

Uber-financier Goldman Sachs sums up these changes in a brilliant nutshell. They declared in January that it’s time to slowly ease coal out of the energy mix, with a friendly pat on the head for all the good it did for the U.S. economy. “Just as a worker celebrating their 65th birthday can settle into a more sedate lifestyle while they look back on past achievements,” the report noted, “we argue that thermal coal has reached its retirement age.”

So, who picks up the tab?

Bankruptcy is not death. Companies don’t file under Chapter 11 as some sort of final act before breathing their last. They use the courts to gain relief from their obligations to shareholders, creditors, employees, retirees and the public. They can’t afford to pay everything they owe, so the court determines who loses, and by how much. In theory, the rehabilitated companies emerge with a new lease on life. They can’t pay, so others absorb the cost.

In the case of bankrupt coal, who pays?

Well, for starters, you do. Not you alone, mind you. In West Virginia, 120,000 retired miners and their families could lose their pensions and health care – for many their only source of income. But you’re caught in the mix as well. That’s because it costs enormous amounts to clean up the toxic mess that coal mining leaves behind. You’d think that Federal and state governments would compel coal companies to reclaim their strip mines and shattered mountains as they go, but it doesn’t happen that way. In Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming, there are 450 square miles of land torn up by mining; but only 10 percent has been reclaimed.

This means that the coal companies have put off for another day the cost of reclamation. For bankrupt Peabody, the cost is estimated at $1.4 billion. For bankrupt Arch and Alpha, it’s $485 million and $640 million, respectively. And in bankruptcy, they will shed these liabilities for pennies on the dollar. These abandoned wastes cannot be left alone. They’re ugly, yes. But they’re also perpetual sources of water pollution, slowly leaking acidic and otherwise toxic wastes into streams and groundwater supplies.

Moonscapes left behind by mountaintop removal cost billions to reclaim

Moonscapes left behind by mountaintop removal coal mining cost billions to clean up

And so you will pay, as a federal and state taxpayer. For these three companies alone, your share is about $7. Another $7 for your spouse, your mom, each of your kids, your neighbors. Everyone in the country gets to chip in $7 to clean up the mess left behind by just three coal companies. Did I mention that 28 of them are in bankruptcy?

Now, you and I may think that this is scandalous. But actually, this is standard operating procedure for the coal industry. In the best of times, the U.S. coal industry leaves enormous costs for everyone else to pick up – sometimes called “external costs.” These include things like respiratory diseases, toxic mercury levels, ocean acidification, climate-altering greenhouse gas concentrations, and the effects of drought and flooding.

Until 2010, we didn’t really know the scale of these costs. That’s when the U.S. National Academy of Sciences produced a study called The Hidden Cost of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use. Its findings were shocking. Coal burned in a single year by U.S. power plants costs everyone else on the planet another $200 to 300 billion in “external costs.” That’s billions, with a “B”. And it amounts to a tax of about $30-40 levied on every human on Earth. Only for U.S. coal. Only for one single year.

So if you’re following the news, watch carefully in the year ahead as the American coal industry winds its way through bankruptcy. When it’s over, you and I will be a bit poorer. But until we summon the resolve to leave coal unburned, all of us will continue to bear enormous external costs, arising not only from coal’s nominal “failure,” but from their normal levels of success.

Isn’t it time we get to work on ways to leave it in the ground?

February Smashed Global Heat Records: But What Does That Mean?

You’ve already seen the news. February was a record month for global heat. It followed the hottest January on record. Which followed the hottest year (2015) on record. Which follow the previous hottest year (2014) on record. Etc. Etc. Etc.

So, maybe we think: A bunch of scientists are sifting through data from all over the world, and we’re supposed to be alarmed at a few more degrees of heat? Seriously, what does this mean to us? Well, let’s see if we can distill this down to a few key points.

First, these records are not flukes or outliers. Global data has been kept for 137 years. Of all the Februaries over that time, this one ranked #1, unseating last February, the former hot-weather champion.

Picture2Worse, it wasn’t just the hottest February. It was the hottest month ever, compared to 20th century averages. And the prior record had just been set only two months earlier, in December.

Worse yet, it continued a ten-month string of record-hot months. Yes, February was the hottest of all 137 Februaries. But January was also #1 for all Januaries. And they were preceded by #1 records in December, November, October, September – and all the way back to May 2015. Something like that has never happened before. Doubters will tell us “The climate always changes!” Not like this. Not always in one direction. Not in lockstep. We’re seeing something frighteningly new.

Second, did you notice the amount of warming? For all land and ocean surfaces, the earth was 1.21oC (or 2.18oF) above the 20th century averages. You may recall that the nations of the world just agreed in Paris on efforts to limit global warming this century to no more than 2.0oC, and to make every effort to keep it below 1.5oC, to spare our fellow humans from the Philippines, Bangladesh and island nations from being inundated by rising seas. Well, already, we’ve experienced a month within a whisker of breaking that 1.5oC threshold.

Worse, if we look at land surfaces alone (where most of us live) the average global temperature was 2.31°C above the 20th century average. Two-point-three degrees. That’s territory we’re not supposed to see in our lifetimes, or even our children’s. But it just happened.

Third, the heat was just about everywhere. Record heat took hold across much of South America and southern Africa, southern and eastern Europe, around the Urals of Russia, and most of Southeast Asia stretching to northern Australia. Here are some examples:

  • New Zealand had its second warmest February and second warmest month of any month since national records began in 1909, at 2.2°C above long-term averages.
  • In Venezuela and Colombia, the heat was about 3.0°C higher than average.
  • Germany ran 3.0°C above average and Austria was a whopping 4.1°C hotter than average.
  • Speaking of whopping, Alaska reported its warmest February in its 92-year period of record, at 6.9°C higher than the 20th century average. That’s not a typo. Six-point-nine degrees Celsius, or 12.4° Fahrenheit. That’s more than the difference between the last Ice Age and today’s world.

Fourth, all this heat is destabilizing the Polar regions dangerously. For starters, this winter marks the lowest sea ice coverage ever measured in the Arctic. It’s way less icy than 2012, the previous record year for summer Arctic ice melt. That means that this summer and fall there will be less ice to start with, and the seasonal warmth will have an easier time melting what remains there. Not only that, but less winter ice mean less bright, reflective snow surface, and more deep blue, heat-absorbing water to soak up the sun’s heat, which will warm the region even further.

Sea IceBut an even greater concern is now emerging in the southern Pole, with new warnings about the instability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. About the size of Mexico, the ice sheet could raise sea levels by 12 feet or more if it becomes destabilized. Many of us took some comfort in believing that while this will occur in a warmer world, humanity and the rest of creation would probably have hundreds of years to adapt. But new research from scientists at Penn State and UMass now projects that continued greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting heat could disintegrate the West Antarctic sheet in only decades. That would mean that coastal cities like New York, Boston, Miami and New Orleans would be largely inundated during the lifetimes of children born today, with further sea-level rises of one foot per decade thereafter.

But it’s not hotter EVERYWHERE. And that’s actually alarming. There’s one spot on earth where it’s not getting warmer. It’s Iceland, and the North Atlantic Ocean. See that spot of blue on the map? In a warming world, it was cooler there all last year, and in each of several years before that. That region has always been warmed by tropical ocean currents (called thermohaline, or the Gulf Stream) carrying equatorial waters northward along the US East Coast to Iceland, before they dive to the ocean depths and return southward. Scientists have long believed that fresh meltwater from Greenland could slow down the Gulf Stream, trapping hot water off the US coast, and chilling the northern seas.Picture1

So what’s the big deal? A little warmer here, and little cooler there? Actually, it’s a very big deal. Warm coastal waters off the American East Coast are what gave us Super-Storm Sandy, but that storm happened when the oceans were cooler than they are today. And warm Icelandic waters have given Northern Europe the benign climate it has enjoyed for millennia. Tinker with the Greenland Ice Sheet too much, and we’ve got something much worse than a few more feet of sea-water on our hands.

Final thoughts from a Christian thinker: So before we hand these climatic records off to the statisticians for filing, maybe we could take a minute to consider where we stand in history. Two centuries after the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, we’ve pumped eons’ worth of carbon – long hidden deep within the earth – back into the atmosphere. As a result, we’re seeing the early results of our planetary carbon experiment: a consistent record of global warming; heat growing at an ever-faster pace; not just here and there, but spread all over the map; and destabilizing the Polar ice sheets, which are raising sea levels and threatening coastal communities. And we’re even seeing signs of disruption in planet-regulating systems like the Gulf Stream.

“Where is God in all this?” asks Christian author Rev. Edward Brown, in his landmark book, Our Father’s World. “God would not allow us to destroy his creation, would he?”

Well, yes he might, concludes Brown, noting that within his sovereignty, God allows us humans a shocking amount of latitude in what we do with our lives – including what we do with his creation. “If we choose to destroy our home,” says Brown, “God will not stop us. Unless, that is, God were to step into history the way he usually does, through human beings who have aligned their lives with him and who are committed to accomplishing his purposes in their own small histories.”

Brown reminds us of God’s answer to Israelite prayers from the misery of slavery in Egypt: “I have heard them crying out…. So I have come down to rescue them” (Exodus 3:7-8).

Phew! So maybe God will rescue our injured planet, just like he did in Exodus! But Brown demands that we read on: “So now, go” he tells Moses, “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

Go? Who, me? How? What can I do? “I will be with you,” says God to Moses, words taken up again by the resurrected Christ more than a thousand years later: “Go…. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Do you think maybe it’s time for God’s people to hear that call once again?

It’s March: Why Are We Talking About Global Heat?

Yes, it’s been a warm winter. A couple of weeks of really chilly weather, one or two snows, but that’s about it. Talk to me again in August if it’s abnormally hot, and you’ll have my attention.

That’s the problem with global data, isn’t it? It’s the only thing that can really hurt us is what happens in the long run, but it fails to motivate unless it’s hitting us hard at home right now. Well, if you can be bothered with those far-away markers that impact distant families now and you yourself in the future, please take note of a few developments going on right under our noses.

  • February was the hottest month for our common home, relative to historical averages, by a longshot.
  • It followed January, which was the previous hottest month by a longshot.Picture5
  • January followed 2015, which was the hottest year ever recorded.
  • 2015 followed 2014, which had been the hottest year ever recorded, until 2015 came along.
  • It hasn’t been easy to set heat records since 2000, because 15 of the 16 hottest years ever recorded have occurred since then.
  • The Arctic is melting fast. While Arctic sea ice reached record summer minimums in September 2012, winter ice coverage is at a record low right now, beating the previous record-low in 2015, which beat the previous record-low in 2014.Ice
  • Earth-warming gas concentrations are now at their highest levels in human history. When the climate was relatively stable, they measured 280 parts per million of CO2. Today, they are more than 404 parts per million.kc-monthly-0600
  • With all this scary news, you might think that we’d be doing a lot to stop it, and the growth rate of greenhouse gases would be slowing. In fact, 2015 marked the fastest growth year for earth-warming gases in the atmosphere ever measured.
  • What happens during the next presidential term will likely determine whether the world summons the resolve to take action, or continues to race at breakneck speeds toward tipping points from which our children cannot return. Some US presidential candidates take this seriously. Others prefer not to talk about it. Others still call it a hoax.

Beloved Planet attempts to offer a platform to consider “the gospel’s call to care for an injured world.” Given the set of facts listed above, what does the gospel call us to? Is God really in Christ, “reconciling all things” from the effects of human sin? Is God really “making all things new” in the kingdom of his Son, inaugurated in the resurrection of Jesus? If so, how does he call his people as co-laborers with him in this ministry of reconciliation?

How – do you think – is God calling you?

U. of Texas Poll: Voters Want a President Who Will Act on Climate

We’ve been listening to the opinion surveys about climate change, and they’re mostly useful. We normally think of them as telling us whether Americans have broken free of oil industry doubt mongering (we mostly have). But there’s so much more to be learned. If done well, the surveys can help us frame the opportunities and obstacles we face in mobilizing responsible climate action.

One such survey is the University of Texas Energy Poll, produced twice per year since 2011. With around 200 categories of questions, I can’t recommend it for vacation reading. But for understanding those around us, it’s a treasure trove. Here are a few selected items, among many more that might interest you:

  • First things first: 73% of Americans accept that climate change is happening, and only 16% deny it. You would have thought that it was less lopsided, but that’s just the political blogosphere doing what it does.
  • Of those who acknowledge that climate change is happening, at least 73% agree that human activity contributes to it. That means that a majority of all respondents affirm that human activity contributes to climate change.
  • People rank deforestation, oil and coal as the top three reasons for climate change.
  • About half of respondents are personally concerned about climate change. Of those who acknowledge that the climate is changing, only 8% aren’t concerned. Of the concerned, 94% attribute climate change to human activity.
  • 64% of respondents think we should reduce carbon emissions; only 15% disagree (and most of these say they are motivated by fears of costs, or worry that it won’t do any good).
  • 58% of respondents are concerned about carbon emissions from energy production and consumption, and only 15% aren’t (even though more are concerned about checkbook issues like the cost of electricity).
  • When it comes to personal lifestyle changes, we’re probably susceptible to wishful thinking. For example, 54% of us are willing to buy a high-efficiency vehicle in principle; but in the next five years, only 34% think we will do so; to date, only 3% us have already done so; and the estimated mpg for our household vehicles hasn’t budged since 2011 (24.4 mpg 2011 v. 24.1 mpg 2016). Some work ahead here.
  • Political candidates aren’t the best ones to tell us what “Americans want.” In fact, 57% think the Federal government should do more to prepare us for future energy needs, and only 24% disagree. Specifically, 70% of us think that the Federal government should subsidize renewable technologies and energy efficiency, while only 34% think coal should get the same treatment.
  • As for presidential politics, 61% want a leader who will reduce our carbon emissions and fund research into new energy technology. A majority wants a president who will expand incentives for renewable technologies and require utilities to offer higher levels of electricity from renewable sources. Opposition to these goals are all in the single digits or teens.Picture1

Unfortunately, we don’t see a major change in beliefs or attitudes toward climate change over the 2011-2016 period. Even so, strong majorities recognize what is happening to the climate; most people recognize human responsibility; only small minorities deny these realities; and most want the government to be actively engaged in solutions. But over the last 5 years, opinion on these matters is not changing in significant ways.

On the bright side, you can now come off the defensive. The voices resisting climate action may be loud. They may rule the talk radio waves. And they may control Congress. But a HUGE majority of people around you know what’s happening to the earth, are concerned, and will support your efforts to call for serious action by our government and country.

Should I Be Worried?

The candidates want you to worry. Be very worried – about immigrants, about job security, about terrorists, about China, about billionaires, about healthcare.

Here’s one thing they don’t particularly want you to worry about: The planet has a fever. Its thermostat is broken. Our only home is heating up dangerously.

Take last year, for example. It was the hottest year for the world since measurements began in 1880. Take a look at what that meant all over:Picture2

In pockets here and there, 2015 was a little cooler (see the blue?) than average: If you lived in a boat off the Straits of Magellan, for instance. But almost all of the world was “Much Warmer Than Average” (the deep pink on the map above). And “Record Warmest” (pictured in red) prevailed in Central and South America and the Amazon, Europe, and vast expanses of ocean: the Pacific, the Indian, and the mid-latitudes of the Atlantic.  The Arctic was off the charts, but that doesn’t show up on this map.

Should I be worried?

Well, maybe things just change from time to time. Heat goes up. Heat goes down. Maybe 2016 will be different?

Well, unfortunately, this year is off to another blazing-hot start. Maps for February aren’t out yet, but it was a global sizzler. But January (another record) maps are here. Take a look:Picture1

We can add Southern Africa and the Mediterranean to the “Record Warmest” list. But notice a couple of exceptions. First, the US lower 48 states were about normal in January (and this is a problem, because we tend to ignore things we can’t feel right here at home).

And then, do you see that blue blob in the North Atlantic just below Greenland? (It was there in 2015 too.) The Gulf Stream usually keeps that part of the world warm, carrying warm tropical water northward, warming Europe in the process, and regulating climates all over the globe. But these days, the warm Atlantic waters are getting stuck in the sweltering tropics, and the northern waters are now cooler. Mess with the Gulf Stream, and you’re messing with just about everything on earth. Some have predicted that global heat could slow or stop the Gulf Stream entirely, and that’s the basis for apocalyptic movie scripts.

Should I be worried?

Well, let’s not get carried away by one or two years of funny data. Haven’t I heard politicians saying that the world hasn’t warmed in 20 years, or something?

Yes, in fact you have. Unfortunately, it is entirely wrong, even cynical. Even after the data began screaming just the opposite, many kept saying it. Most are now trying to avoid the topic, or to revert to dog-whistle rants about jobs and government meddling, but Senator Cruz remains undeterred by the facts, doubling down on the “no-warming” message.

But the facts are, well, worrisome. Here’s a look:Picture3

Last year was the hottest year on record, followed by 2014 in the number-two spot. 2010 takes the bronze medal, so to speak; but fourth place goes to 2013. In fact, of the 15 hottest years on record, 14 occurred during the first 15 years of this century. The only exception was 1998 (which, of course, just barely pre-dated our century).

So it’s hot, staying hot, and getting hotter. Should I be worried?

Well, if you’re a Christ-follower, you’re confronted with the challenging command not to worry. “Do not worry about your life … your body … your clothes …. But seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness…” (from Matthew 6:25-34).

But orders from anyone not to worry can be tricky in practice, don’t you think? And then there’s that ubiquitous qualifier: “your.” Your life, your body, your clothes. What if it’s the plight of God’s world that worries me? Or his creatures? Or the children he’s given my wife and me? Or our little grandkids? And what if Jesus’ antidote to worry – “but seek first his kingdom” – means precisely that I should be willing to look unblinkingly at the worrisome facts around me, even if it costs me a bit of sleep?

Should I be worried? Should you?