Monthly Archives: September 2013

Sir John Houghton Summarizes New U.N. Climate Report

Just last Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its 5th Assessment Report since 1990, and the related Summary for Policymakers. The report took six years to produce and is considered the most comprehensive review of the scientific evidence for man-made climate change available. 830 scientists from 85 countries contributed, reviewing 9,200 research studies on matters ranging from rising sea levels to ocean acidification, to the impact of volcanic activity, to name just a few.

Sir John Houghton

Sir John Houghton

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be reviewing the IPCC findings in some detail. But given the hundreds of pages involved, permit me to begin with a thumbnail sketch by Sir John Houghton, former Co-Chair of the IPCC, Oxford University professor, leading Christian author and thinker, and friend of the beloved pastor, John Stott. In a British website connecting the environment, science and Christianity, Houghton summarized the main findings of the report as follows:

1) That it is extremely likely (i.e. more than 95% probability) that human influence on climate caused most of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951- 2010.

2) That there is high confidence that this has led to warming of the ocean, melting of snow and ice, a rise in global mean sea level and to more climate extremes with increased intensity.

3) Further warming will result from continued emissions of greenhouse gases, causing changes in all parts of the climate system. Considerable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will be required if climate change is to be limited.

4) Under almost all possible scenarios a rise of 1.5C is predicted by the end of this century relative to 1850 to 1900 temperatures, but in some scenarios the rise is greater than this. Most scenarios predict further warming beyond 2100.

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It’s Time for the National Association of Evangelicals to Step Up

Rev. Charles Redfern

Rev. Charles Redfern

Written by Rev. Charles Redfern

Think of it as the gentleman in the tweed cap or the lady in horse riding apparel. The National Association of Evangelicals has emblematized dignity and poise since its 1942 inception. Perhaps its first president, the late Harold Ockenga, branded it with his personality when he — along with Edward J. Carnell, Carl Henry, Daniel Fuller, and others — cracked fundamentalism’s isolationist shell and emerged as the intellectually muscular “new evangelicals,” eager for debate, dialogue, and cultural engagement. Disparate denominations and organizations from Charismatic, Holiness, and Reformed traditions gather in the NAE manor.

Such is the NAE’s noble past, but it now faces a decisive 21st-century test. The gentleman must roll up his sleeves while the lady summons the children. Can they remember Ockenga’s savvy boldness? Will they be brave? Will they risk controversy and do the right thing? Will its board see through the reek of qualms and fears at its October meeting and validate a petition drive “to affirm publicly the reality of human-induced climate change and endorse the responsibility of individuals, churches, and the federal government to act to reduce carbon emissions and protect our natural heritage for our children and grandchildren”?

No doubt some will worry over potential dissensions and withdrawals and accusations of left-wing pandering; others may call for tabling and further study; still others may file the time-honored balk: “We’re not ready yet.” More possible deflections: What about evangelism and spirituality? And prayer? And Bible study? And theology? And youth (shouldn’t we fix a laser-focus on teens?)? And abortion and birth control and government spending and poverty and greed? And more fears of disunity — never risk that vital unity …

Picture5Consider: Isn’t truth-evading unity kindred with an identity-robbing computer hacker? Our credibility vaporizes. No one listens. The organization re-seals itself in fundamentalism’s anti-intellectual cave, with its censure of mainline waffling dismissed as hypocrisy: “What’s the difference between you and those supposedly truth-evading theological liberals?” Consider Deborah Fikes’ insight when she interwove youth outreach with the climate change battle. Adolescents face an adulthood of deserts, droughts, rising sea levels, and storms. Ignoring their future in the name of evangelism hardly sounds like “good news.” And consider once more: When, precisely, will we be ready? All other major branches of Christianity — Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and mainline Protestantism — have repudiated denial. We’re at risk of aligning ourselves with outliers and fringe thinkers.

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How Clean Coal Became Kleen Koal

 

Dear America,

We can’t believe you took us so seriously.

All these years now, we’ve filled your family rooms with TV ads about “Clean Coal.” We paid many millions for all that PR – what some people are now scandalously calling “propaganda.” We sponsored presidential debates laced with cheery ads about patriotism, energy security, and – of course – Clean Coal. We got candidates from both parties – even Obama! – to sing the praises of Clean Coal. We gave millions to coal-friendly politicians. And they gave us billions of your tax dollars into projects to develop Clean Coal carbon-storage technology.

clean-coal-greenwash2Didn’t our promises make you feel good? Weren’t you proud? Wasn’t it great imagining that we had so much energy right here in America, and that it was – in some vague sense – clean?

But now, look what you’ve done. Somehow, you’ve imagined that we could really make our coal – you know – clean. Actually clean. Clean like maybe about twice as dirty as natural gas. Clean like infinitely dirtier than wind and solar. Not TV-ad clean, but clean – sort of – like what-you-breathe clean.

Sure, we told you we had the technology to make coal clean. We even ran ads featuring scantily-clad models as coal miners extracting coal that technology had made “beautiful.”  Continue reading

Climate: Neutralizing Christians with a Veneer of Controversy

“Don’t believe those climate change alarmists! Because three percent of climate scientists think they’re wrong!”

Hmm. That wouldn’t make a very effective PR campaign, now would it? That’s why you never hear those words from Fox News, the WSJ, or the radio talk shows. It’s always “a growing number of scientists” or “thousands of scientists and doctors….”

About a week ago, we ran an article written by two evangelical climate scientists urging Christians to confront the threat of manmade climate change as a core faith issue. Days earlier, Thomas Ackerman and Katharine Hayhoe had published their article in the online evangelical journal, Christian Post. They wrote:

“We know climate change is real, that most of it is human-caused, and that it is a threat to future generations that must be addressed by the global community. We are also evangelical Christians who believe that God created the world in which we live.”

I felt relieved: real, leading Christian climate scientists telling their faith community the widely-understood facts about climate change. Maybe this would clear up the confusion that so many American evangelicals feel about climate science – confusion that seems to prevent us from acting to protect the creation.

But my relief was short-lived. Just days later, the Christian Post followed up with a rebuttal article, written by two other climate scientists, denying much of what Ackerman and Hayhoe had just told us. Not only that, they challenged them to a formal college campus debate, something that politicians do; scientists usually just produce research refuting the errors of their colleagues.

But to laymen like us, the tit-for-tat left many wondering whom to believe. Some credible scientists tell us that we must act to reduce greenhouse gases driving climate change. But then some other credible-sounding scientists come along and tell us just the opposite. Not exactly what we need to motivate a call to arms, is it? Maybe we should just do nothing, till this “controversy” is resolved.

And that’s a pity, because that’s just what most of climate denial is all about. You create the sense that this issue isn’t yet resolved, and so laymen like us will remain frozen in our tracks – worried, but not willing to act, especially if it might involve sacrifice. It worked for the tobacco industry for decades. Now it’s working for fossil fuels.  Continue reading

Did I Hear that Arctic Ice is GROWING?

Before church yesterday, one of my dear friends shared some great news with me.

“I heard that Arctic sea ice is up 98 percent! Is that right? It’s actually growing!” he told me in a moment of sincere friendly encouragement. Who knows, maybe the efforts of people like me were beginning to pay off!

I was doubtful. I knew this year’s summer melt wasn’t as bad as last year’s catastrophe. The summer ice retreat of 2012 demolished every prior record for Arctic ice melting by miles – more than a quarter million square miles, actually. Compared to the prior record melt in 2007, it was as though we had destroyed a chunk of sea ice big enough to cover the states of Texas and West Virginia combined. 2012 was absolutely awful, capping a 30-year death spiral for Arctic sea ice.

Worse yet, it showed how climate models often err on the conservative side. The U.N. climate panel’s most recent report had projected that we’d reach last year’s level of Arctic melt sometime between 2044 and 2064. We were frighteningly ahead of schedule.

So you can imagine my doubts. In one year, the problem is solved? No more Arctic melting worries? I thought I’d better check.

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Keystone XL: Drawing the Line

We have lots of friends who haven’t weighed in on the massive tar sands pipeline project proposed by TransCanada, and supported by the Canadian government and the big oil companies.

But here at Beloved Planet, we’ve cared about this pretty much from the beginning. Over the long struggle, we’ve:

And now, we’re getting down to decision time. Our friends at 350.org have put together a great little video on Keystone, Canada’s last-ditch effort to override American opposition, and what we can still do to protect the creation from tar sands pollution:

Here’s the two-minute video. Take a look, and help us take action, one last time:

Why Do American Religious Bloggers Deny Climate Science?

 

I’m sitting next to a madman.

No, really. From his perch at the next coffee shop table, he rails aloud at an unseen adversary: “I’m speaking to you in the language of reason, logic and common sense! But to you, it might as well be Swahili!”

His long grey beard and shoulder-length hair fit well with the nonstop Jeremiad. You’d think he’d eventually tire, but the filibuster goes on and on. I relax for a moment while he visits the restroom. But then he’s back, and the tirade resumes. “If it weren’t for premarital relations, we wouldn’t even be here!! … Martin Luther King should have kept his mouth shut!!” Or whatever.

I don’t hear much logic, or much reason. But he does.

Funny, but at the same time, I’m reading comments in the Christian Post in response to the excellent article written by evangelical climate scientists Katharine Hayhoe and Thomas Ackerman. The scientists wrote to rebut the bizarre assertion by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh: that you can’t both believe in God and believe the findings of climate science.

The article is great, as was an earlier rebuttal by Christian pastor Mitch Hescox. But the comments are – for the most part – simply unbelievable. To me, they might as well be Swahili. Maybe my friend at the next table could help me understand. Here’s a sampling:

Comment A: 98% of people who hold to the view of manmade global warming voted at least one time for Barack Obama. I would be surprised if the contributors of this article are not in [that] category. Which makes me wonder why they are even allowed to contribute. Perhaps, they feel the need to just to stir up controversy, instead of Godly edification.

Translation: Even though I don’t know anything about other people’s votes, you don’t have to take evangelicals seriously if I can drop the hint that they might have voted for a presidential candidate that I don’t like – even if he claims faith in Christ, belongs to a Christian church and ran first against a non-church-member and then against a committed Mormon. And the Christian Post shouldn’t even allow scientists to speak up if they agree with the 97 percent of their colleagues who accept mainstream views of manmade climate change.

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