Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Bogus Conversion of the U.S. Senate

 “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” James 2:18

The U.S. Senate announced last week that they’ve finally come to faith. After years and years of denying the threat of a warming planet, virtually all of the senators have now admitted what the global Christian church has accepted for years: Climate science is no hoax, and the world is getting dangerously hotter.

In a lopsided vote of 98-to-1, the Senate – all Democrats and almost all Republicans – approved a nonbinding “sense of Congress” stating that climate change is real and not a hoax. Even GOP Sen. James Inhofe (OK) – who literally wrote the book on climate denial (a conspiracy-flogging thing called “The Greatest Hoax”) — surprised everyone by co-sponsoring the bill.

So what’s going on, you wonder? Have American politicians finally cast off the shackles of oil & gas money, and acknowledged the overwhelming evidence for man-made climate change? Does this mean they’re prepared to act on limiting carbon and methane emissions into the planet’s fragile atmosphere?

I wish it were so. But no, almost nothing has changed. In a deft move, the Senate climate-deniers have abandoned their old line – “It’s a hoax! It’s not happening!” – and pivoted to a new mantra – “Okay, the climate’s changing, but it’s not our fault, and we can’t do anything!”

Senator Inhofe summed their new position like this: “Man cannot change climate,” Inhofe said. “The hoax is that there are some people that are so arrogant to think that they are so powerful that they can change climate.”

So I wouldn’t get carried away with delight at the Senate’s newfound belief in the findings of science. When it comes to lawmakers, it’s fair to ask: “Who cares what they believe anyway? Tell me what they’re doing!” And in the wake of this conversion of sorts, the bottom line is unchanged: Whatever we say we believe, we’re not doing anything.

There is one small word of encouragement. There are five GOP senators who joined all the Democrats on a more meaningful statement. Fifty senators in all went on record as affirming climate science both when it tells us that the climate us heating up, and that it’s happening because of human impacts and emissions. Those five Republicans are:  Lindsey Graham (SC), Lamar Alexander (TN), Kelly Ayotte (NH), Susan Collins (ME) and Mark Kirk (IL). Of course, 49 other Republicans voted to deny any link whatsoever between human actions and climate change.

But that leaves us with a tiny majority affirming basic science in a field where overwhelming consensus prevails. Sadly, in the Senate, you need 60 votes to do much of anything. Until hearts and minds are changed, that block of 49 deniers will be enough to stop most anything that the Creation might need our country to do.Picture3

On the bright side, I suppose, we can now forget about all those Congressional efforts to discredit scientists who measure rising global temperatures. But for the foreseeable future, I’m afraid we’ll be dealing with the “not-our-fault” narrative. Of course, this has also been thoroughly rebutted by the overwhelming majority of scientists. (The National Academy of Sciences has summarized: “It is now more certain than ever, based on many lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth’s climate.”

What’s next from the Senate? I fear: “Maybe it was our fault, but it’s too late now!” If so, then we lament for the children, for countless species, and for every creature who will inherit the earth we leave them.

99-to-1: Senate Admits Climate Change is Real

The United States Senate voted yesterday to make it official: Our government has now joined every other country in the world – sort of – in affirming that climate change is real. The Senate voted by the lopsided margin of 98-1 to adopt the truism that “climate change is real and not a hoax.”

98-1? What about 99-1? Well, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was undergoing eye surgery at the time of the vote. While he couldn’t cast a ballot, he’s on record. It’s 99 senators admitting what the rest of the world has long known.

My favorite tweet of the day came from the well-known Christian climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe: “Today the US Senate voted on whether climate change is real and human-caused. Tomorrow, they’ll vote on gravity. I’ve always wanted to fly!”

Sad to say, the Senate’s action is almost totally meaningless, other than giving some climate-denial politicians a fig leaf to hide behind in the next election. That’s because they also REJECTED, by a vote of 50-49 , a more meaningful amendment declaring that “humans significantly contribute to climate change.” (60 votes were needed for passage.)

For 48 Republican Senators (the 49th voted NO to both amendments), they got everything a politician could want: YES, they can tell the world that they’re on record as believing what climate scientists tell us about global warming trends; but NO, they can also tell their oil company donors that they refuse to believe those same scientists when they tell us that we’re the culprit, and must do something to change course.

The political messaging is pitch-perfect: “Of course the climate is warming! But, sorry, since we don’t contribute to it, why on earth would I vote for futile efforts to do something about it?”

It’s worth noting that five GOP senators broke ranks and joined all 45 Democrats in voting for the “humans contribute to climate change” amendment. They are:  Lindsey Graham (SC), Lamar Alexander (TN), Kelly Ayotte (NH), Susan Collins (ME) and Mark Kirk (IL).

So it was a notable day on Capitol Hill. For starters, we can now be a little less mortified when foreigners ask us about fatuous congressional climate denial. On the other hand, too many politicians still won’t jeopardize their political funding by admitting that it’s our problem to fix. But there are a few Republicans, at least, who have sent a signal that they might be willing to help with efforts to responsibly address a huge problem of our own making.

God answers prayer, and he directs us to pray for those in authority — all of them. It’s not hopeless. Hang in there!

Dear Skeptics: Please, We Recommend Reading …

Most Americans accept the foundational conclusion of climate science – that the earth is warming due to human activities. Last November, when the Public Religion Research Institute asked how to account for the severity of recent weather patterns, 62 percent of Americans named climate change as the cause. And Christians as a whole were solidly in agreement. Catholics agreed by the exact same majority – 62%. Black Protestants even more strongly, with 73%. White mainline Protestants, a very close 61%.

But then we come to white Evangelical Protestants, and here the picture changes a bit. Only 49% of them (or should I say, of us) agreed that climate change is the cause of the rotten weather. Somehow, white Evangelicals are a bit more skeptical than Christians of other races and traditions.Picture1

So it’s not surprising that here at Beloved Planet, we get our share of “skeptic” reactions from our fellow Evangelicals, since as many as half of us are still doubters. And if the responses we’ve seen are at all representative, then most of those doubters have gotten the idea that climate change is a matter of ongoing dispute among scientists. We were curious where this notion would come from, since we know of virtually no climate research that supports it.

Of course, there’s Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News (neither an Evangelical mouthpiece nor, of course, a science journal). And until recently, there was also Murdoch’s other big outlet, the Wall Street Journal. (Just last week, WSJ reversed its longstanding “skeptic” stance, admitting that the American Southwest is drying because “climate change affects rainfall.”)

So, Fox News only? Other than the fringe bloggers, we couldn’t think of any other climate denial proponents whom Evangelicals might listen to.

But sometimes, listening to cable news channels won’t get you very near to scientific reality. So we sat down at the library today, and opened a stack of science journals, to faithfully report what’s really being said by actual researchers. We had number of journals to choose from, but we settled on Scientific American, one of several respected science magazines easily accessible to laymen.

Our survey: unanimous endorsement of climate science

Unanimous endorsement of climate science

From the huge stack on the shelves, we chose the most recent seven months’ worth of issues, from August 2014 through February, 2015. In them, we found 17 articles directly or indirectly about climate change. Here’s the thing: Every single one of them reflected the belief of scientists that climate change is real, and the cause of very real problems. Of equal importance, not one suggested any doubts or controversy, or made reference to contrary opinions.

But don’t take our word for it. Read on for a glimpse of what’s actually being reported:

February 2015

  • A puzzle for the planet: “Lake Mead could dry up completely by 2021 if the climate changes as expected….” p. 63
  • The steady disappearance of polar ice: “… visibly diminishing in response to warmer temperatures.” p. 82

January 2015

  • Will we still enjoy pinot noir? “… trying to preserve taste as climate change alters flavors of grapes.” p. 60
  • Search for super-habitable planets: “Solving the problem of CO2-dependent greenhouse effects on more massive planets than Earth.” p. 30

December 2014

  • Extreme summers and winters could become the norm: “Humans have kicked the climate system hard, and physics demands that weather patterns change as a result.” p. 68
  • Conspiracy central: “Why so many Americans believe in conspiracies, from government-ordered school massacres to concocting climate science.” p. 94
  • Keeping up with the Times:  A boast that Al Gore, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, has written on climate change for the journal. p. 96

November 2014

  • When evidence melts away: “Climate scientists race to sample melting cave ice before it’s too late….” p. 23
  • Solar wars: “The struggle between solar homeowners and utilities could re-shape how climate-friendly the grid will be.” p. 66
  • Sea levels “rising at an accelerated pace.” p. 84
  • How long can the human race survive “… in the face of apocalyptic threats like climate mayhem?” p. 84

October 2014

  • Cultivated coffee trees under serious threat from climate change: “Coffee rust is a crisis hanging over coffee in our era of global warming.” p. 68
  • An inconvenient ice: “Methane hydrates could make global warming worse. If warming oceans destabilize the hydrates so they release methane, the gas could hasten a climate catastrophe.” p. 82

September 2014

  • Climate shocks: “Swings between wet and dry landscapes pushed some of our ancestors toward modern traits, and killed others off.” p. 48

August 2014

  • Sickness in the Arctic: “As climate change heats the world’s highest latitudes faster than almost anywhere else, animals on land, as well as the sea, are getting sick….” p. 58
  • Climate apocalypse! “Global warming is, of course, real, and caused by human activity.” p. 79
  • Graphic science: “Animals across the tropics will bear the brunt of climate change.” p. 84

That’s one small sample, but at 17-for-17, it illustrates what we see in the scientific literature every day. You don’t find articles here trying any more to “prove” that climate change is real. Instead, vintners are working to salvage the taste of grapes, psychologists are working to understand the neurology of climate denial, glaciologists are racing against time to collect ice samples, sea-bed geologists are struggling to unlock the mysteries of climate-threatening methane hydrates, marine biologists are tracking new warm-water disease and pest vectors – each in scientific disciplines where the reality of climate change is now clearly understood.

Popular Science survey: one “skeptic” v. 9,136 research authors

You’ve heard, of course, that 97% of climate scientists agree on manmade climate change, and that’s true enough. But the reality is actually much more compelling: Popular Science magazine recently surveyed 2,258 peer-reviewed scientific articles about climate change, written by 9,136 authors, published between Nov. 12, 2012 and December 31, 2013. Of all those hundreds of papers and thousands of researchers, Popular Science reported that it found one article, authored by a single scientist, which attributed climate change to something other than human actions (published in a Russian journal).

That’s one climate skeptic out of 9,136 peer-reviewed authors.

By comparison, for us white Evangelical Protestant Christians, it seems to be one skeptic for every two of us.

There have been times in history when the best work in science was led by men and women of our faith. For the most part, that leadership was based on an understanding that all truth is God’s truth, and that there can be no conflict between the World God made and the Word God spoke. The Psalmist tells us that “the heavens are telling the glory of God.” And St. Paul teaches that God’s qualities can be clearly understood from studying his creation.

And so, I beg my brothers and sisters: please don’t permit one of the world’s most powerful news magnates to interpret the sciences and the creation for you. There are scientific journals in abundance, and they speak for themselves with crystalline clarity.

For the love of God and his world, please read.

Suggested “readable” science magazines:

  1. National Geographic
  2. Popular Science
  3. Scientific American
  4. Smithsonian
  5. Discover
  6. American Scientist

A Wedding on the Edge of the Rising Seas

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Luke 17:27

I am stuffed from too many hors d’oeuvres. Barbara is nursing sores from all that dancing. Our hearts are warm from celebrating the marriage of one of our favorite young women – she still calls us “Uncle John and Aunt Barb” after many years of surrogate family life. And in my heart is the image of a contented friend, basking in happiness as his daughter begins a new life with a young man he has learned to welcome as a son.

The setting was fantastic. On a beach, in one of our favorite getaway spots – Key West. Lovely harp music. A gorgeous bride. Gaff-rigged schooners plying the waters in a fresh breeze just offshore. Vows and rings exchanged on the sand.

When we received the invitation, my first thought was: I know this place! That very hotel, that little pebbly beach! That end of raucous Duval Street! Those gorgeous sunsets! That lovely island!

But my second thought was this: Maybe this will be the last time – one last visit to Key West, while we still have it.

Beautiful Key West, facing  an ominous future

Beautiful Key West, facing an ominous future

Because, of course, Key West is doomed. Just like all the rest of the Keys. Nothing can now stop the thermal expansion and melting of polar ice sheets which will force the abandonment of this lovely place during the lifetime of this bride and groom.

We can hope for the survival of the massive coral reefs that dwarf these tiny islands, with their bustling communities of billions of creatures. But even that is in doubt, as the world’s oceans absorb more and more carbon from the choked atmosphere, creating an oceanic flood of carbonic acid, which undermines coral and reef health.

No evidence that any of the other guests are aware of any of this this. Many are here for the first time. They don’t notice how much things have changed, even in the couple of decades since we first saw this place. Those waters that used to flow well below street level, now lapping just below the curbs at high tide. That little beach, where I expected the vows to be exchanged, now disappeared beneath the waves. The new “beach?” A little patch of sand spread next to the poolside bar, safely protected from the rising waves by sea walls sea walls and rock levies.

For most of the guests, this is the new baseline. A beach-less island where waters encroach on the town’s infrastructure on sunny, calm days. Maybe it’s always been this way? Who knows?

The Keys from space: dry land is dwarfed by its enormous reefs

The Keys from space: dry land is dwarfed by its enormous reefs

And yet the evidence is everywhere. Of course, not on the ubiquitous hotel-lobby flat screens, where Fox News holds court. But the rest of the world’s new outlets told us just yesterday that 2014 was, as expected, the hottest year ever recorded on Earth, since measurements began more than a century ago. And while it’s a global record, it only just edges out 2010, and 2007, and 2005. In fact, ALL of the last 16 years are among the top 19 hottest global years ever recorded.

And all that heat is warming the oceans, and melting the ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica, which hold enough water to raise sea levels by more than 200 feet. Not surprisingly, the seas are rising fast – much faster than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned over the years. In fact, oceans are rising about 60 percent faster than projections. About two or three feet will be enough to finish off Key West, and that will likely happen well before the end of this century.

And the reefs which sustain these islands? Acidic ocean waters – often called climate change’s “evil twin” – are eating away at them at an alarming pace. In the Caribbean, approximately 80 percent of coral reef cover is now dead, victim to the warmer waters of a changing climate, overfishing and pollution. And yes, with oceans now 30 percent more acidic than they were in 1980, corals face more and more difficulty in building their exoskeletons, which form the backbone of these reefs.

These patterns are occurring all over the world. In 2012, 2,600 of the world’s leading marine biologists came together to issue a “state of emergency” for the world’s coral reefs, upon which the entire ocean ecosystems depend. They noted that 3 billion humans depend on marine ecosystems and biodiversity for their livelihoods – roughly half of humanity. And without the reefs, those humans face an increasingly uncertain future.

But the news didn’t stop with record heat and acidic oceans. The screens in the hotel lobby also didn’t think it newsworthy that just Thursday, an international team of 18 experts issued a new warning that climate change and high rates of extinction of animals and plants have pushed the Earth into a danger zone for humanity’s survival. In fact, of nine crucial “planetary boundaries” considered vital to human survival, four have already been crossed, and the remaining boundaries are in danger.

I strongly suspect that no one in this lovely wedding had any inkling of this alarming report. It is, you know, only a bunch of scientists telling us how and why our species could well be facing extinction.

So, we are glad to have come to the Keys one last time. We thank God for our dear friends, and their daughter’s lovely wedding. We pray for this beautiful new family, and all the good that may come from their union.

And yet, we recognize that every good thing happens in a context. This wedding, on an island that is becoming less and less hospitable to human habitation with the passing years. All terrestrial life, in a world whose climate patterns are unraveling at a pace seldom seen in the geological record. Marine life now struggling to deal with rapid warming and drastic shifts in ocean chemistry.

Are we again seeing the days of Noah, as suggested in Jesus’ warning printed above? If so, it will not be due to lack of notice. Virtually all of the world’s scientific disciplines warn that we are flirting with danger, both for ourselves and those loved ones who will follow us. Even now, there is time to salvage much of the damage we are causing. But we will have to look beyond beautiful seaside weddings, like this one, to the rising waters just barely beyond.

Why Keystone XL Must Be Stopped: One Simple Image

So what’s the big deal about this pipeline?

With the Boehner/McConnell Congress setting the Keystone XL as their number-one legislative priority, we’ve spilled a bit of ink showing what it’s NOT about  – namely, JOBS. In the end, the pipeline will create about as many permanent jobs as two new Taco Bell restaurants – unless we’re talking about jobs for environmental cleanup teams dealing with future toxic spills.

[Note: In Alberta, Canada alone, 90 separate pipeline spills occurred during the four-month period July-October 2014. In October alone, 163,000 gallons of toxins were spilled. In fairness, we suppose those might also create some jobs: oncologists treating cancers, truckers shipping in bottled drinking water, lab technicians testing tap water for safety….]

On the other side, we’ve given short shrift to the arguments of some pipeline opponents as well. To be sure, the threat of toxic spills, the seizure of American farmlands by foreign oil companies, the violation of indigenous treaty rights, and the inevitable export of the refined oil onto world markets are very important to the many Americans directly affected.

For us, however, we’ve felt compelled to focus on the harm that affects every living creature on earth. And that’s because the tar sands pipelines – Keystone, Northern Gateway, and several others – are the keys to unleashing enormous landlocked Canadian reserves containing the world’s dirtiest oil. And here, we must do a little simple math together:

  • CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have hovered around 280 parts-per-million (ppm) throughout human history, a vital blanket of greenhouse gases that have kept the earth’s climate hospitable to millions of living species.
  • In the last two centuries, we’ve burned enough coal, oil and gas to push atmospheric CO2 concentrations upward to 400 ppm, and we’re piling it on at the pace of 2-3 ppm per year.
  • Scientists tell us that 350 ppm is probably the maximum safe level for atmospheric CO2, so we need to slow its growth, and eventually reverse direction. In fact, most recoverable reserves of fossil fuels owned by energy companies can never be produced, without heating the earth more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), widely considered a tipping point to runaway feedback loops that will imperil natural systems of marine and land-based life.
  • The world’s deposits of fossil fuels contain enough carbon to make the planet unrecognizable to existing species. It’s a given that coal production must stop very soon. There are some 10 trillion tons of CO2 locked up in the earth’s recoverable coal deposits. We can afford to burn no more than one-twentieth of that amount from all fossil fuels, according to the most recent UN IPCC report.  If we should ever lose the “war on coal,” there will likely be no living species remaining on the planet.
  • But coal isn’t the only threat out there. Recoverable reserves of “unconventional oil” contain enough carbon to add another 300 ppm of CO2 concentrations to the atmosphere. Once we burn them, the air will be choked with 700 ppm CO2, more than double the level considered safe for ecosystems. And the lion’s share of “unconventional oils” on earth are the tar sands in Canada. Why tar sands must stay in the ground 2

So keep your eye on the red oval in the chart above. When politicians tell you they’re just trying to give us more jobs, or free us from dependence on “foreign oil,” why not ask if they’ve considered what kind of world we’ll leave our children with 600 billion tons more CO2 in the atmosphere from unconventional oil? Are we sure that there will be ANY survivors from such recklessness?

A better course to creating those new jobs might be to build a couple of new Taco Bells, no?

Keystone XL: Not Jobs & Energy, but “Money & Power” features a brief article on Senator Elizabeth Warren’s comments on the bill to force the State Department to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, the new Congress’ #1 priority, KXL is unlikely to create more than a few thousand American jobs over two years of construction, and probably no more than 50 permanent positions once it becomes operational. (We’ve pointed out that that is about the same level of permanent jobs as building two new Taco Bells.)

By comparison, Senator Elizabeth Warren said, passing a permanent highway bill would create upwards of 10 million jobs in the next four years and also restore crumbing roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.

“It’s not about jobs, it’s not about energy. Why is this bill so urgent?” asked Warren. “The answer is power, money and power.”

Watch her two-minute remarks below:

Read the complete article here.

Keystone XL and Job Creation: Nonsense and Prayer

Today, the House votes on a bill to mandate approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, from the tar sands moonscape of Alberta, Canada, to the export terminals at Port Arthur on the Gulf of Mexico. There, two massive refineries owned by Saudi, Dutch and American producers are waiting to process the heavy sour tar-like crude, and ship it all over the world, but principally to the Pembroke Refinery in Wales for processing and sale in Europe.

This drama has a global cast: Canadian producers; multinational refiners; European consumers; and American politicians.

Much is at stake. The Canadian government of Steven Harper has been demanding it for years, so they can fully exploit the world’s third-largest deposit of fossil fuels – and their ticket to a seat among the world’s energy super-powers. The Saudis, the Dutch, and the Europeans have invested billions in anticipation of the flood of heavy sour crude. The American Koch brothers have bought up massive tracts of Canadian leaseholds, anticipating approval of pipelines to get the stuff to global markets.

On the other side, First Nations in Canada, native American tribes and Midwestern ranchers are fighting the destruction of once-pristine northern tribal lands and the risks of additional pipeline spills fouling rivers and aquifers. And environmentalists of all stripes are alarmed at the potential exploitation of some of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels, citing findings that exploitation of the tar sands would almost certainly push the global climate system beyond the 3.6 degree Fahrenheit threshold, often cited as a threshold for runaway feedback loops driving catastrophic consequences to threatened species and vulnerable human communities.

Canada's First Nations have been dogged opponents of tar sands pollution

Canada’s First Nations: dogged opponents of tar sands pollution  (2014 Healing Walk)

Congress has tried to force the President’s hand before, and come up short. But with the GOP now firmly in control, the first item of business is the pipeline. We can now be pretty certain that it will be sent to the President’s desk, where he has promised a veto.

And why would this pipeline rise to the very tippy-top of the new Majority’s Christmas list? To hear the politicians, it’s all about jobs. They’re going to show the country that they know how to create jobs, and do a better job of it than the Obama Administration has done. But here’s where they have to hope that the voters don’t pay too much attention to the facts.

The US economy is actually doing a remarkable job of generating new jobs without reckless projects that imperil the world’s natural systems. Consider:

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US economy created 2,924,000 new jobs in 2014 – or more than 8,000 new jobs every single day.
  • Unemployment has fallen to 5.7%, the lowest level since the summer of 2008.
  • Forbes magazine tells us that when we compare recent presidents who inherited recessions – Reagan and Obama – Obama wins hands down, keeping unemployment lower, and generating far more jobs (although not as many as Clinton).

But, as they always say, ANY unemployment is too much. (Actually, no real economists ever say that, but politicians always do.) So new jobs are a good thing. And how many new jobs will the new Congress’s top-priority pipeline create? Well, TransCanada, the pipeline operator, estimated between 2,500 and 6,500 temporary jobs related to construction of the pipeline.

For the US economy, that’s something like one morning’s worth of new jobs.

Of course, it’s no surprise that TransCanada’s numbers tend toward the rosy side. The State Department figured that the pipeline would support 3,900 temporary construction jobs. But after two years of construction, only 35 employees would be needed to operate the pipeline. That’s THIRTY-FIVE permanent employees. It takes the US economy only a few seconds to generate that many jobs.

For perspective, 35 five new permanent jobs is what you get by opening two new fast food restaurants.

So when our congressional representatives tell us that the Keystone XL is a jobs program, they’re talking nonsense, and we should all tell them so.

400,000 people jammed New York City in September to demand climate action

400,000 people jammed New York City in September to demand climate action 

But what about the pipelines opponents? Can you trust everything you hear from them?

Well, a bit of skepticism might be warranted here as well. And that’s because global climate change is not a very popular vote-getter these days. They’ll talk about pipeline spills, native rights, foreign oil companies and exported oil. And while there’s ample truth to each of those, climate change is really at the core of opposition to Keystone XL. Here’s why:

  • We now know that we must avoid warming the globe more than 2 degrees Celsius if we hope to preserve the Earth’s ecosystems to support the Creation’s millions of living species– including our own. Even if we succeed at that level, we will have consigned more species to extinction than at any time in millions of years.
  • To have any hope of staying below 2 degrees C extra global heat, we must limit total fossil-fuel carbon burned by mankind to one trillion metric tons. The problem is, we’ve already burned more than half of that – 570 billion tons. We have a maximum of 430 billion tons left in our carbon allowance.
  • But the world’s reserves of recoverable fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal – contain more than 13,000 billion tons of CO2. Once again, that’s 13,000 billion tons for a world that can only afford to burn 430 billion. Do the math for yourself: The overwhelming bulk of recoverable oil, gas and coal simply must stay in the ground.
  • The carbon-heavy tar sands at the other end of the proposed KXL pipeline contain 240 billion tons of CO2, enough carbon to blow through the global budget, consigning future generations to challenges and horrors we have never known.
  • And all fossil fuels are not equal, when it comes to manmade climate change. Unburned methane is just about the worst, followed by coal, and then extreme oil like the tar sands. Conventional crude oil is somewhere in the middle, and safely-controlled natural gas is at the lighter end of the carbon spectrum.
  • A new report just published in the science journal Nature has looked at global reserves by region, and found that that one-third of the world’s “proved” oil reserves must stay in the ground for the Earth to have a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate disruption. It’s worse for gas, with 50% having to stay in the ground. And for coal, 80% of existing reserves must never be produced and burned. Finally, NO new fossil fuel reserves can ever be developed, and not a single drop should come out of the Arctic.

Against this sober outlook, the new Congress is merrily charging ahead in a probably-hopeless attempt to reward their campaign contributors, and wrest authority for cross-border pipelines from the State Department, into the hands of politicians who must look to oil companies every two years to finance their election campaigns.

A small band of Christians has been praying over the last year for the denial of the Keystone XL Pipeline. You can find us at PrayNoKXL on Facebook. And while we’ve been praying, seemingly against all odds, the foundations of the tar sands have begun to crack, and in some instances, to crumble:

  • Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of First Nations tribes who are sworn enemies of this and other tar sands pipelines slated to run through their lands;
  • A Nebraska Court delayed the pipeline by over a year, before being reversed only this morning;
  • The world’s climate scientists have given us a “carbon budget,” clarifying that much of world may become unrecognizable or uninhabitable if the tar sands oil is actually burned;
  • China and the US have finally broken their stalemate over climate policy, leading the nations of the world to expect serious action on global climate change by December 2015 at the global climate negotiations in Paris; and
  • The market price of oil has collapsed, making every drop of tar sands oil a money loser for its producers.

We don’t know what’s ahead. But we do know this: God invites – even commands – his children to pray against the odds. We could never have foreseen these events when we began to pray. And even now, we are not assured of any particular outcome. But neither were the apostles Peter and John, when they took a chance before the crippled beggar in Jerusalem’s gate: “I have no silver and gold,” said Peter, “but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

Perhaps we don’t have Peter’s faith and bravado, but we are still praying. Others may think they’re in control of this issue, but we’re pretty sure they’re not.