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