Tag Archives: climate change

Never-Trump Evangelicals on an Endangered Planet

For many American Evangelicals, this election season is different. Whatever we think about guns, or emails, or Roe v. Wade, or billionaires paying no taxes, or health care – we’ve never seen anything like this before.

Since Reagan in the 1980’s, we’ve been a reliable base for the Republican Party. But not this year. This year, we Evangelicals have been split wide open by the looming shadow of a Trump presidency. With nearly daily pronouncements that would normally send Christians packing, Trump has attracted intense criticism from many religious leaders, and awkward theological contortions from many of the Old Guard. James Dobson and Jerry Falwell Jr. still stand by their man. But many church leaders – from Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, to pastor Max Lucado, to evangelist Beth Moore, to author Phillip Yancey, and even to Pope Francis himself – have criticized the GOP standard-bearer as antithetical to Christian teaching.

Russell Moore: "The damage done to gospel witness this year will take longer to recover from than those 1980's televangelist scandals."

Baptist Russell Moore: “The damage done to gospel witness this year will take longer to recover from than those 1980’s televangelist scandals.”

The Never-Trump Evangelicals are a diverse bunch. But we share with each other allegiance to the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. We believe that he is Lord of all things: All things were created by and for him; he holds all things together; he is reconciling all things to himself; and he has made us agents of his reconciliation toward all things. There simply is nothing beyond the scope of our Lord’s care – and ours.

Of course, this means that we are not misogynists. We struggle against racism and xenophobia. We recoil at threats of torture, and killing the families of our enemies. We are dismayed at the prospect of a president whose entire campaign has earned him the notorious “Lie of the Year” award. We can hardly imagine handing the world’s strongest military into the hands of one who indulges in noxious conspiracy theories, who flirts with inciting political violence, who admires authoritarian rulers, and who threatens to jail his political enemies. And we feel the threat to what remains of our cultural decency from a thrice-married presidential aspirant whose casinos feature strip clubs, and who boasts of grabbing women by the genitals while his third wife is pregnant with his fifth child.

Trump’s “antics,” insisting that, “such insensitivities wouldn’t even be acceptable even for a middle school student body election.”

Max Lucado: Trump’s antics “wouldn’t even be acceptable for a middle school student body election.”

But for some of us Never-Trump Evangelicals, these are trifles, when compared to the most ominous consequences ahead.

Trifles? How can anyone pass off such patent disregard for the foundations of Christian decency as mere trifles?

Here’s how.

While it’s attracted curiously little public debate, Candidate Trump has promised to singlehandedly undo the entire world’s last, best effort to save our common home from runaway ecosystem destruction. For people who take geo-science seriously, Trump’s promises amount to destruction of the creation that sustains our civilization.

Really. We’re not reading between the lines. This is not something he might do. This is what he has expressly promised to do. Considering the stakes, we’d be fools not to take “straight-talking” Trump at face value: He has promised to spare no effort to destroy every national and global effort to salvage a livable climate for us and our children.

Here are just a few targets on Trump’s planetary hit-list:

  • Abolish the EPA as we know it. (Anyone remember Pittsburgh or Cleveland in the 1970’s? Or Beijing today?)
  • Forbid the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide. (Of course, this won’t be necessary once it’s been abolished.)
  • Halt funding for the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change. (As the second-largest polluter in the world, the defection of Trump’s America would bring down the entire 190-nation effort to stop runaway climate change.)
  • Cancel the Clean Power Plan. (The fossil-fuel industry would be free to emit as many greenhouse gases into our common atmosphere as they want – for free.)
  • Build the Keystone XL pipeline and more like it. (Despite historically low fuel prices, the world’s dirtiest oil would be piped through America’s largest aquifers, for refining and export.)
  • Kill federal fracking regulations. (Even if toxic fracking chemicals can destroy community drinking water, that’s not government’s business if oil companies are against it.)
  • Oppose any carbon tax. (The cost of climate disruption should be borne by you and me, not by fossil fuel polluters.)

So what would it mean to us if Trump kept even a few of these promises?

Well, his scheme will trigger the collapse of the global climate initiative aimed at keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. (In case you are skeptical, mega-polluter China has just warned of the danger of Trump’s plans.) Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will continue to grow unabated. And while the consequences may sound apocalyptic, they are well understood by experts around the world: polar ice sheets will melt faster in the runaway heat; rising sea levels will inundate coastal cities and nations; the oceans will become too acidic to support marine ecosystems; and extreme weather – droughts, floods, wildfires and tropical storms – will drive mass migration and desperate resource conflicts in a world armed to the teeth.

Pope Francis: "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian."

Pope Francis: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

And if that is not enough, the survivors of our recklessness will bear the knowledge that of all the nations on earth, ours will bear unique responsibility for the world’s suffering. At the very moment that the entire planet came together under the Paris Agreement to save our children from runaway climate change, America will have handed the reins of a superpower to the only leader in the world to scoff at the threat of climate change — the one leader whose plans amount to a manifesto for planetary destruction.

Worse yet, our country will have done so with the key backing of leaders of the Religious Right or conservative Evangelicals. Now that’s something to think about.

Because the very name “Evangelical” comes from the Greek word for “good news.” We bear the good news of the gospel – God’s love offered freely in Jesus Christ to an injured world in need of restoration and healing. And yet, perhaps we will have a key hand in destroying the most basic systems that humanity needs for its survival? Really? That’s good news?

No, it’s not. But we Never-Trump Evangelicals know that. Our Lord is not in the business of destroying his creation and his people. In fact, he loved his world so much that he laid down his life to reconcile all of it to himself. And we will do all we can to offer this good news to an injured world.

This is who I am.  This is what I care about.  Other Never-Trump Evangelicals like me agree with this. Maybe you agree too?

How Our Coasts Will Disappear

They say that doom and gloom is sure-fire method of driving away readers. But if sea levels are rising, as seven in ten Americans acknowledge, then it’s worth asking just how – and when – my favorite coastal spot might be gone. Believe me, I know you’d rather not wade into this swamp. But it’s important. Please, take a second to look.

Just this August, Louisiana suffered historic flooding, causing more than $10 billion in damage, 80 percent of it uninsured. It was dubbed the most destructive storm to hit the country since Super Storm Sandy.

Hardly a month later, another storm barely grazed the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, and left behind comparable damage, still being assessed in the range of $6-9 billion.

Big storms, no doubt. But here’s the thing: Neither one involved a hurricane making landfall on U.S. soil. Louisiana merely suffered from an intense rainstorm. And American Easterners nervously watched an advancing hurricane’s trail of destruction and death in Haiti, but breathed a sigh of relief as it sliced eastward into the open Atlantic.

Still, the storm wreaked many billions of dollars of damage, and more than fifty fatalities.

Of course, these storms produced the usual claims and denials about the connection to climate change, as always. But more instructive to me was the picture of what coastal inundation will look like in an age of climate chaos. Here’s why:

For the large majority of Americans who accept the findings of climate science, I suspect we tend to view sea-level rise as a linear phenomenon. Mapping websites abound where you can zoom in on your home, select a hypothetical level of ocean rise, and see whether you’re safe or not. For Louisiana, here’s what it looks like for two feet, well inside many estimates for the current century.capturelouisiana

Look! The blue incursions make New Orleans look pretty dicey, but Baton Rouge and Lafayette are still okay, right? And here’s a look at the Carolinas at two feet. Sure, the Outer Banks, Charleston and Wilmington are all gone, but Goldsboro, Wilmington and Raleigh are pretty good.capture

Okay, admittedly it’s bad, but we can find a way to manage, right?

Actually, no, we probably can’t. Here’s why: These maps may be accurate, for what they’re being asked to do. One a calm, sunny day, the communities shown in the green may be, in fact, above water. But take a look at what happened during the Louisiana non-hurricane – before any further sea-level rise at all:

picture1

Lafayette was inundated. Baton Rouge was a virtual island, with flooding on all sides. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way, was it? New Orleans would slip away first, and Mardi Gras would set up shop Baton Rouge. Except Baton Rouge was flooded out first. (And that’s with today’s sea levels, not an extra couple of feet.)

The Carolinas tell a similar story. After Tropical Storm Matthew slipped past, Goldsboro and Lumberton – each about 80 miles inland from the Atlantic beaches – were completely awash, together with hundreds of other inland communities.picture2

For nearly ten years now, we’ve been warning our fellow beach-lovers: Visit as often as you like, enjoy the sun and surf. But please, please, don’t invest the nest egg in sea-side property. Even now, that’s probably sound advice. But the picture is actually much worse. In a world of increasingly dire climate chaos, you’re hardly safe in low-lying inland communities either.

What should you do? Well, what if we started by living like people who understand that the future of our world, and especially our children’s, depends on lower carbon emissions. Cut our carbon footprint, and offset what we can’t cut.

But whatever our individual efforts, there are many things that we can only accomplish together — as a country, or as an entire world. We can each drive smarter, but most of us can’t develop our own electric car. We can insulate the house, but most of us can’t build our own wind farm. These things depend on concerted national action. So find out what your Congressional representative is doing about climate change. And look at where the Presidential candidates stand.

The consequences of ignoring climate change may seem to be a long way off. But for many on our lowland coasts, they’ve already arrived.

The Debate: Breaking the Silence on Climate Change

When Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump squared off Monday night before 100 million viewers, they covered a lot of important ground – including their visions of prosperity, security, and the direction of our country.

Outside the debate venue, a group of students and young people from Young Evangelicals for Climate Action joined hands to pray and demand that the moderator and candidates address the threat of  manmade climate change to humans and God’s creation. Observing the debate from home, I’d have to say that their prayers were answered, if only just as a start.

Young Evangelicals for Climate Action praying outside the debate venue

Young Evangelicals for Climate Action demand that candidates present climate change plans at Hofstra Univ.

Yes, Clinton did stake her flag on making the U.S. “the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.” She even got specific: “We can deploy a half a billion more solar panels. We can have enough clean energy to power every home. We can build a new modern electric grid. That’s a lot of jobs. That’s a lot of new economic activity.”

And she challenged Trump on his longstanding climate denialism: “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it’s real.”

Of course, Trump denied the charge: “I did not — I do not say that. I do not say that.” The mid-sentence change in verb tenses (“do” not “did”) provided a bit of a fig leaf for the billionaire. As almost everyone knows, Trump tweeted the “Chinese climate hoax” idea in 2012. In fact, he has been recorded on video or in his tweets eleven times calling global warming a hoax, as recently as July 26, 2016.

So, “I did not” clearly doesn’t fly. But “I do not” is one of those imponderables: As-I-stand-on-this-stage, I do not? Well, okay then. We’ll wait for tomorrow.

Well, in fact, tomorrow arrived. The morning after the debate, Trump’s campaign manager said that the candidate has traded the “climate hoax” narrative for new story: “He believes that global warming is naturally occurring,” said Kellyanne Conway.

Naturally occurring. Well that’s something. In the last month, Mr. Trump has learned a lot of new things. He’s discovered that there is no hoax going on, despite four years of being certain that the opposite was true. But even more remarkable, he’s learned that global warming is happening due to natural causes, not manmade carbon emissions.

Natural causes? So, where he did he do his research on this? We decided to look:

  • Maybe the U.S. National Academy of Science? We checked, but no luck there: “Scientists know that recent climate change is largely caused by human activities,” they write in a landmark study, “from an understanding of basic physics, comparing observations with models, and fingerprinting the detailed patterns of climate change caused by different human and natural influences.”
  • Okay, how about the world’s largest scientific society – the American Association for the Advancement of Science? Hmm, strike two. Their website banner trumpets the conclusion before you even get to the details: “Based on the evidence, about 97% of climate scientists agree that human-caused climate change is happening.” We kept looking.
  • How about the peer-reviewed science journals, like Science or Nature? More bad news. They virtually all agree that “climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”
  • Well, there must be someone. How about any American or international association of sciences from any discipline whatsoever? We checked. Again, no dice. Just this summer, 31 scientific societies representing millions of geologists, chemists, biologists, agronomists, mathematicians and researchers from many other specialties wrote to Congress to inform our leaders that “greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver” behind climate change, and warned of “broad negative impacts on society, including the global economy, natural resources, and human health.”

We’re not giving up, and will let you know when we find where Trump got his new scientific information, or whatever else he may have found instead.

In our view, this debate was not wasted. People are now talking. Twitter is abuzz with references to climate denial. Perhaps voters may see their choice this year as a choice for the future of the world’s ecosystems. That would be redemptive, we think.

Young Evangelicals, thank you for your prayers and your demand for open discourse. Whatever our political leanings might be, we now have a fuller idea of where our country – and our world – might go regarding the climate crisis in the next four years. Clinton promises to lead a transition to a clean power economy. Trump promises to stop the transition – stop the Clean Power Plan, the global Climate Accord struck in Paris, and to turn back the clock on the burning of coal to where it was when our grandparents were young.

We have a choice. And the faithful witness of Young Evangelicals has helped us to see it more clearly.

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?