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Is Climate Change God’s Will?


The following is a reposting from last January:

Recently a good friend of mine shared that, at a family gathering over the holidays,  her son and daughter-in-law had remarked that they didn’t “believe” in climate change. Since then, I have been considering her situation. What is an appropriate response that maintains a good relationship with the friend or family member and yet doesn’t allow this rather silly statement to stand unchallenged?

I find it interesting that people with no training in climate science feel that they are able to judge what is going on with a complex system such as our climate. It’s comparable to someone with no education or training in atmospheric science looking up at the sky and making the pronouncement that there is definitely no hole in the ozone layer, because they can’t see it. This, of course, flies in the face of all the scientific evidence that the international community acted on in the late 1980s when the Montreal Protocol was signed to limit ozone-destroying CFCs.  In many ways that situation is similar to the one we are in now, with a warming atmosphere and resultant global climate destabilization. Climate change is a global problem, the science is solid, and international action must be taken to solve this problem.  And yet people like my friend’s family members, whom we will call Billy and Jane, who are university-educated in the arts, not the sciences, feel qualified to dismiss all the peer-reviewed scientific data as a “belief”. And of course the situation is aggravated because many governments, including Canada’s,  are not taking decisive action. As well, there are dirty-fuel industries actively working (and dedicating hundreds of millions of dollars)  to throw doubt on the science and confuse people, as the tobacco industry did for decades with the health dangers of cigarette smoke (and some of the same people are involved!).

Greg Craven is a high school science teacher who has produced several great videos on the issue of climate change, and has written a book What’s the Worst That Could Happen?.  In one of the videos, he asks the question “Climate Change – Is it God’s will?”.  It might be helpful to explore some of the points he brings up in the video with friends and family who dismiss climate change as a “belief” system, as long as the discussion can remain civil.

For example, start with a hypothetical situation:

  • Consider if you lived on a river, and depended on the fish the river provided for food and income. You start to notice that there were fewer and fewer fish, you occasionally saw dead fish floating past, and the river was starting to stink. You might go looking up the river for answers, and suppose you found that someone had installed a pipe that was pouring dirty industrial effluent into the water. This person, however, denied that this pollution was having any affect on the river.  At that point, you might want to get a water quality expert to come out and analyze the water, and you might value the expert’s opinion more than the opinion of the fellow who was polluting the river, and also more than somebody walking by who glanced at the river and stated that they didn’t believe that any pollution was actually occurring.

What is the difference between this situation and global climate change? If Billy and Jane agree that the pollution of the river isn’t something that can/should be framed as a belief system, then it may be possible to illustrate that the same is true for the very much larger, but analogous, problem of climate change.  It might be helpful to scale up the analogy from a local level (the river) to the regional situation (acid rain) to a global level (the depletion of the ozone layer and climate change).

At the end of the video, Greg Craven asks people to take this situation seriously, and consider the connection between polluting a river and polluting our atmosphere. He ends with

“We may not share the same faith, but we definitely all share the same planet.”


More links:

Greg Craven: To Act or Not Act, That is the Question

The Heartland Institute and The Academy of Tobacco Studies

Extraordinary Photos of the World’s Melting Glaciers: Climate Change is not a religion, or a doctrine, or a political stance.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 2012/01/05 8:02 am

    Great post Christine, thanks so much. and what a fantastic video. I wanted to make one comment about the ‘arts educated’ individuals vs the ‘science educated’ individuals, and I suppose put in a plug for the former. First, many many artists are deeply engaged in communicating climate change through their art, which means — on a human scale, and at an emotional level. To me, this is one of the most significant ways to address one of the challenges Greg refers to in his video — how to bring climate change down to a human scale. The work of artists, whether it’s a song, a poem, a video, a film or a rock concert – do this all the time. While the graphs, bar charts and acts of science are essential, and will absolutely move a portion of the population to change their behaviour, I respectfully suggest that art can and does do the same thing, but through different channels, and on a spiritual level, which is (or can be) very different from a religious level. I must also declare my bias – for more information about art rooted in the science of climate change go to: Thanks again for such great, stimulating and always civil posts.

    • 2012/01/05 5:59 pm

      Thanks for dropping by, Carolyn. And you make a very valid point (and one which, having a Bachelor of Religious Studies myself) I totally agree with – the facts of science cannot be communicated in a way that speaks to the human heart the way an artist can convey that same truth. I should probably have clarified that my critique was of folks with philosophy and religion majors making a pronouncement disagreeing the science of climate change. Truly baffling!

      Thanks for all you are doing at Cape Farewell, and keep up the good fight!

  2. 2012/01/05 8:04 am

    p.s. — that’s ‘facts’ of science, not ‘acts’ of science 🙂

  3. 2012/03/02 9:16 pm

    If you read the Scriptures on passages relating to desolations and famines, the Good Book is very clear that these harsh climate changes are on account of human sinfulness, that is, not doing God’s will. What is God’s will?

    One needs to go back to Genesis Chapters 1 to 3. The reader should carefully check God’s commands at the time of creation:
    1. Work in the garden;
    2. Keep the garden; “keep” translates to being responsible over the garden; that means we are to be keepers not destroyers;
    3. Know the garden; God brought Adam before all living creatures to know them and name them; “knowing” translates to understanding how each of these creatures contribute to the system of the garden;
    4. Multiply; the command to multiply must be understood in the context of the other commands to “keep” and “know”; there is a command to nature to increase in numbers so it is to be understood that we are to multiply as all of creation itself multiplies;
    5. Replenish; that is to make abundant again; so even as we multiply to fill the Earth we are to restore, replenish, and also refill creation along with our growth in population; we cannot just increase our populations without increasing the resources that support our existence;
    6. Have dominion; that is that we are to be responsible rulers; this command should be understood in the context of responsible governance;
    7. We are to be providers as God has provided;
    8. Choose life and not death; we were permitted to pick from the tree of life but not to pick from the tree of death;
    9. Control the forces of nature;
    10. Give rest to yourself and to creation.

    These commandments that were given to the first human family should answer clearly what is God’s will and what we should be doing.

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