Changing Climate and the Human Response

Changing Climate and the Human Response

There is no question that we are experiencing a rapidly changing climate. The data is massive and comes from many places on Earth. There hasn’t been much of a change here in Michigan so far. We have had a very typical winter at the time of this writing. However, in places like Alaska, the changes have been very pronounced. Many areas around the globe have witnessed changes not seen before in modern times.

We must understand that there have been many periods of changing climate throughout Earth’s history. At one time, glaciers covered a significant part of North America, giving undeniable evidence of a frigid climate. Around 12,000 years ago, there was a cold period scientists call the “Younger Dryas.” Many large animals went extinct during that climate change. When dinosaurs roamed the Earth, the climate was very different from today. Not only was it warmer, but the oxygen level was higher.

The point is that changing climate is not new. Our planet is a dynamic place, and climate change is part of its history. The issue is how much humans contribute to climate change and whether it will have disastrous consequences for us. As the planet warms, the thawing of glaciers and polar ice releases water into the ocean. This means we have to prepare for weather changes and a rise in sea level.

Some people will use the changes to deny God’s existence. Others will blame God or claim that He is using climate change as a weapon to afflict us for rejecting HIm. Instead, we suggest that God has allowed us to understand how the creation works and expects us to use that knowledge to prepare for the future.

Perhaps as humans battle with the changing climate, it will prevent the nonsense of humans battling other humans. God won’t force solutions on us, but He has given us the tools we need to live successfully on this planet.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Evidence of Climate Change

Evidence of Climate Change

My son-in-law and his family moved to Vancouver, Washington, in 2020. His wife grew up in Thailand, where the weather was hot and humid. I told her that when she got to Vancouver, she would have a completely different climate experience. I explained that the Pacific Current along the coast brings cold water from Alaska while the wind brings cool air and lots of rain to the Portland/Vancouver area. How could I have guessed that the summer of 2021 would prove me wrong and give more evidence of climate change?

June 27, 2021, was the hottest day ever recorded in Oregon, with temperatures reaching 112 degrees in the Portland area. Air conditioners are usually rare commodities in that part of the country, and even fans are not very common. Because the weather was so unusual, people were ill-equipped to deal with that kind of heat, and many people died. My son-in-law had brought an Indiana exhaust fan, so they were not comfortable but able to survive.

This was not just a freak heatwave. Climate change in the western third of this country is causing all kinds of problems. Lake Powell, on which we have spent many happy hours, is at 20% of its maximum capacity. Lake Mead near Las Vegas is 160 feet below its full level. People living in areas like the U.S. midwest don’t understand that this is a real crisis for people who live in the desert southwest. Many cities get their water from these lakes, Likewise, farms. Farmers irrigate their vineyards and orchards with water from those lakes.

The drought is evidence of climate change producing tinderbox conditions in the forests of the western region. From July 24 through December 31 of 2020, more than 100 fires burned over 10 million acres causing 20 billion dollars in damage to man-made structures. The heat even caused highways to buckle.

Those who try to deny the evidence of climate change are setting the world up for a catastrophic future. This is not something that God has done to punish us. However, it is the result of careless use of the resources God has given us. It is time to stop arguing and start fixing the problem. Moving water from places where there is too much to areas that are in drought is an expensive option. Planting massive numbers of trees is an option worth trying. Standing around in 115-degree heat and trying to deny the climate is changing is not an option.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: The Herald Bulletin, July 3, 2021.

God’s Solution for Climate Change

God’s Solution for Climate Change -Forests

It is becoming more and more difficult for the naysayers to deny that we are facing climate change. Some areas are experiencing too much rain, while others are facing catastrophic drought. It is hard to miss the changes in ocean temperatures and how that is affecting ocean life. People have offered all kinds of solutions to stop or reverse what is going on in the world’s climate, but the solutions are expensive and unproven. Perhaps we need to turn to God’s solution for climate change.

Science News published an extensive series of reports under the title “Can Trees Save the World.” The subject matter is broken into three major topics: (1) The Promise and Pitfall of Trees (2) First, Protect Today’s Forests (3) The Forested Farms of the Future. The articles point out the many things trees do to provide climates in which humans can survive.

For example, trees capture and sequester carbon, break up the soil, and inject nutrients into all kinds of soils. Trees provide food for a wide variety of life forms, including humans. Those food sources include fruit, fungus, and plant materials. The report gives an encouraging message of how trees can change the climate situation that threatens humans today,

It is worth noting that according to the Genesis account, the first form of life God created was plants (Genesis 1:11). This was before He established the Sun and Moon as controllers of “signs and for seasons and for days and for years.” The sequence of plants in these verses is “deshe” (grasses), “eseb” (herbs – gymnosperms), and finally “ets peri zera” (tree yielding fruit whose seed is in itself).

Scientific evidence shows that plants were major factors in producing a climate that would allow humans to exist. It seems that correcting our climate problems should involve repeating what God used initially to prepare the planet for human life. We need to turn to God’s solution for climate change.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News for July 3/July 17, 2021, pages 19 -35.

Trees Can Slow Global Warming

Trees Can Slow Global Warming

Anyone who has read valid scientific studies must be aware that there is massive evidence that the planet is facing climate change. Politicians are proposing all kinds of elaborate and expensive solutions. The fact is that God has given us a solution that goes back to Genesis 1:11-12. “And God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees…and God saw that it was good.’” Trees can slow global warming.

In Liuzhou, China, Italian architect and urban planner Stefano Boeri is helping to develop the world’s first “forest city.” Nearly a million plants are being used to cover parks, schools, offices, and apartments. People in Louisville, Kentucky, are working on a similar plan called The Green Heart Project, with 14.5 million dollars to plant 10,000 trees. Louisville has had some health issues with high pollution levels and high rates of cardiovascular disease. The Green Heart Project began in 2018 directed by Eruni Bhatnagar of the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute at the University of Louisville. Similar studies and projects are underway at Murray State University, Arizona State University, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Lawrence University, Yale, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins.

Most of us are aware that trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, but the idea of planting trees and other forms of vegetation in urban areas is relatively new. In 2014, Italian developers completed the Bosco Verticale, which is Italian for vertical forest. They built a double skyscraper to hold 800 trees, 15,000 perennials, and 5,000 shrubs that spill over terraces. Dozens of studies have shown that people living near green spaces have lower stress levels, lower asthma rates, and fewer cardiovascular and respiratory tract illnesses.

When the Genesis account was written, there were no problems with carbon emissions and pollution, but even then, God was giving us a key to health. Rather than causing enormous energy costs and damaging our economy, trees can slow global warming, so let’s plant massive numbers of trees.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Ocean Currents Affect the Climate

Ocean Currents Affect the Climate

There is much concern today about global warming, but many factors determine the climate in any particular location on Earth. Of course, we know that the closer we get to the equator, the warmer the temperatures are. Conversely, as we get closer to the poles, we find colder temperatures. But that isn’t always true, and one factor is what some people call “the global conveyor belt.” We are talking about how ocean currents affect the climate.

Ocean currents temper some areas which would be excessively hot to make the climate much more comfortable. Ocean currents affect the climate in some regions by stabilizing it to prevent extreme temperature swings. Many areas benefit from ocean currents which bring warmer temperatures.

An extreme example of an area warmed by ocean currents is Lofoten, an archipelago of islands in Norway. Lofoten is located north of the Arctic Circle at more than 68 degrees north latitude. The Sun remains below the horizon for more than a month in the winter and above the horizon for more than a month in the summer. The rest of the year, it never rises high in the sky. However, Lofoten is the most northern place on Earth where the daily mean temperature remains above freezing all year. The reason for that is the effect of ocean currents. The Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Current carry warmer water from areas farther south to temper the climate of Lofoten. In fact, Lofoten has the largest upward temperature anomaly in relation to its latitude of any location in the world.

The causes of the ocean currents are numerous, including waves, wind, Coriolis effect, water density differences due to temperature and salinity, shoreline configurations, melting polar ice, and the ocean floor’s contours. This global conveyor belt of ocean currents affects the climate making Earth more hospitable. It is only one of many engineering marvels that have created this amazing, beautiful, habitable world. Some say that the world is all an accidental product of natural forces. We say that those forces are evidence of a Master Designer.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

North Pole Ice Melting

North Pole Ice Melting

Scientists have recently conducted a fascinating study of the North Pole region. The Arctic is warming three times faster than the rest of the planet. With North Pole ice melting, the question is, “What effect will this warming have on Earth’s climate?”

To investigate that question, The Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) involved 600 scientists and experts from around the world. They equipped the icebreaker RV Polarstern with a large number of scientific tools and accommodations. The plan was to freeze the ship into an ice floe and let it drift for a year to study the North Pole’s climate as never before.

The scientists did much of the work on the ice floe itself, even setting up camp there. Sometimes they fell through but were saved by their protective flotation clothing. They gathered large amounts of data, which will take years to analyze thoroughly. It will give a wealth of scientific information about the changes that are taking place on our planet.

The team started the project in October of 2019, but by July 30, the floe had broken up, and the Polarstern was in open water. They decided to head directly to the North Pole. On August 19, still in open water, the ship arrived at the pole and found very little ice.

Summer of 2020 ranks as the hottest ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere. It may seem that the North Pole ice melting is too far away to cause concern for us, but changes of this magnitude at the pole will bring changes in weather all over the globe.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Discover magazine, January/February, 2021.

Michigan Fruit Trees and Global Warming

Michigan Fruit Trees and Global Warming

There are all kinds of evidence that we are in a period of global warming. Many of the examples don’t have so much to do with temperature as with heat. Glaciers, for instance, stay pretty much at the same temperature under the surface. But ice requires 80 calories of heat per gram to melt, without changing the temperature. You can see that when you put ice cubes in your tea. You can also see the effect of global warming on Michigan fruit trees.

We live in an area rich in fruit-growing with apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, and blueberries being major cash crops. My friends who make their living with Michigan fruit trees are very upset with the current weather cycle because it has not been cold enough. Fruit trees require time and temperature to know when to blossom and when not to. They do this by a sophisticated design system. Most fruit trees need a minimum of 250 hours of temperatures between 35 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 10 degrees Celsius), and some require up to 1000 hours. Temperatures below freezing don’t count.

The “chilling hours” are sensed by the buds on the trees, not the roots.
The wisdom in this system is obvious. Michigan winters usually have many days when the temperature goes below 10 degrees C, but there are also those rare days when the temperature gets very warm. This past winter, we had fewer than normal hours in the required temperature range. The buds have not gotten enough chilling to tell them to open. If they didn’t have the built-in time requirement, you can understand what would happen. The first time the temperature dipped below 10 degrees followed by a warm day, the buds would open and blossom only to be killed by the next cold snap.

Trees that are native in southern latitudes don’t bear fruit well when they are moved north. God has suited plants to different climates as well as other environmental factors. Orchards are found near bodies of water for several reasons. One of them is the tempering effect the water has on the air temperature. The presence of Lake Michigan provides a heat sink for our Michigan fruit trees that is as important as the moisture itself. The Psalmist seems to have had some idea of this when he compares a righteous person to a tree: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked … He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season” (Psalms 1:1-3).

My fruit-growing friends have learned to understand and work with God’s design for their trees, but sometimes weather anomalies can frustrate their best efforts.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Rossby Waves and Earth’s Climate

Rossby Waves and Earth's ClimateWe have previously discussed the movement of air around the Earth, and the circulation pattern called the Hadley cells. Another important factor in Earth’s climate is Rossby waves.

Because the equator is hot, heated air rises and moves away from the equator, dropping its moisture as it cools. At about 30 degrees latitude, the now dry air falls back to the Earth, producing deserts. As the air reaches Earth’s surface, it moves north and south, creating the trade winds in the subtropical area and the prevailing mid-latitude winds in latitudes between 30 degrees and the polar regions.

A wide range of things alters this simplified picture. When greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide accumulate, they reflect infrared radiation causing the Earth’s atmosphere to become hotter. This effect isn’t uniform, however. Because of melting sea ice, Earth’s poles are affected by greenhouse gases more than the area of the equator. This causes a thermal imbalance between the poles and the equator affecting circulation around the poles and creating Rossby waves.

As the thermal imbalance has become greater and the air more wobbly in recent years, that affects the jet stream. The wobbles this past year have caused the northern jet stream to go further south than usual, bringing cold into Arizona in late spring. When the jet stream swung north, it brought hot tropical air toward the poles. On its way north, it brought unusual amounts of water into Oklahoma while Anchorage, Alaska, got temperatures over 90 degrees for the first time ever. Rossby waves is the name applied to the meandering high-altitude winds that have a major influence on Earth’s weather.

All of this shows us how fragile Earth’s climate is. Weather patterns depend on a wide range of variables which include the:
*size of the Earth’s atmosphere
*tilt of the Earth
*distribution of land compared to water
*chemical makeup of the atmosphere
*kind of radiation coming from the Sun and how that radiation is absorbed and reflected
*nature of Earth’s surface (whether ice or black dirt)
All of those factors go into making Earth a habitable planet.

We exist on this planet because of the precision design and construction of Earth and its atmosphere. The fact that it has stayed stable long enough for human life to exist for thousands and thousands of years is a testimony to the careful design and construction. Proverbs 8 finds “wisdom” speaking about its role in the creation process. Wisdom says she was there before the creation (verse 22-23) and that wisdom was a part of the preparation of the heavens (verse 26-28).

As we see the results of the small changes that have happened to the atmosphere in the past 100 years and the instability of Rossby waves, we wonder at Earth’s design and the wisdom of God who created it.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Astronomy, December, 2019, page 64.

Does God Cause Natural Disasters?

Does God Cause Natural Disasters?One of the struggles we all have is understanding why God allows disastrous events that cause massive destruction and suffering to humans. Atheists use this question as a club against faith, and it is perhaps their best weapon. The list of events that harm humans is huge – earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, landslides, fires, floods, droughts, etc. At this time of the year, hurricanes are at the front of our awareness. Does God cause natural disasters to punish people?

If you have just seen a natural event take place that destroyed your home and killed a loved one, no rational explanation is going to be of any help. Our hearts go out to those of you who are trying to make sense of what seems to be a senseless disaster that has hurt them in ways that no one else can understand. We don’t want anyone to think that we have all the answers. If somehow we can remove ourselves from our own emotions, here are three things we need to understanding:

1) God does not cause disasters. The notion that God brings catastrophes upon people He doesn’t like, or people who violate His laws or commands is inconsistent with the nature of God. James 1:13 tells us clearly that God doesn’t tempt us in any way. The passage specifically deals with moral temptation, but verse 17 goes on to say that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” God brings good things. Jealousy or vindictiveness is not a part of His nature.

2) Human stupidity in the face of natural processes is a significant cause of calamity. Hurricanes are a classic example of this. The Earth has zones of climate that are made functional by natural processes which create climate zones. The Hadley Cell explains these zones, with different zones creating tropical rainforests and deserts. Those zones are balanced by natural processes such as hurricanes that carry water into what would otherwise be a desert. Thirty-degree latitudes north and south would be deserts if it were not for hurricanes that bring massive amounts of water to recharge water supplies. In the United States, northern Florida and southern Georgia would be deserts with no water were it not for hurricanes. Humans ignoring this system and building in areas known to be vulnerable to hurricanes while removing natural barriers such as mangroves causes much of the suffering and death.

3) Human mismanagement of God’s creation due to greed and ignorance is a major cause of human suffering. Genesis 2:15 tells us that God gave humans the assignment to take care of “the garden, to dress it and keep it.” We are the caretakers of what God has created, but selfishness and greed have caused significant suffering and destruction. We all know that polluting the air, rivers, lakes, and now the ocean has led to cancer and now appears to be affecting Earth’s climate. We all understand that exploitative agriculture has led to fires, erosion, dust storms, and insect swarms. Scientific journals are full of studies showing how human mismanagement of what God has given us is leading and has led to disaster.

Does God cause natural disasters? The answer is “NO!” It isn’t God’s will that humans suffer from natural disasters, but God has never promised us that He will protect us from ourselves. What God has done is to build a base by which His servants can help those who are suffering. The Church has a responsibility to show God’s love and compassion for the hurting. Atheists need to pitch in and help clean up the mess, not try to blame God. (Read Matthew 25:31-40.)
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Natural Selection as Creative Agent

Natural Selection as Creative Agent - Polar BearsYesterday we pointed out that both evolutionary naturalists and many creationists believe that, given enough time, anything can happen. They assume that once the first life-form came into being (which cannot be explained by natural selection) that time and natural selection would create all the vastly different forms of life. There are many reasons why natural selection as creative agent will not work no matter how much time you give it. We presented three reasons yesterday. Here are three more:

1-Natural selection tends to produce over-specialization. One of the fundamental laws of biology and evolution is Dollo’s Law. The French biologist Louis Dollo proposed that law in 1890. It says that once evolutionary characteristics have evolved, they cannot revert to the form from which they came. We now know why that is true by our advances in genetics. What it tells us is that as natural selection lets an animal become more and more specialized, it can not revert back to what it was before. Polar bears that have evolved by natural selection to their present state cannot return back to the black bear genetics of their ancestors. That may mean that they will become extinct if global climate change continues. Natural selection as creative agent won’t work because it is pretty much a one-way process.

2-Natural selection deals only with survival. The development of beauty does not always involve survival. Some coloration in birds, for example, does not aid their survival but results in incredible beauty. Jesus talked about the lilies of the field and birds of the air as blessed with beauty and function. While this has significant meaning for us aesthetically, sometimes the beauty of plants and animals may actually threaten their physical survival. We have discussed this point many times in our “Dandy Designs” column and elsewhere.

3-Natural selection stands at odds with the concept of entropy. The second law of thermodynamics tells us that in any closed system, things tend to move from a condition of order to a state of disorder. One can argue that the Earth is not a closed system because the Sun is adding energy. When living things eat, they add energy in the form of the chemicals in the food they consume.

The fact is, however, that in all biological systems, there is a tendency for life to become disordered. We call it aging. My body continues to produce a higher and higher level of entropy (disorder) as the years go by. All biological systems do this. To suggest that biological systems become more and more specialized by natural processes violates the very basic laws of physics and chemistry. The cosmos itself is moving towards disorder. Unless intelligence can add organizing energy and reverse the natural tendency to age, everything is doomed from our bodies to our planet.

God built the cosmos with laws that function to allow life to exist. He created life itself and built into it certain characteristics that caused Paul to write: “We can know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:20). Natural selection is one of the things God has made, and it allows nature to function. Natural selection as creative agent cannot explain the beautiful, complex world around us. It only applies to those changes which improve the chances for life to survive. Time is not a friend to aging or complexity. The older my car gets, the more likely it is to break down. That is true of my body and the natural world around me as well.
— John N. Clayton © 2019