The cause and control of the weather has been one of the great human misunderstandings throughout the ages and even today. In ancient times, pagan societies invented gods to explain weather phenomena. They had gods and goddesses of rain, hail, lightning, wind, snow, and even rainbows. As human knowledge increased, we have come to understand these things are design features of the Earth. However, we still have misunderstandings about weather and climate. The current climate change debate makes that obvious.
The Bible doesn’t embrace the pagan misunderstandings of weather and related phenomena. Essential to our weather is the water cycle beautifully described in Ecclesiastes 1:7, “All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; the place from which the rivers come they return again.” You will also find this in Job 36:27-28. The ancients viewed lightning as weapons of the gods, but the Bible repeatedly references the fact that lightning is a natural occurrence. (See Jeremiah 10:13 and 51:16.) Recently, a local weather person said that lightning never hits the same place twice, but between 2015 and 2020, lightning struck the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) in Chicago 250 times.
Tornadoes are a significant issue for those who want toblame God for destructive weather. However, few understand that tornadoes are pretty much an American phenomenon that seems related to how we have used the land. Every year, roughly 1,200 tornadoes are reported in the U.S. That is 75% of all tornado reports in the world. I have talked with indigenous people in America, and they tell me that their ancestors never saw a tornado and had no word for it. (They did have a word for dust devils.) Between our plowing and blacktopping the land, we may have provided a catalyst for these terrible storms.
Now, we are seeing global changes in climate and weather. Scientific evidence indicates that the way we use what God has given us is at least a contributor to these changes. Misunderstandings about weather and climate cause some to believe that destructive weather is a vindictive act of an angry God. The truth is that we have caused a very high percentage of our misery from dust storms to recent fires and flooding. We must listen to and obey God’s admonition to “Take care of the garden” (Genesis 2:15).
With many world issues to be concerned about, politicians and the media are predicting the end of the Earth because of global warming. Yes, climate change is real, but predictions of Earth’s demise are highly exaggerated.
U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez received widespread media coverage as she predicted the end of humanity would happen within 12 years. Politicians today continue to scream that the end of the Earth is near. The media quoted our current administration with these words: “The world is facing a grave emergency…Every week brings new climate-related devastation. Floods. Drought. Heat waves. Wildfires, Superstorms … We are in a battle for our lives … Climate change is the biggest threat to the global economy.”
There is no question that we need to take steps to improve our planet, but predictions of Earth’s demise are highly exaggerated. The prophets of doom are not only inaccurate, but they are unsettling. Consider the following facts which you won’t see in most of the media:
1. The number of hurricanes annually making landfall in the U.S. has declined since 1900. That is also true for major hurricanes – category three and above. The second-lowest recorded year was 2022. 2. The wildfires in Australia in 2019 and 2020 were close to Sydney and Melbourne, where the major news organizations are, so the coverage was exaggerated. The total number of fires in Australia as a whole was one of the lowest levels on record. The amount of burned areas over the entire planet has dramatically declined over the past 25 years. 3. In the 1920s, roughly 500,000 people died annually due to climate. That number has been dropping to approximately 11,000 people in 2022. 4. In 1890, renewable sources produced 94% of the world’s energy (mostly wood). In 2021, 16% of the world’s energy was from renewable sources. 5. Unlike the politicians’ proposal of net zero by 2050, the most optimistic model suggests we could reach 95%. However, the cost would be roughly $11,000 per person per year. 6. Yale climate economist William Nordhaus received the Nobel Prize in economics in 2018 for his studies comparing the cost of climate change and climate policy. He showed that restricting the average world temperature to a 6.75 degrees Fahrenheit rise, instead of the 7.4 degrees that it will rise if we do nothing, would cost 20 trillion dollars. Limiting the increase to 5.3 degrees would cost about 100 trillion dollars.
The bottom line is that the media and the politicians are exaggerating the long-term effects of climate change and underestimating the economic cost of climate policy. Motivating people to do something is good, but we must consider the cost and apply innovation to do the job efficiently.
God created a resilient Earth, and we must recognize the challenges and be good stewards of God’s gifts. All the hand-wringing of the media and the politicians accomplishes very little. Predictions of Earth’s demise are highly exaggerated.
A new report shows that rain, carbon dioxide, and various kinds of rocks are major players in controlling Earth’s climate. The study, led by Penn State University, pooled data from 45 soil sites and many watersheds worldwide to see how the weathering of rocks combines with rain to stabilize climate. You might call it Earth’s thermostat in the rocks.
We know that volcanoes have emitted large amounts of carbon dioxide, potentially turning the planet into a greenhouse. However, rain dissolves the carbon dioxide out of the air, creating a weak acid that falls to the surface. The acid wears away the rocks in Earth’s crust, and carbon is part of the byproducts of this action. Streams and rivers carry the carbon to the ocean, where it is eventually locked away in sedimentary rocks.
Richard Yuretich, a program director of the National Science Foundation’s Division of Earth Sciences, says that the breakdown of rocks into soil “removes significant amounts of carbon dioxide and water from the atmosphere, processes that are also related to temperature.” As the temperature rises, the rate of carbon sequestration increases, helping to control the greenhouse effect. This process creates what is essentially Earth’s thermostat to help maintain a relatively constant temperature.
This new research will significantly impact our understanding of climate change. It helps us understand how Earth’s design has allowed a constant temperature throughout the past’s varied activity of carbon emissions. How much effect it will have in the future as humans add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere remains to be seen. However, there have been past periods of significant volcanic activity, so the carbon dioxide levels have not been static.
Earth’s thermostat in the rocks is just one more example of how the planet’s design has made it possible for life to exist during climate changes. We know that the thermostat in our car or home was designed with intelligence. Likewise, the thermostat built into our planet is also not some accidental device but is essential for the existence of life on Earth.
We are entering an interesting time of change for living plants and animals on planet Earth. We are in a period of rapid climate change, and for many living things, survival requires change. However, for some life forms, this is not an issue. For example, omnivores, animals that eat a wide variety of foods, can change their diet to whatever is available. For example, bears in Alaska eat salmon, but if that is not available, they eat insects, nuts, plants, rodents, and marine shore life such as clams.
For other animals, the situation is much more complicated. For example, giant pandas rely on bamboo for food. Not only is their digestive system designed to eat only bamboo, but even their hands and fingers are designed to modify the bamboo so they can eat it. Polar bears rely on ice flows to get the seals that make up most of their diet. With much of the ice in polar areas melting, the bears cannot secure food, and starvation threatens many of them.
Survival requires change, and for some animals, that means migrating to a different place where they can find their dietary needs. As the oceans warm, cold-water fish migrate to northern areas. Some corals are establishing new colonies in different places as conditions where they have lived for centuries no longer meet their needs. On the other hand, animals with specialized equipment, such as pandas, will face extinction. Humans can step in with temporary solutions, but eventually, some forms of life will cease to exist. That is not necessarily a bad thing.
The fossil record shows us that survival requires change. A significant change in the climate caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. However, that eventually provided a climate and atmosphere where humans and the animals we depend on could thrive. Asteroid material did not directly destroy the dinosaurs, but the asteroid collision changed the climate. That change produced an environment in which dinosaurs could not survive, but it led to the formation of a climate ideal for humans.
Genesis 1:2 is an interesting passage. A possible translation of the verse is, “And the earth became wasted and emptied, and darkness was upon the face of the deep place.” That would indicate a change in Earth’s condition. God has used such changes to accomplish His will. The flood of Noah was not primarily an environmental act but a response by God to the sinfulness of humans at that time. Climatic change is another tool God has used in the past. In geologic time, there have been periods of hot and cold, and survival requires change. The current change in Earth’s climate is not solely caused by humans. We may contribute to the process, but humans are not the sole cause.
God’s creative processes don’t involve “magic tricks.” Instead, God uses natural methods to shape and mold planet Earth. Some animals, such as dinosaurs, have played essential roles in contributing to the resources that humans would need. When they had completed their mission, a change brought about their extinction. The Bible doesn’t tell us how God did what He did, but the more we study the creation, the more we understand some of His processes. Climate change has been one of them and may be so again.
People here in Michigan consider beavers a nuisance because they cut down trees and flood farmlands. Unfortunately, beavers cut down some beautiful shade trees on our property. However, beavers can help reduce a climate change problem.
A significant problem associated with the changing climate is the loss of water. Many reservoirs in the western United States are at extremely low levels, and some have completely dried up. Precipitation amounts have dropped while humans mismanage natural water storage.
Meanwhile, people have hunted and trapped beavers due to high prices for pelts and the flooding of farmland and private homes by the dams they built. The result is that water now floods downstream areas. Beavers reduce that problem by creating ponds that hold the water, so it runs off much more slowly. Besides reducing flooding, this also helps to minimize droughts. Studies funded by the National Science Foundation show that by live trapping and moving them upstream, beavers can help reduce a climate change problem.
God has provided ways to make climate change less damaging. For example, storing water in snow and glaciers helps mitigate the problem of water distribution. Additionally, beavers can reduce the problem by building dams that hold water back, providing relief from weather extremes.
God has given us the responsibility of managing what He has created. However, by creating pollution and mismanaging natural resources such as beavers, we have created problems we can no longer ignore. We can all participate in caring for the creation, and pleading ignorance won’t stop the damage.
Environmentalists express concern that many species will become extinct because of the warming climate. For example, polar bears are having trouble finding food because of the disappearance of the ice islands they use for hunting. A bird species that many are concerned about is the Atlantic puffin. These birds had been hunted to the verge of extinction in the 1800s and are still endangered today.
The main diet of Atlantic puffins consists of hake and herring, which are cold-water fish. However, the change in temperature of the North Atlantic Ocean has caused these fish to no longer inhabit some waters where Atlantic puffins get their food. Because of that, there was concern that Atlantic puffins could become extinct.
The Audubon Society Magazine published an interesting report on a study of the Atlantic puffin’s diet by Will Kennerley. Kennerley discovered that the puffins had shifted the foods they eat and feed their chicks. The study showed that they are now eating 21 different fish species that researchers had never observed them eating before. This nutritional flexibility will help preserve Atlantic puffins, demonstrating that these birds are designed to adapt to a changing environment.
The question of how this principle will apply to other forms of life remains to be seen. A big question is whether this adaptability also applies to animals that eat plants since there are cases where plants are dying out in areas experiencing significant climate changes. However, there is less doom and gloom among people who see examples such as the adaptability of the Atlantic puffin. God’s design for living things makes it possible for life to endure even as the environment changes.
The author of Ecclesiastes wrote a great deal about the futility of life and the failing of human knowledge. In the first chapter, Solomon writes, “What has been will be again, … is there anything of which one can say ‘look this is something new’? It was here already long ago. It was here before our time.” With that in mind, climate change is not new and should not be a cause for religious fervor.
Many historical passages in the Bible tell about drought, famine, and changes in the weather. Why did the brothers of Joseph go to Egypt? (See Genesis 41:56-57.) Why did the ancient prophet pray for rain? (See 1 Kings 18:41-44 and James 5:17-18.)
Those of us trained in geology who know how to read the rock layers and understand what environment produced them can clearly see that Earth’s climate has changed throughout time. For example, in Zion National Park, petrified sand dunes tell us that area at one time experienced warming far greater than what we see today. Where we live in Michigan, glacial moraines, eskers, and lakes abound, giving solid evidence that the climate was very cold at one time in the past.
Earth’s design is amazing. Because our area experienced glaciers, we have no shortage of water. There is no bedrock visible because sand and gravel make up the terrain, and water seeps into the ground rather than running off. Climate change melted the glaciers, leaving an ideal environment for human habitation. Thus climate change is not new, and God’s design of Earth is alive and active, allowing a constantly changing environment to support life.
In 2022, we find climate modifying Earth again. The polar caps are melting, and the sea level is rising, resulting in wind and ocean current changes. As in the past, God’s design is bringing water to places that have previously been desserts, allowing crops to grow in areas that could not support them. Climate change is not new but has always been part of our planet’s design.
Will we need to make adjustments to these climate changes? Yes, of course, but God has given humans the ability to do that. We can change crops, adjust waterways, control wildfires, and even move populations when necessary. Let us not wring our hands and treat God’s design for replenishing the planet as if it were something evil. Today, our major problems are human problems of immorality and a refusal to live as God has called us to. By our actions, we can reduce the severity of global warming and use its change to our benefit.
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.
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.
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.