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.
Yesterday we talked about ecosystems, what they are, and why they are essential. If you looked at yesterday’s picture, you saw that carbon sequestration was among the “services” provided by ecosystems. Today, there is much concern about atmospheric carbon (carbon dioxide and methane) increasing the “greenhouse effect” and causing global warming. That makes capturing carbon an essential service of ecosystems to protect our survival. One vital area involves African elephants and ecosystems.
Elephants are known as megaherbivores because of their size and the fact that they eat plants. New research has shown that elephants have a “profound” effect on forest ecosystems. We have mentioned before that beavers shape their environment to create ecosystems that support many other life forms. Researchers from Sweden, France, and the United States confirm that elephants are also “ecosystem engineers” that “significantly influence the structure and functioning of ecosystems” such as tropical rainforests in Africa.
The positive connection between elephants and ecosystems involves two aspects of elephant behavior. First, African forest elephants prefer to eat the leaves of trees with low wood density. This is because those leaves contain more protein and less fiber than the ones with high wood density. Secondly, elephants prefer to eat fruit from trees with higher wood density. By eating those fruits, the elephants disperse the seeds of the trees that sequester the most carbon.
Elephants spread more seeds of more plant species than any other animal. The elephant’s diet enables the survival and spread of the trees that store more carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere. At the same time, elephants reduce overcrowding by the lower-density plants, allowing the larger trees to grow. This balance of elephants and ecosystems helps to protect the planet from excess carbon in the atmosphere.
The study concludes that elephant conservation will significantly affect global climate by controlling the amount of atmospheric carbon. God has designed a worldwide system of many ecosystems that make Earth suitable for advanced life to thrive. Our job is to protect the blessings God has given us to enjoy. Who doesn’t enjoy watching elephants?
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.
Astronomers are constantly looking for signs of life on other planets or moons. One of the potential clues they seek is methane, a hydrocarbon gas consisting of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. It is classified as a “greenhouse gas” because it can trap heat on Earth’s surface resulting in “global warming.” It’s a more effective greenhouse gas than the much-discussed carbon dioxide. Methane is produced by organic decomposition and in the digestion process of ruminants such as cows and other animals. Scientists seek to learn more about a possible connection between methane and life on other planets.
Since living things create methane, scientists regard it as a potential “biosignature” indicating life on an astronomical body. For that reason, astronomers are searching for methane on planetary bodies. News reports have sometimes gone overboard with stories about methane and life on other planets. However, not all methane is created biologically. Volcanic eruptions can release methane gas, and even asteroid impacts can add methane to a planet’s atmosphere. So how can scientists tell if the methane is a sign of life on a body far out in space?
For one thing, gasses from a volcano would contain not only methane but also carbon monoxide. The biological creation of methane would consume carbon monoxide. When examining the gasses in a planet’s atmosphere, a large amount of BOTH methane and carbon monoxide would probably indicate that the methane was not a biosignature. Methane alone would be a more likely indicator of the possibility of life.
However, an abundance of methane without carbon monoxide would not prove the existence of life on a planet. As we have said before, many factors are required to make a planet suitable for any kind of life, especially advanced life. NASA’s James Webb telescope, launched in December, is still working to reach full functionality. When it does, a significant part of its purpose will be to look for methane in the atmosphere of exoplanets.
When results indicate that the Webb telescope has detected methane on a planet, news reporters may sensationalize the facts to suggest more than they deserve. Reputable scientists are more cautious in their predictions about methane and life on other planets. Nevertheless, we are excited about the possibility of learning more about the universe with the new Webb space telescope.
As we have said before, the Bible doesn’t tell us if there is life on any other object in space. If there is, we believe that God put it there. We are not afraid of scientific investigation because the more we learn about the creation, the more we stand in awe of the Creator.
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.
The media often brings news about newly-discovered planets in the “habitable zone” of some star beyond our solar system. They usually mean that scientists think the planet may be the right distance from the right kind and size of star for water to exist in liquid form. Calling such a planet “habitable” may be misleading because there are many factors required to support life.
One of those factors is that the star also has to be extremely stable, as our Sun is. Consider the fact that a change in the Sun’s luminosity of only two percent would make Earth uninhabitable. That seems hard to believe, but scientists have calculated and modeled it.
If the Sun were only two percent dimmer and everything else the same, there would be more snowfall. Because snow reflects more of the Sun’s heat than land or water does, Earth’s surface would become cooler. The cooling would cause more snowfall, resulting in more reflection of the Sun’s rays and, therefore, more cooling. The result would be a runaway freezing of the surface water, and the entire Earth would become covered with ice and snow.
On the other hand, a two percent increase in the Sun’s brightness would cause greater evaporation of Earth’s surface water. The resulting water vapor would act as a greenhouse gas, trapping more of the Sun’s heat in the atmosphere. The increased heat would cause more evaporation resulting in more water vapor and an increased greenhouse effect. The result would be global warming on a massive scale.
Either way, life on Earth would not be possible. We don’t know if there are any other planets in the universe with all the factors required to support life. Our finely-tuned Sun is only one of many features that allow life on this planet. Some people would suggest that our just-right Sun is merely an accident, but we think this is another case of design by a wise Creator.
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.
In their desperate attempt to find an inhabited planet, some media people have jumped to the conclusion that any planet close to 8000 miles (13,000 km) in diameter will be inhabited. One of the candidates orbiting a star in our galaxy is called K2-141b, and it is reasonably close to us in size and location, a little under 200 light-years away. However, K2-141b is not another Earth.
Astronomers have discovered that its atmosphere has all the elemental components of rocks. That has to mean that the surface temperature of the planet is hot enough to vaporize rocks. That would be more than 5400 degrees Fahrenheit (3,000 C). K2-141b is not another Earth.
At this time, when people are concerned about global warming, we must consider how many factors on Earth and the surrounding area give use the proper temperature for life to exist. Without the variables that keep our planet cool, we could not have a surface temperature of less than 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 C). The size, temperature, and activity of the Sun have to be just right. The amount of ocean surface that reflects solar heat back into space is crucial. The factors that restrict greenhouse gases, the relatively low value of volcanic activity, the lack of exothermic chemical reactions, the reflectivity of clouds, and many other factors all influence our temperature.
Even though K2-141b is not another Earth, there may be other planets with conditions that permit surface temperatures between 0 and 100 degrees Celsius, allowing liquid water. But evidence shows that such planets are rare, and their design would be from the same source as our planet. If God has created life elsewhere on a planet that will allow life to exist over the long haul, it will be another demonstration of incredible wisdom and design. Our planet is exceptional, and taking care of it should be a high priority for all of us.
In my lifetime I have spent a lot of time on rivers. Living in Canada, I became acquainted with beautiful blue water with a clarity that allowed you to see the river’s bottom even at 20 feet. When my family moved to Bloomington, Indiana, I became involved with the White River, which was anything but white or blue. What color is your river?
In our 12 trips down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, I saw changes in the water from time to time. The river was sometimes brown and other times crystal blue depending on how much upstream water was being released from the Glen Canyon Dam. I now live on the Saint Joseph River in southern Michigan. I have read the notes of the first explorers who came through this area in which they tell of being able to see the bottom of the river through 20 feet of water. Now you can only see about a foot down. There has been a massive change in Americas’ rivers through the years.
In 1984, Satellites started taking pictures of rivers in the United States. Over 230,000 images have been taken and analyzed by the University of Pittsburgh, the University of North Carolina, and Duke University. The data shows that only five percent of Americas’ rivers are still blue. Twenty-eight percent are green, which in most cases is caused by algae. The remainder are yellow, with 11,629 miles of rivers having become distinctly greener since 1984.
As rivers change from blue to yellow to green, what can live in the rivers also changes. In the Saint Joseph River, where we live in Michigan, the kind of fish that live in the river today are far different from the native trout seen by the early settlers of this area. Today the river has large numbers of suckers and carp. There are some bass and panfish, and we do have salmon from Lake Michigan migrating up the river to spawn. Transplanted fish like walleye are popular, but the whole ecological makeup has changed.
What color is your river? More important is the question of what is causing the rivers to change color? The causes, according to the studies, are farm fertilizer runoff, dams, sewage, and global warming, which has raised the temperature so that cold-water fish cannot live in the river. This is more than the loss of recreational use of waterways. Numerous diseases, including cancer, are related to what is in the water we drink, bathe in, and provide to our animals.
The question of what color is your river leads to asking what you can do about it. Christians need to be vocal in encouraging our culture to initiate significant efforts to turn our waterways blue again. It is interesting that in Revelation 22:1-2, when the inspired writer wanted to portray some of the properties of heaven to mortal humans, he describes “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal.” In ancient times, when people wanted to worship and get away from the hassle of human activity, they went to a river. (See Acts 16:13.) Today most of our rivers are not that attractive.