Friday, April 27, 2007

Climate Change

Al Gore notwithstanding, man’s impact on climate change is still open to debate by a fair number of people. Unfortunately, calamitous predictions on the part of some have called into question the scientific validity of the many claims regarding climate change. We as a people have become immune to these “sky is falling” doom-sayers (remember the Club of Rome predictions in the 1960s?) Again, with all the hype and heavy breathing on the subject, we need to clear the air (if you’ll pardon the pun). Let me make a few points on the subject for your consideration:

As a guiding principle for this discussion, I believe, as somebody coming from a Judeo-Christian perspective, that God has given humans responsibility over the earth, as we read in these two passages from the creation accounts in Genesis:

Genesis 1:26 (NRSV):
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

Genesis 2:19-20 (NRSV):
So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner.

Notice that God asked the man (Adam) to name the animals. Naming someone or something in ancient times indicated control (or “dominion”) over that person or thing. Regardless of how you might view the creation story, the message God is communicating through it is clear: humans have been given stewardship over the earth (“stewardship” means responsibility for taking care of something for somebody else). With this “dominion” over the earth and everything in it comes responsibility. In this regard, humans have failed miserably.

Some thoughts regarding the issue of carbon emissions:

Carbon emissions result primary from burning fossil fuels: oil, gas, and coal. These resources are non-renewable. Once we run out, they are gone. The earth does not have an endless supply. By continuing to use non-renewable resources in such a profligate manner, we are stealing from future generations, which will look back at us and rightfully ask, “What were they thinking?”

Carbon emissions pollute the air. The more we pollute, the unhealthier the air we breathe becomes. Do we want our children and grandchildren taking into their little bodies such filth? Asthma and other ailments have increased significantly over the past 30-40 years, and I strongly suspect environmental causes are responsible for many of these (air, water, and land pollution).

God has built into the eco-system amazing cleaning powers. The earth cleans its air, but we have now reached the point where we have overloaded the system. The earth can no longer purify its atmosphere adequately, and the result is lingering and building air pollution. Much of the so-called climate change is due, I believe, to this overloading of the earth’s cleansing system. Who knows how long it will take to reverse itself?

The earth is now unable to completely clean its air, not only because of increased carbon emissions as mentioned above, but also because of the cutting down of forests, especially in places such as Brazil. The world community must, in my opinion, put pressure on Brazil and other countries to stop this clear cutting of forests for many ecological reasons, not the least of which is the purifying work done by trees.

The United States uses an enormous amount of the earth’s resources, and is a significant polluter by its sheer volume. To me, it is clear that we need to do better. Not only are conservation measures good for the planet, but they save you money. At roughly $3.00 a gallon, think of how much money you would save on gas if your next car got 5 mpg more. With energy-saving light bulbs that use a fraction of the wattage of regular bulbs, you will save money in the long-run even though they are more expensive to purchase. The list goes on.

Having said that, I believe the Kyoto Protocol needs to be renegotiated to include developing countries such as India and China. Their enormous economies are putting out significant pollutants at an alarming rate, and they should no longer be given an exempt status.

The bottom line is that everybody everywhere needs to do all they can to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels; reduce polluting the air, water, and ground; and develop an attitude of conservation in all they do. While this might seem pie in the sky, it can be done if the world governments and people develop the will to act. This might be a good area for the UN to take a leadership role for a change. Some of my ideas on energy policy and conservation will be in a future blog.

Speaking of ideas, I happened to catch part of an interview on PBS with Bjorn Lomborg who recently wrote a book on the subject called "Cool It." I haven’t read the book, but from what Mr. Lomborg said in the interview, he appears to have some excellent thoughts regarding conservation, energy policy, and pollution. Unfortunately there is much rhetoric on those subjects but very little in the way of feasible strategies.

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