Gregg Easterbrook, writing about global warming in the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly, seems to get the issue about right. He suggests that the Chicken Littles on the left, including Al Gore, are wrong about how to proceed, just as the conservatives on the right who take an ostrich-like position are also wrong. The left routinely calls for a “wrenching lifestyle sacrifice,” says Easterbrook. The right denies that global warming is real at all and some even preach a kind of fatalism, arguing that our economy would be destroyed by restricting emissions. Easterbrook concludes, and on balance I think he has it about right, that “Greenhouse gases are an air pollution problem—and all previous air pollution problems have been reduced faster and more cheaply than predicted.” Easterbrook urges politicians to recast global warming issues in “practical, optimistic tones.” He concludes: “The only reason that global warming seems unstoppable is that we have not yet tried to stop it.”
This reminds me of several recent thoughts I had about this issue. First, I saw Al Gore’s documentary movie about a month or so ago. It was well-done as far as documentaries go. Gore overwhelms you with facts and thus is very convincing in many ways. He makes a clear case that something is happening to the earth and this change is having a real impact on weather, sea levels, and crop failure. What is not so clear in this movie, or in all the articles on this subject I have read, is why this is true and how we change it, if in fact we can. In Gore’s scenario humans are almost entirely at fault in these changes and thus the end result is a kind of evangelistic appeal for us to change things. Gore could have included four verses of an old hymn at the end and it would have worked nicely. (He is a Southern Baptist you know.)
Second, the right often talks about “environmental whacko's” and their ilk. But this lighthearted, and sometimes silly, response misses the real issue completely. The result is that few on the right pay much attention to the science of this matter. Strong environmental regulations in the 1970s and 1980s cut smog-forming air pollution by as much as half. Easterbrook argues that the result of this effort was not only good for the environment but good for business. The economy was not wrecked and business still grew at the same time.
Third, the Wall Street Journal included a report in yesterday’s edition (Tuesday, Septemebr 12) about the evidence of a link between human activity and storm intensity. The conclusion, like that drawn from so many of these studies, is that this "study is unlikely to be the last word on global warming and hurricanes.” Make no mistake about this fact. Global warming is a reality. The question that is debatable here is why. Put simply, “How much do humans contribute to this problem?” The political question then becomes “What should we do about this human contribution?” Most of the science of global warming is built on models that are computer generated and then worked out into the future for decades, and even centuries, with a great number of variables involved in the process. But, in the case of weather changes, many scientists think other large-scale weather phenomena are involved in these patterns, such as “wind shear.”
The world is clearly growing warmer. If you want a fun read on this subject secure a copy of Michael Crichton’s newest book, State of Fear. (Even if you have no interest in global warming this is a really fun book and a definite page-turner!) If you want a sane and balanced critique of all the issues involved in a warming earth, in understandable and non-technical English, get a copy of The Economist (September 9). Here you will find a wonderful special report that is quite balanced. Christians should not denigrate real science on this issue. Such an approach is patently foolish. And Christians must become involved out of faithful concern for the earth if they would seriously follow the creation mandate of Genesis 1:26. I find it more than odd, and quite distressing actually, that so many of those who are very conservative politically and theologically think this issue is unimportant for Christians. Finally, I must also suggest a wonderful article that will appear in the ACT 3 Review in the next issue (15:2), titled: “Antidote to Arrogance: Christians and the Environmental Challenge,” written by Peter Moore. Dr. Moore’s insights are extremely valuable for thoughtful evangelical Christians. You can order the journal, for half-price, as a one-year subscription at www.act3online.com.