According to climate scientists, as reported by the BBC, the UK is now in the throes of disruptive climate change, which can only get worse if we fail to take urgent action to curb carbon emissions. Highlighting our hotter, sunnier and rainier weather over the last decade, they warn that in the years to come we are likely to see, as a regular occurrence, temperatures of over 40°C (that’s 104°F in old money) (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-57988023).
That would indeed be hot, if it happens, and our climate is undeniably changing. But the UK has always been subject to climatic fluctuation – between 1309 and 1814, for instance, the Thames froze over 23 times, and on five occasions the ice was so thick that fairs were held. As reported by the BBC, ‘It was colder in those days. The frost fairs took place during the Little Ice Age, roughly between 1350-1850’
(https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25862141). Conversely, during the Roman occupation of Britain, the weather had been warm enough to grow grapes in the North of England (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2171973/Tree-ring-study-proves-climate-WARMER-Roman-Medieval-times-modern-industrial-age.html). Something we still can’t yet successfully do, despite the rise in temperature.
So some of us might perhaps be excused for thinking that UK weather is much as it’s always been. Cloudy, wet, with the ‘odd’ day of sun, but overall pretty mild. That said, however, the weather globally has been rather bizarre over the last few years, and the temperature has clearly been going up. After all, this year alone we’ve seen killer heatwaves and fires reported in the US and Canada, deadly flooding in China and across Europe, and unprecedented temperatures in the Artic circle, leading to an alarming thaw of the permafrost. All of which wouldseem to indicate a seismic shift in the world’s climate.
Enter the scientists. If we don’t control and reverse this trend now, they say, Earth will become uninhabitable. But lest this make you feel a bit nervous – or even ready to throw in the towel – not to worry, because they have the answer! We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they proclaim, with the zeal of those proselytizing a new religion. Mankind must eliminate its carbon footprint!
To achieve this, they recommend changes such as swapping cars for bikes; limiting air travel; eating less meat and dairy foods; swapping all our old light bulbs for LEDs and energy efficient lighting; investing ‘wisely’; and overall cutting our consumption and waste (see, for example, https://www.imperial.ac.uk/stories/climate-action/).
Now some of these suggestions are undoubtedly good. As a society we do without doubt consume far more than we need, with the result that there’s a lot of waste. And that being so, we are not properly caring for creation, as commanded by God, but abusing our position – and, to our shame, leaving some with nothing at all. But some of the scientists’ recommended behaviours have more the whiff of mission than a properly assessed and validated response. In fact, much of this, as articulated for example by the prophet and high priestess of environmentalism, Greta Thunberg, feels like the promotion of a new ‘religion’. If we fail to appease the hungry and vicious climate gods, she warns, we shall deservedly be wiped from the face of the earth. So only by rejecting the industrialised ‘comforts’ of modern life and returning to a non-exploitative existence, can we hope to turn aside their wrath. Only in that way can be survive.
With the greatest respect, both she and the scientists are wrong. Yes, the Earth is under judgement and we need urgently to change our way of life, but becoming a vegan and swapping the family hatchback for bikes, however well intentioned, will at the end of the day achieve almost nothing. Even the scientists admit this. By our own efforts we cannot make the changes necessary to reverse what is happening.
By way of illustration, for centuries the permafrost has been the repository of over 1,600 billion tons of carbon, which is easily twice as much carbon as in the atmosphere today (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00659-y). As the permafrost melts, this is being released into the atmosphere, and there appears to be nothing we can do to stop it. Genomic scientists describe the thaw as releasing a massive carbon bomb, and in an effort to stop the pending explosion, top scientist Sir David King has proposed refreezing the Arctic. But just how realistic is that – and, even if possible, could we act fast enough, because this is happening now? So the inevitable question arises, in face of such threatened pollution, what can Greta’s gods really do to help?
Yet there is a God who can help, and who is more than able to stop this catastrophic plunge towards oblivion. A God who flung stars into space, divided the firmament, and called forth life; and, what is more, who cares for and cherishes His creation. It is this Creator God that mankind, in its over-weaning pride – its hubris – has rejected. We have followed instead, with slavering adoration, the gods of self, of power, and of sexual satiation. We have said that we can be and do whatever we want, and that there is no morality – that we, through our knowledge, can exert control. That we can ‘recreate’ creation.
In all of this we have sinned, and that is why the world today is undergoing the changes we’re seeing, and hurtling towards destruction. For our rejection of God and worship of what is, at base, evil, we are a world under judgement. But what is happening now is not judgment. Rather, it is the precursor to judgment and a last chance to turn back.
For the continued survival of our species on planet Earth, we need to respond now, before it’s too late. Which means we need to repent our unthinking plunder of the world’s resources and our worship of sexual and other (over) indulgence, and turn back to God. And we need to ask Him to help and save us, before it’s too late.
Greta Thunberg’s climate gods can’t save, whatever we do. But our Creator God, who two thousand years ago sent His only begotten Son for our redemption, can.