Harmful Climate Actions
By: Jim Virkler
The presidential Climate Action Plan was offered by President Obama in 2008 and biennially renewed until 2013. The plan progressively developed until 2015 and resulted in a consensus agreement on 12/12/15—the Paris Climate Accord—and a more formal agreement signed on 11/4/16. President Trump withdrew our country from the accord on the first day he took office. Most people understand the provisions of climate change actions: the issue revolves around reducing CO2 by curtailing use of fossil fuels, embracing instead alternate energy sources at a huge cost. It is likely that most supporters of climate change see climate change issues as relatively simple—reduce global warming by limiting the world-wide use of fossil fuels. The solution seems obvious, they claim. Concomitant reality is far more difficult.
Almost all world attention focuses on avoiding the horrors of a vastly warmer future Earth and the stark necessity of achieving this effect no matter what the cost. The worst case climate scenario is terrifyingly frightening as are all worst case possibilities in significant realms of life on our planet. A generous measure of Godly wisdom is desperately needed. The Creator has gifted humanity with innate wisdom to discover truth.
World opinion concerning climate change focuses almost exclusively on the potential disaster of a warming Earth. Humanity has experienced a naturally warming Earth several times in the past ten millennia. Of course, the warm spells were interspersed with cool spells. In general, climate alarmists speculate the climate sensitivity is high, believing even small amounts of human contribution to warming are magnified. Climate skeptics perceive that climate sensitivity is low, in keeping with their feeling that CO2 does not cause as much warming as previously thought. The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation believes recent global warming has been largely natural with some minor anthropogenic contribution and does not pose major risks. The Cornwall Alliance is an evangelical coalition promoting environmental stewardship and economic development built on Biblical principles. Average laypersons could become confused at conflicting scientific claims and counterclaims offered on both sides of the climate question.
We wind down current discussion of this lively topic with our claim that some scientists’ projections of climate disaster are subject to error. It is also fraught with a generous degree of ideology. If this claim is true, we possess substantial complications in our effort to arrive at truth and a proper solution to perceived climate problems. Causes and effects of climate are enormously complex especially when causes are oversimplified. Factoring ideology into complex climate issues results in confusion.
Oversimplified effects, while not judged to be a fallacy such as “oversimplified cause,” are worth considering. For example, many global warming enthusiasts have proposed that largely undeveloped, poor countries of the world would be most impacted by increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, more frequent and violent storms, and other dangerous outcomes. If those outcomes were actually to occur, perhaps poor nations may be more vulnerable than wealthy, developed societies. Alarmists’ concern for these underdeveloped countries, however, is misdirected. There exists a far more significant threat to undeveloped nations—an economic threat linked with draconian Paris Climate Accord solutions. The Paris Accord would primarily focus on weaning society of fossil fuels in favor of much more expensive renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, and biomass.
Over a decade ago two different evangelical groups began to make pronouncements about climate issues and the responsibilities of Christians to respond with respect to poor, undeveloped nations of the world. In the evangelical community, these two groups set different priorities in their responses. The Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) published their Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI). They stated and still state that the consequences of climate change will be significant, hittiing the world’s poor the hardest. Their worries seemed justified in terms of scriptural exhortations on behalf of the poor. Concerns for the poor centered on environmental factors such as mentioned in the previous paragraph—unbearable heat, rising sea levels, frequent and violent storms, and additional destructive outcomes.
The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation responded with a 12,000-word, point by point rebuttal to the ECI. They countered that “The destructive impact on the poor of enormous mandatory reductions in fossil fuel use far exceeds the impact on them—negative or positive—of the moderate global warming that is likely to occur. Indeed, the policy promoted by the ECI would be both economically devastating and ineffective in reducing global warming. Because energy is an essential component in almost all economic production, reducing its use and driving up its costs will slow economic development, reduce overall productivity, and increase costs of all goods including the food, clothing, shelter, and other goods most essential to the poor.”
In 2017 this statement has proven prophetic in terms of the unrealistic proposals of the Paris Climate Accord. In keeping with the complexity of this issue for lay observers, we must review the history of the United States in its formative years. In the early 19th century, our country embraced the energy resources initially becoming available to them: coal, petroleum, and to a lesser degree, natural gas. These fuels powered the country into prosperity as a modern society. Only recently has our country begun to utilize more costly alternative renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, hydropower, nuclear. In undeveloped nations the costs would be overwhelming. If developed nations wish to benefit poor nations, supplying finances for clean water, indoor plumbing, sewage treatment plants, improving medical care and adequate nutrition would fulfill that desire.
Poor and undeveloped countries need fossil fuels to continue on their path to economic development just as the US has done in the past 150 years. The Paris Climate Accord would stifle their quest for economic development while primarily shifting the burden to developed countries at the cost of trillions of dollars as they transition to more expensive renewable energy sources. We encourage readers to study the reasons many world leaders were angry when the US withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord. Global leaders had hoped the United States would bear the brunt of trillions of dollars in future costs for the world’s transition away from fossil fuels.
Psalm 90:12 (NIV) reminds us: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Numbering our days may mean that we should make wise use of our time so that we may gain wisdom by our study of the most important climate issues of the day.
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Jim Virkler, a retired New Jersey public school science educator, now devotes his time investigating the harmony of scientific discoveries and Christian faith. He and his wife, Eleanor, now reside in the mid-west near their children and grandchildren.