Should we be terrified about Climate Change?

31 Do not therefore, be fearful. You are of far more worth than many sparrows

Matthew 10: 31 – The Keys of the Kingdom Holy Bible

3 Why, though, do you look at the chip in the eye of your brother, but you do not perceive the log in your own eye?

Matthew 7:3 – The Keys of the Kingdom Holy Bible

Photo courtesy Akil Mazumder, Pexels

I wrote extensively last year about vaccines – possibly too extensively, although I know from some of your private feedback, that you’ve appreciated what I’ve had to say. But I’ve scarcely covered the issue of Climate Change, other than coincidentally in this post from October 2019:

This issue has gained so much publicity and traction, that I’ve felt the need to try to educate myself during 2022, by reading extensively, both books and journal articles[1]. I want to cover in this post what I’ve learned, but also to go on in a separate post in a few days’ time, to explore what theological reflection has to contribute, which is a great deal more than I had suspected, so please stick with me for the next week or so!

A few of the many things that I’ve learned are these:

  • The subject is amazingly complex. Most observers agree that there are many different things that could impact on our climate; possible even many thousand. And not all of them are, by any means, fully understood, easy to quantify or predictable.
  • The claim is often made that ‘97% of scientists agree’ on this subject, and therefore ‘the matter is settled and needs no further discussion.’ What I’ve found about this is that probably as many as 97% of scientists maybe do agree that CO2 is a minority greenhouse gas (water vapour is much more important) and that there has been some very modest warming of our planet over the last 200 years. There is even a consensus that the degree of warming is probably about 1.3oC since 1900 (this comes from the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC).
  • There is consensus that human activity probably accounts for some percentage of this 1.3oC, but there is certainly no consensus, that I’ve been able to detect, about what this percentage might be. Positions vary from ‘None’ to ‘All.’
  • Many, but again by no means all, agree that maybe this level of warming will continue to the year 2100 (despite the fact that in the last 20 years, the trend seems to have stalled). Again, the IPCC uses a modelled figure of an additional 1.3oC over this period. As part of this debate, and to show how complex this subject is, it would seem that most measurements are made using instruments whose degree of accuracy is itself less than +/- 1oC, and far less accurate than that, when looking at measurements taken in 1800. Some would even suggest that the very concept of a ‘global’ average temperature, encompassing the top of Everest and the bottom of the Dead Sea, from Death Valley to the South Pole, is itself nonsense. The fact that we’re dealing with a range that routinely varies from about +50oC to -60oC (the records are +57oC and -88oC) reveals 1.3oC as a percentage as very tiny, considering its forecast over 77 years, to 2100 ie 0.017oC per year. And even if we could agree about accuracy, doubt enters the picture because of the increase in population, and hence urbanisation, over the last 200 years (there is some agreement that the global population was about 1 billion 200 years ago and is now more than 8 billion; how much difference does this make to ‘global’ temperatures, on its own?) We know, as one small example, that the UK meteorological record of 40oC, measured at RAF Coningsby on 19th July 2022, only lasted 6 seconds and, significantly, was measured right next to an RAF runway where two Typhoon fighters had just taken off. The temperature jumped by 1.3oC at 3:12 pm and dropped by 0.6oC just one minute later. How interesting that 1.3oC is exactly the temperature change that is being predicted for global temperatures in 77 years’ time!
  • There is a great deal of muddling in the media of ‘weather’ and ‘climate’, to the extent that it’s sometimes hard not to reach the conclusion that it’s deliberately designed to scare us. Weather events are looked upon as evidence of climate change, despite the fact that deaths from climate-related disasters have declined by 98% over the last hundred years. A recent example was the headline: ‘Famine fuelled by Climate Change threatens millions in Somalia.’ This completely ignored the fact that since 1950, the population of Somalia has increased from 2 million to 17 million!
  • No-one at all debates whether pollution is a bad thing; clearly it is. But is it correct to describe as a pollutant CO2, a gas which makes up approximately 420 parts per million of our atmosphere, and on which our very existence depends, as without it, plants cannot grow? I always wince when I hear that the target is ‘Net Zero,’ as 18.5% of our human bodies (by weight) consist of carbon. Net zero CO2 in the atmosphere would mean that all life on earth would die. I will write more about this in my next post. The small detectable increase in CO2 in the last few decades has resulted in greening of our planet that’s clearly visible from space – this amounts to a greening of 15% of the surface area of the globe in about 40 years. An area the size of the United States has visibly greened in just over half of my lifetime! And a great deal of this greening has happened in drier areas, because plants open their pores more when CO2 levels are lower, causing them to dry out as water evaporates. The opposite of desertification has happened, and there are more trees now in the northern hemisphere than there were a hundred years ago. Our planet has got greener and more productive; an astonishing fact that has been carefully concealed, lest it allay our fears, perhaps?
  • Some predict ‘climate tipping points’. In other words, if the climate warms more than XoC (the number X varies hugely between 1oC and 10oC, depending on source), runaway warming will occur, and this will ‘destroy the planet’. Not only does this ignore the huge 110oC range of temperatures in our world, but it also ignores the fact that our world has warmed and cooled within much larger margins over our entire history, without ‘tipping points’ occurring. Complex systems have many ways of dispersing energy input; ocean circulations have timescales up to 1,000 years.
  • From the extensive reading that I’ve done, the final point that arises is that all predictions about future warming come from arithmetic modelling. Even the IPCC admits that the very many models have all been extremely poor, when looked at retrospectively, against actual historical, observed results. Probably the most visible of these inaccuracies relates to sea levels, where changes have again been tiny (a few millimetres per year at most), against predictions of massive disaster for those living in places like The Maldives (which have actually grown in size since the original predictions of doom for the future of the islands). I may incur some wrath here, but I have no confidence whatsoever in the output of climate models. Why should I have? More or less the same technology was used to predict illness and death from COVID. Those models were wrong by hundreds of percent over just a few months in 2020. Should this give me confidence, when people are predicting such tiny changes over almost 100 years? In view of the uncertainties that I mentioned at the start of this post, a very small inaccuracy, over just a small percentage of the many influencing factors, would put the forecasts out by hundreds of percent. And do we genuinely feel that we’re certain we know what all the influencing factors really are, let alone forecast how they’re going to change over time? That smacks of hubris to me.

OK, so these are some of the things that I’ve learned about climate change. Because I don’t want to get bogged down in discussing these issues, in my next blog, I want to explore what I think are the far more important issues from a Christian perspective, namely:

  • What should be done about climate change?
  • How will it affect people?
  • What does their agenda reveal about those who are pushing the ‘climate catastrophe’ agenda?
  • Where does God sit in all this and what should our response be, as Christians?

[1] The best book I’ve read is ‘Unsettled; what Climate Science tells us, what it doesn’t and why it matters’ by Steven E Koonin, who was Undersecretary for Science at the Dept of Energy in the Obama Administration.

Gracious Father, we sometimes sound as though we are omniscient. Help us to come to terms with the beams in our own eyes. Amen

One thought on “Should we be terrified about Climate Change?

  1. Thanks for setting this out so clearly, James. I heard something over the past few days that suggested that the “green agenda” was predominately fuelled by those wishing to make money from new energy sources and other “initiatives”. It all sounds very similar to pushing a greater and more novel use of pharmaceutical products. I look forward to part two.


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