NASA Earth Observatory composed this mosaic—a satellite-based view of the Arctic. The images for this scene were captured on September 2, 2012, by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite. The composite was compiled from 14 orbits of the satellite and multiple imaging channels, then stitched together to blend the edges of each satellite pass. Photograph: VIIRS/Suomi NPP/NASA
Readers of this column know that I tend to focus on breaking science in the climate and energy areas. Sometimes, I stray into politics and other times, I venture further afield. Today, on Earth Day, I was reflecting on best ways to move real action forward and it is clear to me, and almost everyone in this industry, that building bridges between like-minded groups is key.
Frankly, it isn’t just scientists that are concerned about climate change. Our concerns are shared by business leaders, the insurance industry, defense industries, people who enjoy the outdoors, farmers, and many more. Recently, there has been a movement amongst persons of faith as well. In fact, for some people of faith, taking care of the Earth is a mandate from a higher authority. In this light, and to celebrate a very different voice form my own, the following is a guest post by a well-known meteorologist in the USA, Paul Douglas. It turns out he is also a man of faith as well as a business leader. Thanks Paul.
Christians just celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I’m a Christian, husband, father, businessman and scientist; a Penn State meteorologist by training. It’s true that all knowledge is relative; science is never “settled” and one never quite reaches solid bedrock. There’s always a new observation, a new discovery, a radical theory, more testing to do. We look at the universe through a pinhole as God gradually reveals himself to us.
Regardless of how you pray or how you vote, we can all agree that fewer toxic chemicals in our air and water is a good thing. But today, more Americans die prematurely from air pollution than traffic accidents. More than 5 million premature deaths result from dirty air every year, worldwide. Air pollution disproportionately impacts minority and low-income communities across the USA. And statistically, America’s poor are much more likely to live near toxic waste sites.
The Trump administration’s misguided efforts to roll back protections for public health and the environment puts every one of us at risk, especially those with the fewest resources. Increasingly, America the Beautiful is under siege, as the interests of polluting industries take priority over the safety and welfare of our children.
Science is not a substitute for faith; the two are not mutually exclusive. Science has no answer for the miracle of consciousness, the power of love and the promise of eternal life to come. We are here to worship our Creator and enjoy the fruits of his Creation. We are caretakers of a precious gift. We don’t own anything—everything around us is on loan. “My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world,” Billy Graham preached.
Science doesn’t have all the answers, but we would be well advised to listen to the 97% of climate scientists who tell us Earth is warming, and the rapid burning of fossil fuels is responsible. Because the symptoms of a warming planet are becoming harder to deny and dismiss.
I just co-authored Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment with Mitch Hescox, a former coal industry employee and a Methodist Minister. He is now leading the Evangelical Environmental Network, made up of conservatives focused on conserving the very thing that sustains us: a healthy, vibrant planet.
I’m proud of the many Christians who will march on April 29th in the People’s Climate March. Around the world people of faith will speak with one voice about the dangers of climate change, and the opportunities for good, renewable, clean-energy energy jobs. Environmental justice and economic justice go hand in hand. Clean energy is rapidly outpacing fossil fuels in creating jobs—the solar industry already employs twice as many people as coal.
How are we doing?
More than 150 million people around the world live within three feet of sea level, so warming, rising seas are quickly becoming more than an inconvenience. Climate change is already making storms, droughts and heat waves more intense, impacting where crops grow and who has access to water. Climate change is emerging as the global human rights struggle of the 21st century.
A rapidly-changing climate affects the health and welfare of our kids, and their kids. Respect for life must extend to future generations of unborn. Climate change is a global pro-life issue.
There’s no time for gloom and doom. We already have solutions that will power sustainable abundance. Dirty fossil fuels will fade as we dial up clean, renewable energy sources. The revolution is here: solar costs have fallen more than 80 percent since 2008, onshore wind is down 40 percent, and grid-scale batteries cost 70 percent less. We can have everything we want and need, with less stress on Earth’s Operating System – less lasting damage to God’s Creation.
What would Jesus do? We can’t know the mind of God, but based on Christ’s own words, actions and ministry he might have two simple questions. “Did you protect my Father’s home? Did you defend his children?”
What will we tell him?