The compost magazine known as Christianity Today recently published an article urging Christians to care about climate change. Daniel Harrell is the editor-in-chief over at Christianity Today and he wrote an impassionate, yet strangely self-aware piece titled, “Why All The Concern Over Carbon?” The piece is somewhat of a call to action, with a subtitle suggesting eschatological reasons to motivate Christians. However, what Harell fails to provide is a compelling reason to act, as his argument demonstrates a clear non sequitur between an impending change and a call to action.
Harrell begins with by invoking a few eschatological passages, and though these passages may be out of context, the premise that unstable climate is a sign of the endtimes is not a compelling reason for a Christian to act on climate change. It is, however, a very compelling reason to proclaim the gospel, an argument not made. After all, the return of Christ is an event to look forward too, not dread. This is not to say that Christians should kill the planet to bring about the endtimes. This leads to the second reasons.
Instead, an overwhelming body of evidence starting in the mid-1800s aboard ships and progressing to recent tracking from satellites, geologic data, and computational analysis all converge to affirm the earth is getting hotter. More than 90 percent of earth scientists concur and point to humans as the primary cause. Rising tides, extreme weather, and hotter temperatures notwithstanding, climate change unheeded threatens to destroy economies, render parts of the world uninhabitable, and exacerbate disparities between rich and poor. Exactly what this may look like remains to be seen—consensus on warming isn’t consensus on its future effects—but the worries are real.
Ironically, human technology for recording weather took off in the mid 1800, but this data is naturally skewed because the prior period was historically a cold one. So much of our reference for the earth getting hotter is skewed from having exited a cold streak. So it is rational that the earth is getting warmer. Moreover, the capacity for humans to cause climate change is conceivable. The vast market share of greenhouse gases is water vapor, as a result of the water cycle. Next is Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Humans do emit CO2. Therefore, if human activity creates more atmospheric CO2, then the overall supply could warm the planet. A seemingly insignificant amount can have a major impact similar to how a seemingly insignificant Blood Alcohol Concentration can inebriate someone. However, Harrell exaggerates the impact, and I would call it a lie.
Sea level is a very localized phenomenon. Warmer temperatures are good. The economic toll she prophesies is wholly incorrect. Raising the cost of electricity, food, and water will create more division between rich and poor. Human beings have the capacity to either move, should an area become uninhabitable or take preventative measures.
The long arc of human history shows that humanity thrives when the climate is warmer and there is more suffering when the climate cools. When there is warmer climate, there are higher crop yields. Climate change may displace people at worst, but many regions will become more habitable, be able to produce more crops, and therefore mitigate starvation. Humanity stands to benefit from a warmer climate but the same people who thought they could play god with virology want to play god with climate and the human life with it. Christianity Today is creating a monster from climate change when history shows us that the benefits far outweigh the tradeoffs.
Moreover, it cannot be emphasized enough that CO2 is not pollution. Public policy that treats CO2 as pollution is therefore immoral. Plants benefits from higher CO2 emissions. Despite deforestation, the existing plants will grow faster if there is more CO2 in the atmosphere. In addition to longer growing seasons, plants will not starve on CO2 they need, and therefore produce more oxygen. The earth is built with many such examples of homeostasis.
I would now argue that more CO2 in the atmosphere is beneficial to mitigate catastrophic events that would cause a global cooling. A major volcanic eruption could impact the planetary climate by putting enough particles in the air to shade out the sun enough to impact crop yields. An asteroid could do the same. More CO2 acts, in part, as a buffer or mitigating factor to catastrophic events that could cause major disruptions.
My adolescent daughter regularly bemoans being born whenever she hears catastrophic outlooks: “Why did you bring me into such a world?”
When you are free in Christ there is no reason to hold onto a slave mentality and even less to instill one into your children as Daniel Harrell has done. Climate change is not a threat to humanity, in the same way that coronavirus was not. Every doomsday model performs as well as a Hal Lindsey prophesy. This does not mean we should pollute actual pollutants. This does not mean we should not act on our own conscience as Harrell does with his own consumer habits. But this does mean we are without biblical justification to compel our neighbors to reduce their CO2 emissions.