So as California and Florida are facing unseasonably low temperatures that have threatened our country’s citrus crop, we tackle the issue of global warming. It’s a frequent topic in the news, in politics and even our school children are inundated with alarming information (and often mis-information) on global warming. So once again, let’s look at the facts in the case to see if we can determine to what extent the earth’s climate is changing and who could be the culprit.
The following charts plot the yearly average global temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, over the past 140 years (data taken from http://www.nepa.gov/nepa/reports/statistics/global.html). Both charts plot the exact same data; I just present the same data from two different views. From the first chart, it would appear the earth’s climate is remarkably stable, not appearing to vary much at all over the past 140 years.
The second chart tells a different story; it shows how the earth’s temperature has risen about one degree Fahrenheit in the last 140 years. But more than that, it shows some interesting trends, telling us where temperatures might have been prior to the collection of data and perhaps where we will see temperatures go in the future.
In the third chart, I have three different types of trends the temperature changes could be following.
The blue, polinomial trend seems to be the best fit for the data and does a good job showing the cyclical nature of the data. Such tempurate cycles have been a part of this earth since its creation. Some geologists believe the earth experience global warming during the early Jurassic period, with temperatures rising nine degrees Fahrenheit. A thousand years ago, the Vikings settled a new land and for its lush environment called it Greenland. They later were forced to leave Greenland, though, due to falling temperatures killing crops and expanding ice sheets. In the 16th century, Europe expeienced what historians call the Little Ice Age.
We now turn the discussion towards causes. We have seen the data and it is clear there is overall warming in recent years. This along with the historical perspective of climate change, we see that warming and cooling of the earth is cyclical. But is there more to it than natural cycles about which we can do nothing? Experts in the field also say solar activity, volcanic emissions, variations in the earth’s orbit, livestock flatulence and greenhouse gases from human activity are causing the earth’s temperature to rise. A recent article in the UK Telegraph outlines how scientists believe the sun is burning hotter than ever before and thus contributing to global warming.
Now we have barely touched on man-made causes of global warming such as car emissions and pollution. Mankind and modern living may be a factor but how much of a factor is a matter of dispute in scientific and politcal circles. I do not see any data to suggest the sky is falling as so many environmentalist alarmists wish us to believe. Al Gore has stated that the automobile is the earth’s greatest enemy and he supports “completely eliminating the internal combustion engine” (Earth in the Balance, page 325). I believe this is an extreme view and such drastic steps are not necessary; in fact it is quite arrogant to think that man has this kind of power to raise the earth’s temperature by our life styles alone or to lower it by changing the way we live our lives.
It is our responsibility, though, to take reasonable steps to keep the earth clean and safe. I see our responsibility to care for the environment as a God-given stewardship, rather than an effort to prevent some type of global climate catasphophe.
Genesis 1:28 “And God blessed them (Adam and Eve), and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”