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How should a Christian view global warming?

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The phrase global warming has faded from use, having been almost entirely replaced by the term climate change. The topic is subject to intense disagreement and debate. Unfortunately, discussions tend to follow political and social lines, rather than lines of evidence, reason, and Scripture. God appointed humanity to be the steward of this world (Genesis 1:28), not the destroyer of it. Christians ought to care about what effects we have on earth. However, we should not allow environmentalism to become a form of idolatry (Romans 1:25). The “rights” of an inanimate planet and non-human life should never outweigh those of humanity, who is created in God’s image.

In the global warming/climate change debate, it seems that only extremes are discussed. One extreme says humanity is entirely at fault for climate change, all of which is bad, that science knows exactly the results for failing to make changes, and that only drastic measures will prevent billions from dying in the next few years. The other extreme says humans have literally zero impact on climate, that science cannot predict anything related to climate, and there is no reason to care about the issue.

Rather than being unreasonable (Philippians 4:5), believers should seek to understand. That means knowing what the facts are, from whom those facts come, how they are interpreted, and what spiritual implications result. Especially important is separating the questions “what is the situation?” and “what should we do about it?” Blurring those domains is a major reason this topic inspires so much venom.

Hard facts are rarely presented on either side of the global warming debate. Instead, there are many references to conjectures, statistical models, studies of studies, or what percentage of some group agrees with a particular phrasing regarding the issue. Projected consequences, real or imagined, become the basis for recommending policy, rather than logic. Facts are sometimes ignored, both by those who blame humanity for climate change and those who hold humanity totally innocent of it. Almost no one, on either side, has a solid grasp of the “hard” science or mathematics at work.

Those said to “believe in” or “support” the popular stance on global warming have reasons behind their views. Experience and research seem to indicate that climate change, including aspects of global warming, is indeed occurring. The same data suggests that human activity can influence the atmosphere and weather patterns. Humans have negatively impacted our environment in the past. Those who disagree may seem dismissive of all science related to the problem or discounted as conspiracy theorists.

Those who reject the popular view of global warming also have their reasons. Doomsday predictions that prove untrue foster skepticism. When failed prophecies of global disaster are followed by revised proclamations with new timelines, the skepticism increases, and the cycle repeats. Predictions related to global warming are often based on speculative models, multiple layers of conjecture, and obscure data greatly subject to interpretation. Worse, proposed solutions often seem overblown or unreasonable; life-altering extreme measures are often suggested by those who might understand climate but have little grasp of economics, ethics, or history. Those who support the popular view often come across as dismissive of any and all criticism or questioning and are prone to labelling everyone who disagrees with their views as “anti-science.”

Politics, perhaps more than any other factor, muddies the discussion of global warming. The most strident voices blaming mankind for climate change are tied to left-leaning politics. Claims that mankind must act urgently on global warming generally come from the same voices denying the humanity of the unborn, redefining gender and sexuality, and scorning religious beliefs. In response, the most vehement opposition to prevailing climate theories tends to be associated with right-leaning political and social groups.

In other words, the debate over global warming and climate change has become a proxy war in the modern progressive-versus-conservative political struggle. Whatever reason or truth there might be in the issue is easily lost in an “us-versus-them” melee.

Regarding issues such as this, skepticism is not the same as disbelief. There are fragments of evidence to support both sides, and logical reasons to choose one interpretation over another. The question of anthropogenic global warming should not divide Christian believers from each other (see Luke 11:17). Environmental issues are important, but they are not the most important questions facing mankind. Christians ought to treat our world with respect and good stewardship, but we should not allow politically driven hysteria to dominate our view of the environment—regardless of which direction it might lead. Our relationship with God is not dependent on belief or disbelief in human-caused global warming.

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This page last updated: December 8, 2023