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The 700 Club

Hugh Ross on Good Stewardship and Climate Change

Climate Change Q&A

Q. Why would a scientist whose primary rule in his approach is “gentleness, respect, and a clear conscience,” take on a rancorous and polarizing topic such as climate change?

A. One of my goals in writing the book was to take the rancor, polarization, and partisan politics out of the climate change debate by making a comprehensive, interdisciplinary study of Earth’s climate in the context of two biblical principles: a) humans are fundamentally selfish and out for their best interests; b) God commands humans to be stewards of Earth’s resources and to manage those resources for the benefit of both humans and the rest of Earth’s life. 

Q. There are polarizing views about climate change: By some, it’s believed that we need to take drastic measures to correct what humans have done to the Earth and others feel it is a hoax created by scientists and politicians looking to control society. What is true and how do we move forward?

A. I waited to write the book until reliable, indisputable global temperature records were available, records covering the past 10,000 years. I also examined the multiple factors that impact climate change, not just atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane. Climate change is far more than just a carbon problem. In fact, for the past 9,000 years, natural cycles and processes have been operating to dramatically cool Earth while emerging global civilization has operated to dramatically warm Earth. Miraculously, until the past 70 years, human activity has so perfectly compensated for natural cooling that the global mean temperature has varied by no more than ±0.65°C. Scientists and laypeople alike need to recognize that climate instability is the norm for Earth. The extreme climate stability we have enjoyed for the past 9,500 years is the exception. We all need to acknowledge that it is a miraculous gift from God. Without it, it would be impossible for billions of humans to live at one time on our planet.  

Q. It’s being said that all these fires in the West are caused by climate change. What are your thoughts?

A. Let me point out that over the past 70 years the global mean temperature has risen by 1°C, returning the global mean temperature to where it was 8,700 years ago. This 1°C is for the planet as a whole. Canada, Siberia, and the western United States have become warmer while Eastern Europe has become cooler. Global warming certainly is a contributing factor in the fires currently raging in western North America. However, I would not consider it the primary factor. I believe the primary factor has been forest and brushland mismanagement. If we had been selectively harvesting the oldest trees from our forests and replacing the harvested trees with the right number and kind of young trees, we would significantly lower wildfire damage, create more habitat space for wildlife, make the forests more appealing to tourists, improve lumbering companies’ bottom line, and remove much more carbon from the atmosphere. Everybody would benefit. My book includes a number of possible win-win-win solutions to global warming. I am convinced Earth’s climate can be stabilized for at least another millennium by endeavors that would enhance rather than cripple the world economy and especially enhance the economic well-being of some of the world’s poorest citizens. I am just as firmly convinced that if we fail to provide people with economic incentives to stabilize Earth’s climate rather than with government-mandated penalties and/or rewards, we will quickly see the global mean temperature rise so high as to melt the polar icecap and bring on the next ice age, with its accompanying return to severe climate instability.  

Q. You discovered something interesting about earth’s climate history that sheds light on our current condition and perhaps our future as well. Share that with us.

A. An ice age cycle makes available the necessary resources for Earth’s support of a human population in the billions. However, the ice age cycle has long been characterized by extreme climate instability, with the global mean temperature rising and falling by 12°C (20°F) on time scales of 2–4 centuries. Such extreme climate instability explains why early humans were unable to launch civilization. The only epoch during the past 2.58-million-year ice age cycle during which the global mean temperature has been stable in the past 9,500 years. I explain in Weathering Climate Change all the meticulous, miraculous fine-tuning required to make possible a period of extreme climate stability in the midst of an ongoing ice age cycle.

Q. Does evidence of past climate instability and the anomalous duration of stability we’ve enjoyed absolve humanity from our responsibility of having contributed to the current problem?

A. Not at all. God has placed us, humans, in charge of Earth's resources with the mandate to manage those resources for the benefit of all life. The threat is real that human behavior and government policies could damage the wellbeing of both humanity and the rest of Earth’s life. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ will return to Earth, but do we really want to be embarrassed at how poorly we have managed what He entrusted to us?

Q. As Christians, what is our mandate regarding caring for creation, and do we have any hope of impacting or slowing climate change?

A. As I mentioned, in Genesis God gave us a mandate. I am an optimist. I see real hope that within two decades we could make significant progress toward restoring climate stability, benefitting the world’s ecosystems, and enhancing the health and economic well-being, including the spiritual vitality, of human beings around the world.

Q. What does this unusual period of climate stability reveal to us about our Creator, His intimate involvement with the human race, and ultimately our purpose?

A. The Creator must love the human race far beyond what we can imagine, given all He has designed and provided for our existence and thriving. What He has invested implies that He has a purpose and destiny for anyone and everyone who chooses to enter into a redemptive relationship with Him.

Background

When Hugh was 7 years old, he asked his parents about the stars. They suggested he read books on astronomy, so he went to his school library and read every book on physics and astronomy. That same year, Hugh did the same in the children’s section of Vancouver’s Public Library! At the age of 8, Hugh began to save his money to buy a telescope and was stunned when he first peered through the lens to the heavens above. “I had never seen anything so beautiful, so awesome,” says Hugh. By the time he was 16, Hugh was convinced that some form of the Big Bang Theory provided the only explanation for the origin of life. “If the universe arose out of a big bang, it must have had a beginning. If it had a beginning, it must have a Beginner,” reasoned Hugh.  

From that point, Hugh never doubted God’s existence, but presumed the Beginner was distant and non-communicative. His high school studies showed the peoples of the world taking their religions seriously, so Hugh looked for insight by reading the holy books of the world’s major religions. "I figured if God was speaking through 
any of these books, then the communication would be noticeably different from what human beings write….but if humans invented religion, their message would contain errors,” he says. In the first several holy books Hugh read, his initial hunch was confirmed: the statements were at odds with established history and science, that is until he picked up the Bible. "It was simple, direct, and specific. I was amazed by the quantity of historical data and scientific references and with the detail in them,” says Hugh. It took Hugh 18 months to read the entire Bible to test the accuracy of all of its statements on science, geography, and history, but afterward, he found no single provable error or contradiction. "I was now convinced that the Bible was supernaturally accurate and thus supernaturally inspired,” he says. As a final exercise, young Hugh mathematically determined that the Bible was more reliable by far than some laws of physics. One calculation showed less than one chance in 10^138 that the chance fulfillment of 13 specific Bible predictions could come true without supernatural intervention! He also derived a similar conclusion based on the many instances in which the Bible accurately forecasted future scientific discoveries.

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