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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Quest against greenhouse gases takes on religious fervor

(For the record, I do not drive an SUV, my furnace is a high-efficiency gas burner, my windows are double-insulated and the attic was recently blown with ultra high r-value fill. In other words, please do not question my dedication to reduce fossil fuel use by any reasonable means. Furthermore, I enjoy hiking, biking, canoeing, ice and roller skating -- any outdoor activity that does not involve an engine. In other words, I am in favor of environmental protection.)

Tuesday night, at my brother-in-law's invitation, I listened to a lecture by a professional from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) who added fuel to the fire for reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The venue was the men's club for a local Methodist church. The talk was introduced with an appeal for environmental stewardship as a Christian mission. It began with an explanation of the science behind greenhouse gases. To be fair, the speaker suggested that without any carbon dioxide, we would likely be a bit chilled -- perhaps by 60 degrees Fahrenheit! Next we saw the usual graphics on global warming over the the past century and back to the Middle Ages (for example, see this site by Woods Hole Research Center (protecting the integrity of the global evironment). Several people then pitched in with comments about how Al Gore dramatized this in the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" by climbing up a ladder to the peak of temperature. (I am suspicious of politicians and Hollywood actors preaching science, so this film remains unscreened.) One fellow, a retired PhD scientist, had the temerity to speak up that the connection of carbon dioxide to global warming is not yet proven and that other causes, not manmade, could have far greater impact on temperature increases or decreases. Seeing others in the audience squirm uncomfortably and even make faces to indicate how crazy this was, I knew that the earth's fate was sealed -- we are soon to be cooked in an atmospheric stew of our own making. The speakers then broke the church members into small groups to select from a handout of action items some things they would pledge to do (see the MPCA's "What Can We Do"). I am thinking about buying a bunch of cloth bags to bring my groceries home (one of the items). I've already done most everything else on the list.

What worries me more than global warming itself is the intermingling of politics and religion with climatology, for example the demands of a group led by Reverend Rich Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals and Nobel laureate Eric Chivian of Harvard to make changes in values, lifestyles and public policy to avert global warming. Cizik told a news conference that "...Evangelicals have a responsibility to be even more vigilant than others. We will not allow the Creation to be ... destroyed by human folly." An opposing view is offered by Massachusetts Institute of Technology atmospheric scientist Richard Lindzen -- a critic of California's proposed legislation against global warming: "It's kind of pathetic because we have almost no understanding of major changes in climate over hundreds of thousands and millions of years...we're forecasting climate when our success in explaining it is about zero." (Source: CBS Broadcasting .)

Seeing the recent California freeze play havoc with citrus must give that state's citizens pause in their rush to join the global-warming evangelists.


  • At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Eric Kvaalen said…

    In my view, politics, religion, and science (such as climatology) are all part of life, and cannot be separated completely. My religion gives me motivation to do what is good for the world, and my religion is affected by my science. Science helps me understand what is going on in the world and helps me figure out how to do something about it. Politics is the way that we govern ourselves and bring about changes in society.

    I do use religious ideas when arguing for having a responsible attitude toward climate change. Some of my religious friends are so convinced that global warming is just a conspiracy by the "liberals" to gain more power, that I feel I have to challenge them to consider their ways. If they refuse to even look into the question of man's impact on the climate, are they "closing their eyes lest they should see and understand"? Are they among "those that destroy the earth"?

    If it is true that we are causing a huge change in the earth's climate and causing the extinction of many species of life, then I think it is appropriate to change "values, lifestyles, and public policy". Even if there is still some doubt about how much man has contributed to the recent global warming, we can't wait forever to be sure. Anyway we need to find alternatives to oil, because it's getting harder and harder to find.


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