Side with Good Science against Bad Religion on Climate Change


Good science and good religion are not at odds over the truth about climate change, Parham observes.
Global warming deniers have had a bad couple of weeks on the truth versus falsehood front, the line between what is and their wishful fantasies. Scientists have thumped the deniers who cling to their beliefsbeliefs in the ideology of laissez-faire capitalism and the theology of literalism.

 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the "combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for June 2010 was the warmest on record."

 

June "was also the fourth consecutive warmest month on record (March, April and May 2010 were also the warmest on record)."

 

NASA reported that the first half of the year was the hottest on record.

 

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported, "Average June ice extent was the lowest in the satellite data record, from 1979 to 2010. Arctic air temperatures were higher than normal, and Arctic sea ice continued to decline at a fast pace."

 

So much for the claim of global cooling.

 

In order to avoid what global warming deniers do, a word of caution must be inserted.

 

"One hot year doesn't, on its own, prove that humans are warming the planet any more than one cold year disproves it," Bradford Plumer wrote in The New Republic.

 

He added, "That said, there's a clear upward trend here, and reams of evidence that the planet is heating up. It's not just the thermometer record, eitheras a recent EPA report noted, there are dozens of indicators, from the changing length of the growing season to shifting species habitats."

 

Now add to what scientists are reporting to three independent investigations that have affirmed the studies of climate scientists and cleared scientists of wrongdoing in the bogus scandal related to hacked emails.

 

"Emails stolen from this university were selectively misused to make serious allegations about the work of the Climatic Research Unit," said Edward Acton, vice chancellor of the University of East Anglia. "Some people accepted those misrepresentations at face value without question and repeated them as fact."

In a statement two weeks ago, Acton noted that "for the third and hopefully for the final time, an exhaustive independent review has exposed as unfounded the overwhelming thrust of the allegations against our science."

 

He said, "We hope that commentators will accurately reflect what this highly detailed independent report says, and finally lay to rest the conspiracy theories, untruths and misunderstandings that have circulated."

 

On July 16, Jonathan Kay, managing editor for the National Post, addressed the mythical claim that a "growing number of scientists" reject manmade global warming.

 

"In a new article published in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, a group of scholars from Stanford University, the University of Toronto and elsewhere provide a statistical breakdown of the opinions of the world's most prominent climate experts," he wrote in Canada's national newspaper.

 

"Their conclusion: The group that is skeptical of the evidence of man-made global warming 'comprises only 2% of the top 50 climate researchers as ranked by expertise (number of climate publications), 3% of researchers in the top 100, and 2.5% of the top 200, excluding researchers present in both groups ...This result closely agrees with expert surveys, indicating that [about] 97% of self-identified actively publishing climate scientists agree with the tenets of [man-made global warming],'" observed Kay.

 

He rightly asked, "How has this tiny 2%-3% sliver of fringe opinion been reinvented as a perpetually 'growing' share of the scientific community?"

 

Over a year ago, I noted that one of the 700 prominent scientistsidentified by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma)who objected to the scientific understanding about manmade global warming was a Southern Baptist creationist without a college degree who was a weatherman at a Fox-affiliated TV station in Bowling Green, Ky.

 

Of course, the Stanford University report focused on real climate scientists, not bogus ones. Yet togetherbogus scientists and those with fringe opinionscreate a widespread narrative that scientists are in disagreement about climate change. That false narrative creates public skepticism driven by two forcesthe ideological party of short-term greed and the theological party of fundamentalism.

 

Any number of free-market advocacy groups spew out opposition to the science of climate change. Their goal is to prevent any legislation, any government action, that will redress global warming. Is it likely that they fear action on climate change will eat into the short-term profits of their sponsors and overturn their reverence for laissez faire economics?

 

Accompanying the forces of ideology are the forces of theology. Christian fundamentalists pit their sacred text against science. Because the Bible doesn't literally say that man will warm up the earth, they see no biblical guidance to guard the earth from climate change. Others misinterpret the biblical word dominion in Genesis 1:28 to mean domination of nature, favoring short-term exploitation instead of the biblically mandated stewardship of creation.

 

Regrettably, these two forces stir up enough doubt that they taint the reports from scientists.

 

Scientists do need to speak up more often about what they are observing.

 

At the same time, Christian leaders need to challenge those who spout bad religion. They also need to offer sermons, statements, commentaries and Bible lessons that restore earth-keeping to its rightful place in Christian discipleship.

 

Good science and good religion are not at odds over the truth about climate change. One offers empirical data and objective explanations; the other provides a moral vision.

 

Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.

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