Season of Creation – Climate Change

Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska 1894 and 2008.

Romans 8:18-21 “18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. ”

What does the Bible Say about the Environment?

The Bible talks about the management of the environment of which climate is a part

From Jim Denison

“The world belongs to its Creator: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters” (Psalm 24:1-2). How does he intend his creation to be managed?

“We begin with the instructions in Genesis:

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so (Genesis 1:26-30).

“The key words in the text are “rule” (“have dominion,” v. 26) and “subdue” (“keep under,” v. 28). Both identify man as the ruler or “king” of nature. Since he is created in God’s “image” and “likeness,” he is God’s representative on earth. Oriental kings were expected to care for their subjects (cf. Ps. 72:12-14), upholding law and justice for all. Genesis 2 is God’s commentary on Genesis 1: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (v. 15). “Take care of it” (Shamar) is literally “guard” in the Hebrew; the word means to superintend and protect in all ways.

“The Old Testament is very specific regarding the obligations inherent in this stewardship. For instance:

• Plants may not be cut down in war (Deuteronomy. 20:19-20).
• The land is to be laid fallow in the seventh year so that it may “rest” and feed wild animals (Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:2-7).
• Cattle are to be allowed a Sabbath rest (Deuteronomy 5:14).
• Newborn animals must not be removed from their mother in their first week of
life (Lev. 22:27-29).
• Oxen are not to be muzzled while at work (Deut. 25:4).
• Proverbs 12:10 is specific: “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.”

“One day our planet will be destroyed: “The present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7).On that day, God will replace the current earth with “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1).

“But we don’t know when this day will come: “A day with the Lord is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:8-9).

“In the meanwhile, we are under biblical mandate to manage God’s creation well, to “keep” and protect it. Such environmental engagement is part of our witness to a culture which is increasingly conscious of this priority. Our work to preserve God’s creation is the best way to ensure that future generations will be sustained and healthy.”

Climate Change

Definitions

Climate change” ( a preferred term over global warming) refers to any significant change in measures of climate (temperature, precipitation, or wind) lasting for an extended period (decades or more). It may result from:

  • Natural factors, such as changes in the sun’s intensity or slow changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun
  • Natural processes within the climate system, such as changes in the ocean and its circulation
  • Human activities which change the composition of the atmosphere (such as burning fossil fuels) and the land (such as deforestation, urbanization, desertification). 

“Global warming” refers to an average increase in the temperature of the atmosphere near the Earth’s surface, contributing to changes in global climate patterns. Most people use the phrase to refer to increased emissions of “greenhouse gases 

Atmospheric gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide are called greenhouse gases because they act similar to the glass in a greenhouse by trapping heat.  

The greenhouse gases are transparent to most incoming radiation from the sun, which passes through the atmosphere and hits the Earth. The Earth is warmed by this radiation, and in response radiates infrared  energy back into space. That is where greenhouse gases come into play. These atmospheric gases absorb some of the outgoing infrared radiation, trapping the heat energy in the atmosphere and thereby warming the Earth.”  Life on Earth is only possible because of this greenhouse effect. It has kept the Earth’s average surface temperature stabilized at around 13.5°C (56.3°F) for a long time. The more greenhouse gases there are in the atmosphere the warmer our planet becomes. 

“Greenhouse gases” have been produced over the last 200 years. Burning fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide. Farming practices and land use changes produce methane and nitrous oxide. Trees remove carbon dioxide, replacing it with oxygen; deforestation lessens this effect in the atmosphere. As a result, greenhouse gases have risen significantly. They prevent heat from escaping to space, similar to glass panels of a greenhouse. 

Specifically:

  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)is emitted primarily by burning fossil fuels and by the clearing of forests. CO2remains in our atmosphere for many decades and some of it for many centuries and longer.
  • Methane (CH4)is emitted from landfills, coalmines, oil and gas operations, beef production and rice paddies. Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas. It stays in the atmosphere for about 12 years. Measured over a period of 20 years, methane is 86 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2, and over 100 years it is about 30 times as powerful. 
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O)is emitted by nitrogen based fertilizers and industrial activities. It stays in the atmosphere on average for 114 years.
  • Fluorocarbons Chemical engineers have designed these gases specifically to trap heat. That’s why they are very powerful greenhouse gases. These chemicals are used mainly “in refrigeration and air conditioning, but also as solvents, as blowing agents in foams, as aerosols or propellants, and in fire extinguishers. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calculated that the cumulative buildup of these gases in the atmosphere was responsible for at least 17% of global warming due to human activities in 2005

Past cycles

Could these be natural cycles ? There have been natural cycles of warming and cooling

The last ice age was more than 10,000 years ago.  The main factors were slight variations in the earth’s rotation, namely the cyclical changes in the tilt of the Earth’s axis of spin and the shape of the Earth’s orbit around the sun. Solar variation and volcanic eruptions played a minor role as well.

Temperatures affected COlevels due to feedback mechanisms (more about that in class 8, section 2). In turn COhad an effect on temperature by augmenting the warming or cooling trend. In other words: Without the atmospheric CO2, the changes in temperatures would have been much smaller.

“The atmospheric concentrations of COconsistently fluctuated between 200 parts per million (ppm) during the ice ages and 280 ppm during the warm intervals. This shift from ice age to warm period occurred many times and always within thiCOrange. When the Industrial Revolution began, the atmospheric COlevel was roughly 280 ppm.” 

On the graph we can see that COnever went above 300ppm. In 2014, atmospheric COconcentrations reached an extraordinary 400ppm! From this and other studies we know that 400ppm “is not only far above any level over the last 740,000 years, it may be nearing a level not seen for 55 million year

The situation today is very different from the past’s natural cycles. In a very short period of time, human beings have burnt huge quantities of stored solar energy (fossil fuels), thereby releasing unprecedented amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That’s why greenhouse gas concentrations have been so rapidly rising.

The global warming we have already experienced and the many changes in climate all over the world can only be explained by these tremendous increases in greenhouse gases. They cannot be explained by any natural cycle or changes in solar activity or volcanic eruptions. Today, human activities have a stronger impact on climate than natural occurrences: “We have so much COin the atmosphere that its huge radiative forcing overwhelms the changes associated with orbital forcing. No ice age could start at this point!

From – Scientific and Spiritual Dimensions of Climate Change 

Warming Trends

For the past 150 years, the Earth has been warming:

  • Since the industrial revolution, global average temperature has increased by 1°C (2°F). Iin many areas, climate change is already disrupting people’s lives.
  • Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850.
  • 2016 was the hottest year on the historical record and the third consecutive record-breaking year. Of the 17 hottest years ever recorded, 16 have now occurred since 2000. 
  • The warming is not evenly distributed. Some areas have warmed much more. Parts of the Arctic have warmed by 2° – 3°C (3.6°-5.4°F) just since the 1950s. 
  • Present emission trends put the world plausibly on a path toward 4°C (7.2 °F) warming within this century

Calculate How Much Hotter Is Your Hometown Than When You Were Born?

A 4° C (7.2° F) World

From Six° Degrees Could Change the World  – Mark Lynas.

  1. Global sea levels half a meter or more above current levels or 50 centimeters.

There are two major reasons why sea levels have been rising: 1. When water warms up, its volume increases. This is called thermal expansion. 2.The melting of glaciers and of the polar ice caps adds huge amounts of freshwater to the oceans.

Over the past 100 years, global sea level has risen by between 10 and 25cm (3.9 and 9.8 inches).” 

The37 glaciers of the originally 150 remaining at Glacier National Park are vanishing.

In the past half century, some of the ice formations in Montana have lost 85% of their size. ecological effects on aquatic species by changing stream water volume

The most dramatic loss of ice in recent years has been the decline of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. Between 1953 and 2006, the area covered by sea ice in September shrunk by 7.8 percent per decade, more than three times as fast as the average rate simulated by climate models.

The Greenland ice sheet is also melting. It holds enough water to raise sea levels worldwide by 7m (23 feet). “If greenhouse gas emissions are not controlled, the total disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet could be set in motion in a matter of decades. Although the process could take centuries to fully play out, once begun, it would be self-reinforcing, and hence virtually impossible to stop.”

From Bangladesh will be losing a third of its land area, displacing tens of millions from the fertile Meghna delta. In Boston, USA, storm-surge flooding from higher sea levels could inundate even the city’s central business district by 2075, causing estimated damages of $94 billion. Down the coast in New Jersey a 60-centimetre rise in sea level would flood 170 square kilometers of land

Like today’s New Orleans, coastal cities of the future may gradually become fortified islands, largely below sea level and under siege from all sides by the advancing waters.

  1. Integrity of West Antarctica is threatened

Greenland’s ice sheet will be shrinking year on year into the centre of the landmass, spilling vast amounts of water into the rising seas

Unlike Greenland’s ice cap, which is firmly anchored on a continental landmass, much of the base of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is grounded below sea level-and that makes it vulnerable to collapse

Global warming of four degrees would be more than enough to allow the melt line to creep across both the Ross and the Ronne ice shelves fatally damaging their integrity as meltwater prises open gaps in the ice.

  1. The Atlantic circulation (which includes the Gulf Stream)-if it survives current blips-will finally slow down and stop. (This would come too late to make Europe colder than it is now; it might just moderate some of the more extreme warming in places like the UK.) The world’s weather will go increasingly haywire, with wilder storms mobilising undreamt-of ferocity as they strike ever-larger areas.
  2. Temperature rise transforms the world.

Scientific studies exhibit near-unanimity in projecting drier climates with far hotter temperatures for the Mediterranean fringe of Europe

In Russia  with snowfall totals are expected to plummet by 80 per cent or more across the continent, with only the interior part of Scandinavia’s far north still receiving reliable winter snows. Without the snow melting slowly and releasing water late into spring, summers will become drier, leading to temperatures on the continent rising by up to 9°C above present.

With neither snowmelt nor rain, vegetation will wither, turning the green landscape into baked-earth browns as the grip of drought intensifies

The Sahara will have crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and be working its way north into the heart of Spain and Portugal

As people migrate north from the searing heat of Saharan southern Europe, Britain’s relative cool will be making these crowded islands one of the most desirable pieces of real estate on the planet.

Impact of Climate Change Today

Water

Globally, water is scarce and demand is growing. “Many millions of people around the world face water shortages and a daily struggle to secure safe water for their basic needs.” 

The amount of freshwater is finite while demand is increasing. “One billion people around the world don’t have access to clean, safe water. In developing nations, waterborne illnesses like cholera, typhoid and malaria kill 5 million people each year — 6,000 children every day. And global warming is exacerbating this crisis as severe, prolonged droughts dry up water supplies in arid regions and heavy rains cause sewage overflows.” 

In Africa, by 2020, 75 to 250million people are projected to be exposed to an increase in water stress due to climate change. 

The most serious threat to water supply is the disappearance of glaciers which provide much needed melt water during the summer. More than one-sixth of the world’s population will be affected. 

Ice and snow are huge water reservoirs, which feeds rivers during the summer. 80% of the South American Glaciers could disappear within only 15 years. The consequences for the water supply will be devastating. Lima’s 12 million inhabitants derive their water almost exclusively from the glaciers’ melt water.

It is estimated that 30 million people are at risk of losing their glacial water supply in the Andes due to climate change. 

Outside of the polar regions, the Himalayas have the largest concentration of glaciers in the world and their melt water is the major source of water for the Indus and the Ganges rivers. Satellite images have revealed an “alarming recession” of glaciers in the Bhilangna basin of the Garhwal Himalayas since 1965. Its largest glacier, the Khatling, had receded 4,340 meters and had fragmented into multiple valley glaciers. “The alarming retreat and frag

Water and Food

“The link between water and food is strong. We each drink on average nearly 4 liters (about 1 gallon) of water per day in one form or another, while the water required to produce our daily food totals at least 2,000 liters (528 gallons)—500 times as much. This helps explain why 70 percent of all water use is for one purpose—irrigation.”

More Extreme Weather Events and Changes in Weather Patterns

Since 1950, in many regions of the world, records show a decrease in the number of very cold days and nights and an increase in the number of extremely hot days and warm nights. Spring starts earlier in the Northern Hemisphere than it used to a few decades ago

Changes in precipitation (rain and snow) are already occurring in many regions of the world. It has become significantly wetter in eastern North and South America, northern Europe and northern and central Asia, but drier in the Sahel, southern Africa, the Mediterranean, and southern Asia. There is less snow and more rainfall in northern regions. 

The severity of extreme weather conditions is increasing. “As sea surface temperatures rise, particularly in the tropics and subtropics, the additional heat radiating into the atmosphere causes more destructive storms.” (12)  “The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes worldwide has nearly doubled over the past 35 years. The change occurred as global sea-surface temperatures have increased over the same period.

Soil

The 2 to 3 billion tons of fine soil particles that leave Africa each year in dust storms are slowly draining the continent of its fertility and, hence, its biological productivity. In addition, dust storms leaving Africa travel westward across the Atlantic, depositing so much dust in the Caribbean that they cloud the water and damage coral reefs there. …

Climate change will exacerbate soil degradation in many parts of the world. In drier areas, climate change is expected to lead to salinization and desertification of agricultural land. 

“By 2025, Africa could lose as much as two-thirds of its arable land compared with 1990, and there could be declines of one-third in Asia and one-fifth in South America. Migration – from the Sahelian regions to the West African coast, from sub-Saharan Africa to Europe, from Mexico to the United States – will be an inevitable consequence as poor people are driven off their land.

Forests

Forests play a vital role in maintaining the balance of the Earth’s ecosystems. They provide habitat for more than half of all terrestrial species, help filter pollutants out of the air and water, and prevent soil erosion. Rainforests also provide essential hydrological (water-related) services. For example, they tend to result in higher dry season streamflow and river levels, since forests slow down the rate of water or rain run-off, and help it enter into the aquifer. Without a tree cover, the water tends to run off quickly into the streams and rivers, often taking a lot of topsoil with 

Thus forests play a major role in regulating global temperatures by absorbing heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and storing it in the form of wood and vegetation – a process referred to as “carbon sequestration”.

Deforestation is a major cause of global warming. When trees are burned, their stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere. As a result, tropical deforestation (including forest degradation) is responsible for about 12-15 percent of total annual global warming emissions according to estimates released for the climate change conference in Copenhagen.

The reasons for deforestation are complex. The most important factors are clearance for agriculture (including cattle ranching), poor governance (illegal logging, corruption, and ineffective law and order), insecurity of land tenure, the system of international trade, poor planning (e.g.building of major trunk roads in forest areas), and unsustainable logging.

“The tropical deforestation in Asia is driven primarily by the fast-growing demand for timber. In Latin America, by contrast, the growing demand for soybeans and beef is deforesting the Amazon. In Africa, it is mostly the gathering of fuelwood and the clearing of new land for agriculture as existing cropland is degraded and abandoned. Two countries, Indonesia and Brazil, account for more than half of all deforestation.” 

At the same time, forests that have so far escaped deforestation are now threatened by climate change: In many regions of the world, more trees will die because of increasing insect infestations and forest fires.   (More insects are surviving milder winters.) “Wildfires have been on the rise worldwide for half a century. Every decade since the 1950s has seen an increase in major wildfires in the United States and around the world.

Loss of Biodiversity, Changes in Ecosystems

Many plants and animals cannot move or evolve quickly enough to adjust to the new climate conditions; so they die out. I

Approximately 20 – 30% of plant and animal species are at increased risk of extinction if increases in the global average temperature exceed 1.5 – 2.5° C (2.7 – 4.5°F).”

Effects on Human Health

It is estimated that climate change has contributed to an average of 150,000 more deaths from disease per year since the 1970s, with over half of those happening in Asia.”  Doctors say it’s contributing to a rise in seasonal hay fever and allergic asthma in the USA, where the pollen season has lengthened up to 16 days since 1995.

What can I do About Climate Change ?

1 . Support the Paris Agreement

How can I support it

https://grist.org/article/how-can-i-support-the-paris-agreement/

The Paris Agreement came into effect on November 4th 2016 after the minimum threshold was met – 55 countries representing at least 55% of global emissions.

The Paris Agreement builds upon the Convention and for the first time brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.

The Paris Agreement central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.

President Barack Obama, who committed the U.S. to the agreement, had set the goal of reducing U.S. emissions from 2005 levels by up to 28 percent by 2025.Seven out of 10 Americans in  support remaining in the agreement, according to a 2017 national poll conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Communication after the election. This cuts across parties: A majority of self-identified Democrats, Republicans, and independents all want to stay in the accord.

Episcopal Church from 2019 Convention

Resolution-7a: Support for the 2015 Paris Climate Accord and Energy Efficiency Improvements (amended by Resolutions Committee)

Resolved that the 223rd Annual Convention of the Diocese of Virginia support Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s admonition for the Episcopal Church to continue to uphold the Paris accord as a global effort by 195 nations, which have volunteered to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions with their own national measures as part of the global effort.to address climate change. 

Resolved that the Convention in keeping with prior General Convention and our Annual Convention resolutions urge congregations and individuals in this Diocese to:

  1. Carefully study the theological, scientific, and policy issues around sea level rise, increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and economic impacts of climate change, particularly as such developments are adversely affecting poor people and vulnerable communities in Virginia and among our mission partners.
  2. Participate as congregations, families, and individuals in regular emergency preparedness training and planning, including planning work with Episcopal Relief and Development, in order to reduce their vulnerability to weather-related crises such as hurricanes, flooding, drought, and wildfires,
  3. Increase the proportion of renewable-sourced electricity for heating and cooling such as solar and geothermal to the extent available and consistent with prudent financial stewardship,
  4. Improve the energy efficiency of buildings for which they are responsible, including steps to upgrade HVAC system efficiency and improve ventilation and insulation to the extent consistent with prudent financial stewardship.

Background

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a statement on 1 June immediately following the White House announcement that the US intends to withdraw from the Paris accord by 2020.  He urged the Episcopal Church to join the “we’re still in” movement of states, cities, corporations, non-governmental organizations, and faith communities because, in his teaching, caring for God’s creation by engaging climate change is not only good for the environment but also good for the health and welfare of our people.  He drew upon precedence of General Convention’s adoption of the Genesis Covenant at the 76th General Convention in 2012 that accepted the challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide or methane) from General Convention facilities by 50 percent within 10 years. 

In addition, our Diocese adopted R 15 at its 220th Annual Council in 2015 of “Accepting the Duty of Care for God’s Creation.”  In late October 2017, Anglican Archbishops around the world signed an open letter to world leaders urging responsible climate action ahead of the next UN climate change conference opening on 6 November in Bonn, Germany.

The Task Force on Care of Creation believes it is important to keep a light shined on our duty of stewardship for God’s creation.  The current political context characterizes environmental care as a partisan issue, but Bishop Curry rightly points out that it is the reason God put us here in the first place.  This resolution aims to remind Christians to keep their eyes on their duty to care for creation in spite of changing political attitudes. 

  1. Calculate your own Carbon Footprint – simple calculator 

http://ecologicalfootprint.com 

  1. Read up 

A.  Primer on Climate Change Scienced

http://www.4cleanair.org/sites/default/files/NACAAClimateSciencePrimerpost_1.pdf

B. The Victims of Climate change

https://www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/568069/.

C. Climate Change in the Artic

http://digg.com/2018/arctic-warming-climate-change

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