Monday, August 10, 2015

Combatting Global Warming

"We’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.”
President Obama spoke those words on August 3 as he announced the final rules under the federal Clean Power Plan. (You can listen to his full speech here and read an overview of the Plan here.)
In the overview, the EPA states, “The Clean Power Plan will reduce carbon pollution from power plants, the nation’s largest source, while maintaining energy reliability and affordability.”
The EPA document goes on to say, “Fossil fuels will continue to be a critical component of America’s energy future. The Clean Power Plan simply makes sure that fossil fuel-fired power plants will operate more cleanly and efficiently, while expanding the capacity for zero- and low-emitting power sources.”
The day following the President’s announcement, a coalition of Christian leaders issued a statement (see this article) calling on the presidential candidates to address climate change in the first presidential debate on August 6.
They didn’t do that, though. There was not one mention of global warming or the President’s Clean Power Plan. Most of them will likely oppose the President’s plan, however.
The day before Pres. Obama’s broadcast, Senator Ted Cruz was one of five presidential contenders who attended the Freedom Partners forum held in a southern California resort hotel. (Freedom Partners is composed of around 200 members, each paying a minimum $100,000 in annual dues; it is partially funded by the Koch brothers.)
At that 8/2 meeting, Sen. Cruz expressed “full out denial” of global warming, saying that “the data and facts don’t support” the claim that humans are causing climate change. He also criticized the Clean Power Plan on that day before its final details were made public.
James L. Powell (b. 1936), who holds a doctorate in geochemistry from MIT and has served as president of two colleges as well as the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia, has assembled every peer-reviewed study published in 2013 that addressed the issue of climate change. The total was 10,885 essays/articles.
Of those 10,885, just two peer-reviewed studies challenged anthropogenic climate change. (See more about that here.) So what does Sen. Cruz know that the writers of 10,883 articles acknowledging human-caused global warming don’t?
It is embarrassing for many of us Christians that Sen. Cruz is so outspoken about his Christian faith.
In responding to the question on August 6 about whether he had received any word from God, Cruz said, “I am blessed to receive a word from God every day in receiving the scriptures and reading the scriptures. And God speaks through the Bible.”
Unfortunately, Cruz seems not only to ignore what most scientists say about global warming but also what the Bible says about caring for creation.
In contrast, Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) is a religious organization whose mission “is to be faithful stewards of Creation by responding to global warming through the promotion of energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.” (See IPL’s full statement here.)
The IPL has organizations in 40 states, and an August 3 press release by the Kansas IPL applauded the President’s announcement of the final Clean Power Plan rules.
Earlier this summer Pope Francis issued a significant encyclical on climate change. That 184-page document emphasizes that the problem is urgent and calls for “a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.”
I truly hope a steadily increasing number of people will join the Pope and the IPL, and the President, in combatting global warming—before it is too late.


  1. I am hoping that through innovation and hard work, clean energy can help to solve the challenges of excess CO2. I wrote a essay on this topic Two Great Experiments: Junk Food; Junk Energy. Where I wrote: Right now the cheapest and easiest forms of energy to capture and use is in the form of carbon (or nuclear). Just like a little excess weight is not bad for a person but a lot of excess weight is very bad, this could be the same for CO2 for our planet.

    The problem with excess CO2, is that we are all joined together in producing CO2 to get the benefit of energy harvesting. It is liked we are a conjoined twin with all humanity and even if one twin tries to do the right thing, the millions or billions of other twins eating bad will overwhelm the good. We all share one stomach – one planet – one earth.

    If we are not willing to eat better when our own health is impacted, how can we expect society to do better at balancing short term and longer energy use decisions? Especially when our own energy choices make so little difference to the planet but so beneficial to the individual? So what’s the solution? We should encourage each other to make good health and environmental choices as often as possible. Even if you believe there is no risk to global warming, you should be a good stewards of the planet (plus your own health may improve by driving less, walking more and eating better). If you believe that climate change is the greatest threat to the planet, by setting a good example and reducing your CO2 footprint, you may encourage others to do the same. Finally, it is through energy innovation that we will solve the energy/excess CO2 problem. We should encourage this innovation in whatever form it may take: solar, wind, nuclear, natural gas and conservation. Every solution should be considered even if your personal bias does not want to consider it. I am trying to make better food, exercise and environmental choices. If we can just try a little harder every day, we can all live a little healthier today and pass on a healthier world to the next generation.

    1. Doug, thanks for your thoughtful response to the blog article. I enjoyed the essay you linked to, and I hope others will read it as well.

      In spite of your criticism of the President's vacations (and I assume such vacations have been taken regularly by whoever has been in the White House), I think what the President is doing about reducing C02 and what the FLOTUS has been doing to reduce obesity in the country is to be commended.

  2. Leroy, thank you for this insightful post. I wonder, though, if we perhaps focus too much on governmental/corporate action with regard to climate change, and not enough on personal action. Especially with environmental issues, we seem to have a case of "everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die". That is, many Christians (and other people of faith) are adding to the momentum of calling out corporations and government organizations for better environmental policy, but few are willing to turn the microscope against themselves. Governments and corporations are easy bureaucratic targets, especially in a system that thrives on "Us vs. Them" logic. It's easy to critique bad policy when it doesn't entail change on an individual/household level. But how many people in our church, for example, have invested in alternative energy sources, committed to lowering their AC usage in the summer, or—perhaps the single most effective way of lowering our individual carbon footprint—eliminated meat from their diets? I say this not out of judgment, but instead to emphasize personal responsibility as an absolute necessity in addition to public political activism.

    For me, the uncomfortable question that I must face each day is "What am I doing to help put an end to environmental degradation," and the equally uncomfortable answer, "Probably not enough."

    1. (Annoyingly, my first reply got lost, and it was sooo good!)

    2. I saw that Leroy made some of my own points below, so I will add my additional comments there.

    3. (Well, here I copy and paste.) I used to think a lot like Joshua, too, and while reading 19th century Russian literature, I became nihilistic almost. I think when we over emphasize individual action, we may approach mental depression and conclude that the ultimate action we can take is SUICIDE, that the world will be better off without our puny efforts and never fully effective actions to make the world better . . . And beyond that pitfall is the danger of becoming so self-righteous that we create a wall that repels more people than it inspires. So I would like to stick with Obama's rhetoric about THIS GENERATION and follow Jesus' example that bringing about the Kingdom of God is a team sport. Each of us should find our place on the team: some may experiment, some may teach, some may critique, some may build, some may boycott and divest, some may invest . . . Think globally, act locally. Think Kingdom of God, act in the Anthroposphere.

    4. Thanks, Phil, for these excellent comments. I have just posted the last few lines on Facebook.

  3. Here are meaningful comments, again, from Thinking Friend Eric Dollard:

    "I was not aware of the IPL until now, so I certainly appreciate this new information.

    "Even if one sets aside anthropogenic global warming, the fossil fuel industry still presents us with two serious problems. One problem is that the mining and transport of fossil fuels is messy, sometimes very messy. Do we really want more oil tanker leaks, oil rig blowouts, exploding railroad tanker cars, gas and pipeline explosions, strip mining, coal mine accidents, and black lung disease?

    "The other problem is that the supply of fossil fuels is finite. Although there is apparently enough fossil fuel for several more decades (oil) or maybe a century or two (coal and gas), it will eventually run out. Even now, we are going to more and more remote places to mine the stuff.

    "In addition, there is the geopolitical angle. If we really want to limit military spending by petro-states such as Russia and Iran (and thereby curb our own military spending), we should be working to depress the prices of crude oil and natural gas as much as possible. This can best be achieved by reducing our consumption. This means conservation, a tax on carbon based on the number of carbon atoms in the molecules being burned, and investment in renewables.

    "With our current Congress, with many state legislatures, and with fossil fuel company profits on the line, I am not particularly optimistic."

  4. Joshua, thanks for reading and responding to my blog article this morning. I appreciate your emphasis on the importance of individuals taking personal responsibility for lowering their carbon footprint.

    But, as you suggest, this is a case of both/and not either/or. And my guess is that the Clean Power Plan, when or if implemented, will have more positive impact on the environment than what could be done by hundreds of thousands of private individuals.

    1. I used to think a lot like Joshua, too, and while reading 19th century Russian literature, I became nihilistic almost. I think when we over emphasize individual action, we may approach mental depression and conclude that the ultimate action we can take is SUICIDE, that the world will be better off without our puny efforts and never fully effective actions to make the world better . . . And beyond that pitfall is the danger of becoming so self-righteous that we create a wall that repels more people than it inspires. So I would like to stick with Obama's rhetoric about THIS GENERATION and follow Jesus' example that bringing about the Kingdom of God is a team sport. Each of us should find our place on the team: some may experiment, some may teach, some may critique, some may build, some may boycott and divest, some may invest . . . Think globally, act locally. Think Kingdom of God, act in the Anthroposphere.

  5. Strong words from Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson:

    "I'm still trying to comprehend how someone like Cruz can get a degree from an Ivy League school (Princeton) and still hold tenaciously to the fundamentalist views he obviously grew up with. It takes colossal arrogance to stand against the conclusions reached by 99% of the scientists who have studied climate change. The many times I've read the Bible I haven't discerned arrogance as one of the moral virtues."

    1. 99% of scientists who study global warming .....HAVE NOT BEEN HEARD FROM. Only the ones with the politically correct findings constitute the "consensus".

      Ivy League of Voodo Vo-Tech School, at least Cruz has the common sense to know when he's being hoodwinked on an issue (i.e. global warming).

      Better than I can say for some academicians who can't even match their socks.

    2. As an academician who wears matched socks everyday (my wife sorts them), I would like to point out that there is an idea that has been around for decades that somehow there is some controlling entity that guarantees that research publications toe some imaginary party line. It just doesn't exist. This has been the argument against evolution since at least the middle of last century. When I teach my students about the scientific discovery process, I do readily point out that, in not a few cases, scientists, because they are have their own preconceived notions like everyone else, are very reluctant to accept breakthrough discoveries that challenge the common consensus. But, the beauty of science is that investigation continues and eventually even the stubbornest true scientist is forced to accept the new conclusion as evidence accumulates. To some extent, this reluctance to throw out old hypotheses is a good thing. A single outlying data point is often just that--an outlier, an anomaly--but, granted, it can be a discovery that overturns the apple cart. But, science is self correcting. I could give numerous examples, but one is the discovery by Oswald Avery in 1944 that DNA was the genetic material of a bacterium. Most scientist were convinced that protein, being much more complex, had to be the genetic material, so it took several years, and for some a second experiment with a virus, to convince all of them that they were wrong. But they were convinced. Scientists don't like to use the word "prove" but they do build theories and accumulate evidence for or against hypotheses. Evidence has been accumulating for some time now on recent climatic changes. The best consensus is that recent dramatic climate change is real and that the cause is human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels which raises the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere.

    3. That excuse is a little hard to accept coming from the realm of paid and partial academia.

      Sell it to the Air Force.

    4. Additonally, Carbon dioxide is required for plant life to produce oxygen. We can go with a million alternate theories/hypotheses about whether this a good thing or bad thing.

      So far, the science of "global warming" has a pitiful track record of meeting it's projections on any consistent time-table (sea levels etc, mean temperatures etc). That ought to be enough to raise red flags in the minds of folks who are really "thinking".

  6. Rev. George Takashima, a Thinking Friend in Canada, writes,

    "I enjoyed reading your article on climate change. For sure, we must be vigilant in this area of concern.

    "In Canada, we have a number of environmentalists declaring that we MUST be concerned about climate change and we must take action to ensure that we do not destroy creation."

  7. Thinking Friend, and former missionary colleague who has lived in Texas for many years now, Vicki Price sent the following comments (and permission to post them here):

    "I too am alarmed at the denial by so many otherwise intelligent people that global warming is a fact that is not going away. Just because it may be true that there are 'normal periods of fluctuation,' doesn't alter the reality of the warming phenomenon we are experiencing now. Do they not read the credible research on this?

    "Is it just wishful thinking on their part to avoid doing what is necessary to slow down the process (here in this area, industry resists doing something about it because it 'affects the bottom line adversely,' another way of saying that it costs too much, and profit matters more than acting responsibly to deal with the problem."

  8. Interesting discussion.....or would be if the whole topic (global warming) were not a money-making and political hoax...totally unsubstantiated and supported only by a handful (aka "consensus") of scientists, paid generously for their baised "data". Think they're called "grants". This so called "consensus of scientiests" is the equivalent of "expert" witness on either side of a jury trail. After all, the perception of reality is more important than the reality itself when an agenda is involved.

    The joke is on taxpayers, businesses and those who hope for/work for an American economic recovery. "The sky is falling.....the sky is falling.....and the world is flat"

    What a hoot.

  9. I like the Pope.

    Don't agree with him theologically or atmospherically....but still love and appreciate him.

  10. Thank you, Leroy for taking on this subject. It is amazing that such an important topic can still be so divisive. It is hard to understand how in such an age of great knowledge and with tools so pervasive that could help us start to ameliorate the damage we do to this plant, that we find some confrontational resistance to scientific fact. Unfortunately, the divide between knowledge and denial is growing and the chasm between is growing deeper and deeper. At the moment of our greatest opportunity, we turn to fear and superstition.

    I understand Joshua's points about personal responsibility vs our corporate response as a country. However, I do not see it as a choice between the two and I believe strongly that we need to work towards a consensus in our country on this (and others) issue. Otherwise, I don't see that individual efforts will make the difference required.

    1. Affirmation, Lonnie, not "correction." We know you and believe you, even if you are paid by some secret special interest organization -- are you? And we agree with your conclusions, not because we already had the same conclusions before you expressed yours, but because they are OBJECTIVE TRUTH, Inconvenient and life-changing, spelling the end of market capitalism, boding a world-wide lower standard living, etc.

  11. Correction Lonnie:

    You're not being very "scientific".

    "Divisive" because there's hardly a consensus in the scientific community whether or not this "projected phenomenon" truly exists or that climate change is primarily stimulated by fossil fuels etc.

    "Not scientific" because a select consensus is not really a consensus.

    "Fear and superstition" is red herring when you're talking about resistance based likewise on the lack of consensus or demonstrated empirical fact.

    Why do some of the most gullible individuals cloack themselves with psuedo-intellectualism (i.e. we're just a little smarter than your average bears) while doctoring and biasing "scientific data" at the same time?

    Good reason to be "resistant"/ suspicious.

  12. Scott, I don't know who you are, how you happened upon this blogsite, or why you decided to troll this article. Who are you and what are your qualifications for making the outlandish comments you have made? Why should I or any of my readers take you seriously?

  13. "Troll" may be the operative word. When someone continually imputes another's opinion as PAID by some evil entity, rather than freely and sincerely held, it makes you wonder if that person operates that way and assumes everyone else does, too.

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