The Bible is the foundation for understanding every challenge facing us. Global warming is no exception. A careful study of climate history in God’s Word helps us understand how God expects us to respond to fears of radical climate change.
On this Earth Day, April 22, 2012, as people are being reminded not to abuse the environment, Christians should be recalling Genesis 1 and its admonition to be stewards of the world. But Earth Day is much more than advocating for things like clean air and water. From its very beginning, Earth Day has been a platform from which activists have been proclaiming a particular worldview-driven agenda. For many extreme environmentalists, they will not be sitting in church today but will be “worshipping” Mother Earth.
On our website today, Ken Ham, AiG president, shares his perspectives on Earth Day. In a recent Answers radio commentary, he indicated that even at Earth Day’s start 40 years ago, it already had an agenda well beyond simply being good stewards of the earth. Listen to the :90 program, labeled “Earth Day—a Hidden Agenda” at this link.
Ken Ham wrote the following article two years ago for Answers magazine that presented a balanced view of global warming, which is now the number one cause today for environmental activists.
We live in an abnormal world because the once-perfect creation is now affected by sin and the Curse: “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:22).
Whether a person is a Christian or non-Christian, a creationist or evolutionist, all believe in various (even dramatic) times of climate change over the earth’s history.
However, there are disagreements—not over the fact of climate change, but over other questions:
a. When did the change(s) occur?
b. What type of change(s) occurred and to what extent?
c. What caused the change(s)?
d. Can humans do anything to stop or reverse the effects of such climate change?
Today scientists and politicians heatedly debate man’s role in climate change (d, above). But if their starting assumptions about (a), (b), and (c) are wrong, there is a very real danger that they will make very bad decisions. The problem is especially acute if they assume that climate has changed slowly over millions of years until man’s recent appearance on earth (especially modern industry) dramatically sped up the change.
As a biblical creationist, let me give a big-picture overview of climate change based on earth’s history as revealed in God’s Word. I postulate that the earth’s climate has gone through four major periods of change, and a fifth change is coming. In every case, humans did not produce the change directly.
God created a perfect world in six days (Genesis 1:31; Exodus 20:11). This took place about six thousand years ago.
On the fourth day of the Creation Week, we read: “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years’ ” (Genesis 1:14). Now, the primary reason for today’s four seasons is the earth’s tilt as it revolves around the sun. Assuming the earth had a similar tilt when created, such seasonal changes would have occurred from the beginning.
Although the word for “seasons” in Genesis 1 encompasses various special times, such as harvest and festivals, it can also include the periods we call seasons today (summer, fall, winter, spring). Presumably, had the earth remained in its perfect state, there still would have been the four seasons, but regular and in perfect harmony, with no extremes that would cause harm to life or the earth.
However, the situation did not remain perfect because the first man, Adam, rebelled against the Creator, resulting in all of creation suffering from the effects of sin and the Curse (Genesis 3:17; Romans 8:20–22).
The Bible does not reveal much about the world before Noah’s Flood. We don’t know to what extent the climate was affected. No doubt changes did occur since our Creator God no longer upheld the world in a perfect state.
The most significant climate change recorded in the Bible occurred during the time of Noah (and we could postulate this to be the second climate period in biblical history).
The fountains of the deep burst forth, and the windows of heaven opened to pour rain on the earth (Genesis 7:11). Such a dramatic, global Flood would not only revolutionize the earth’s climate at that time but also have an ongoing effect on the climate ever since. New mountain ranges (Psalm 104:8–9) and the rearrangement of the continents, for example, would result in different weather patterns.
Those who reject the reality of the global Flood will never understand most of the conditions that produced the major climate changes in the past and their influence upon the present.
Even though Noah’s Flood dramatically changed the earth’s climate, at the end of the Flood God made a promise to future generations: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22). Nothing that happens to the climate, and nothing man can do, will change this. God’s promise will remain true (see Jeremiah 33:20–21).
So, regardless of what climate change occurs, day and night and seasons will continue until the final judgment.
The next major climate change occurred over the next few hundred years as a result of the Flood of Noah’s day: “From whose womb comes the ice? And the frost of heaven, who gives it birth?” (Job 38:29).
Biblical creationists believe the unique conditions of the Flood generated earth’s one and only Ice Age. (At the end of the Flood, cool land, warm water, and ash in the atmosphere from volcanic eruptions caused a cooling effect— for details see “A Dark and Stormy World,” Answers, Oct.–Dec. 2008.) Creation scientists estimate that this Ice Age peaked around 500 years after the Flood.
After the Ice Age peaked and as the earth began to settle down from the devastating effects of the Flood, the earth began to warm, and the Ice Age receded. The melting ice caused the ocean level to rise. The oceans eventually reached a relatively stable temperature so that climate fluctuations became less severe.
We currently live in a period of relatively minor fluctuation (see temperature changes over the past thousand years on p. 55).
Ever since the Flood, we have seen an unsettled earth in its sin-cursed state. Many smaller climate changes have occurred, such as seven years of drought and famine in Joseph’s day.
Other authors in this magazine issue consider whether mankind has contributed significantly to climate change—though a proper understanding of the evidence does not favor such a suggestion.
Even if mankind’s impact on climate is small, this does not mean that we should not look after our environment. To the contrary, we need to do the best we can to use the environment for man’s good and God’s glory, as stewards of what God has entrusted to us. Good stewardship requires us to avoid rash decisions based on inconclusive evidence.
A fifth period of major climate change is coming—the final and most dramatic change: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).
After this time Christians will live in new heavens and a new earth that will remain perfect forever (2 Peter 3:13). No more will climate hurt the earth and life, for the Lord will again uphold the earth in a perfect state (Revelation 21:4; 22:3).
Those who reject the Bible cannot truly understand how climate change fits into the real history of the earth, including the biblical timeline over six thousand years and God’s judgment during the Flood. Climate change is normal in an abnormal world. Until people are prepared to accept why this world is abnormal—because of sin—they will not be able to properly understand climate change and respond appropriately.