A little while ago, I wrote a post (see here) about the Church’s response to climate change. What I did not do was answer Thomas’ questions about the evidence for climate change. They were really good questions and deserve an answer. I have done my research on what I’m about to write. I have studied all this as part of my degree at a very reputable UK university.
[And I just scored 95% on my last assignment, hurrah! I’m dead chuffed right now 😉 ]
So here goes – I have tried to simplify as far as possible (this is only a blog post, and I am not a scientist):
There is evidence to suggest that in the past the earth was much hotter than it is now, and at other times much cooler than it is now. When it was much hotter, different plants and animals lived. For example, tropical animals lived in places now considered cool. When it was colder, much of the earth was covered in ice. These periods of heating up and cooling down have nearly always happened.
10,000 years ago, when the earth began to warm up after the last cold period, humans began farming, and archaeologists have found the evidence of the earliest civilizations (including, incidentally, the earliest evidence of ‘religion’).
There is evidence in rocks, in the ice layers at the North and South Poles, and in the soil, of the temperatures that existed when the rocks were formed, or when the ice layers first fell as snow, or when pollen was deposited in the soil, etc. There is also evidence that:
- The hotter the temperature, the more carbon dioxide was in the atmosphere.
- The cooler the temperature, the less carbon dioxide was in the atmosphere.
- Within the last 10,000 years temperatures have been fairly stable. This has allowed humans to flourish.
But, around 200 years ago, when humans started the Industrial Revolution – i.e. when they started making factories – carbon dioxide levels began to rise. With the use of fossil fuels such as gas and coal, carbon dioxide levels have continued rising. At the moment, carbon dioxide is at a very high level. It is now the same as it was when the earth was much warmer. We have already seen the beginnings of erratic weather patterns.
The exact amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been measured continuously since 1958. It has risen steadily year on year, as shown in this graph:
The earth’s temperature is measured all over the world, in many different countries, every day. It has no bias, because it is done everywhere by all different people. All the temperatures are added together and divided. This gives the Global Mean Surface Temperature.
The problem is not just if the Global Mean Surface Temperature rises. It also means worse weather – more storms, more floods, more droughts. If temperatures increase too much, or if the weather changes too much, the plants which the many billions of us have come to rely on will not be able to grow. Drought will come to places already stricken by poverty. The poor will be the first to be affected.
- This is why the church must wake up to the reality of climate change.
- We in the developed world must take responsibility for our ‘consumerism’ and its consequences.
- Followers of Christ must do what we can to help the poor, as He called us to do. Part of this is taking action on climate change.
Any more questions and I’ll do my best to answer – but bear in mind I’m still an undergraduate.