What climate agreement means for Adventists?
Paris had barely left global headlines for its terrorist attack before taking centre stage again earlier this month. The global climate change summit—“COP21”—brought world leaders and policy-makers together. Outcomes have been widely hailed as significant.
Climate change is widely considered to be the defining global issue of our times. The policy response was stronger than expected, suggesting that the world is waking up to the reality of a looming climate crisis. Paris had reason to celebrate this time. Or did it?
The emission of heat trapping gases continues almost unabated. Atmospheric carbon dioxide has just passed 400 parts per million. Last year (2014) was the hottest on record, very likely soon to be broken by 2015. Extreme weather events are occurring more frequently and are taking an increasing toll.
In reality, though, anthropogenic global warming is just one of many global issues that make our times perilous. Reading the news is not too dissimilar to reading 2 Timothy 3 or Matthew 24.
Terrorism, armed conflict and refugee crises are other big global issues that carry more imminent risk for many.
From a biblical Christian point of view, climate change could well be one of the defining issues of the last days. Catastrophic climate change provides a good platform for the pursuit of world government control and removal of personal freedoms (see Revelation 13).
In addition, prophesied natural disasters and plagues (Matthew 24 and Revelation 16) are quite compatible with a warming world. While God does reserve the right to actively punish the wicked, more often than not we bring disaster upon ourselves. Anthropogenic global warming fits neatly here. Meanwhile our loving Saviour is “holding back the four winds” of strife (Revelation 7:1).
How should the Adventist Christian relate to a warming world? Broadly, “Lift up your heads, for your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
Specifically, though, there are things that we can do to share the hope, faith and love that we find in biblical Christianity and the Person of Jesus:
1. Accept that the science agrees with the Bible: there are massive global issues that are only going to get worse. There is no biblically sound reason to question the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. Don’t argue over the science of climate change unless you are willing to do so in a peer-reviewed scientific publication. Otherwise you shoot your credibility, and that of Christianity, in the foot.
2. Participate in physical solutions to both preventing more warming and responding to adverse consequences of a warming world. There is a lot that you can do to reduce your environmental footprint that is at the same time in harmony with Christian values of selflessness and simplicity. In the same way that Christians contribute taxes (Matt 22:21, Rom 13:7), we can also do our little bit to reduce our emissions and pollution.
3. Love people. Open our hearts, borders, and wallets (Matt 25).
4. Ultimately, give people certain hope for future restoration to eternal perfection while understanding that this current world is headed for destruction (Rev 21).