Climate Change Facts | Answers in Genesis


    What are the climate change facts? Is a disastrous change in the climate looming? Is man responsible?

    There is good evidence that global temperatures have been slowly climbing for
    the past four centuries and were slowly declining for many centuries prior to
    that. But are these temperature changes a serious threat to our way of life, or are they just a part of normal variation to which we can readily adjust?
    Sadly, our lives are going to be affected whether global warming is a real threat
    or not. Global warming has been blamed for almost every ill in our society.1 In
    his State of the Union speech in 2013, President Obama said this:

    Within this short quote, many of the common issues related to climate change
    are raised—recent events that are not necessarily indicative of a long-term
    trend, a claim that the “science” is settled, and a warning that we must act
    right now. The president followed these words by vowing that, if legislation
    were not forthcoming, he would do all he could by executive order.

    These new policies will almost certainly raise the cost of energy. Higher energy
    costs will lower the standard of living for all, particularly the poorest among
    us. Is a disastrous change in the climate looming? Is man responsible?
    Let’s begin our journey to answer those two questions by defining our terms.

    What Is Climate Change?

    The Oxford English Dictionary defines climate change as a change in
    global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the
    mid to late 20th century onward and attributed largely to the increased levels
    of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.3 Other dictionary definitions
    are much more succinct and do not specify cause, direction, or time frame. It
    is not surprising that there is some disparity in the definitions. With controversial
    subjects, people often disagree on exactly what the words mean. For the purpose
    of this chapter, the phrase “climate change” will be used to mean long-term
    changes in climate (mainly temperature) without implying any cause for, or direction
    in, the change.

    Do Climate Change and Global Warming Mean the Same Thing?

    Some use these phrases interchangeably, and others do not. Those who see the
    global temperature as going only in one direction often use them interchangeably.
    However, the phrase “global warming” was much more popular before 2006 and 2007
    when the average global temperature declined significantly. “Climate change”
    is much more commonly used today and seems much less prejudicial. Therefore,
    “climate change” will be used herein.

    How Could There Be So Much Disagreement over a Scientific Issue?

    When there is a lack of good data and when people view the data from two very
    different perspectives, it is easy to have disagreement.

    A Lack of Good Data

    Measuring the average temperature of the earth is very difficult. At any point
    in time, different parts of the earth are experiencing different conditions;
    for example, day and night, summer and winter, cloudy and clear, arid and humid,
    and windy and calm. This level of variability requires frequent measurements
    to be made in many places over many years in order to calculate an average global
    temperature. Temperature measurements have been made at land-based weather stations
    since 1880. Two main factors have made those measurements less accurate than
    they need to be—drastic changes in the immediate area around some of these weather
    stations and poor distribution of weather stations around the earth. These facts
    led scientists to push for temperature measurements from satellites.

    Satellites are able to provide much-improved data over land-based systems.
    But even the satellite measurements, which began in 1979, are not without their
    issues. In 2002, the satellite orbits were adjusted so the measurements could
    be made at a consistent place and time of day.4
    Clearly, only a few years of useful measurements are not enough to give us a
    good understanding of climate change. That’s not even enough time for us to
    be sure that these new satellite measurements are sufficiently accurate. Lord
    Kelvin said, “To measure is to know.” We will never have a clear understanding
    of climate change until we are able to accurately measure the earth’s temperature
    for decades, if not centuries.

    The lack of accurate measurements has not stopped scientists from interpreting
    the data they do have. No problem. That is how science works. Scientists do
    their best to gather accurate data and propose theories based on those measurements.
    They test those theories by doing further experiments to see if the new measurements
    are consistent with the latest theory. In the process of using this scientific
    method, scientists learn how to do better experiments, make more accurate measurements,
    and propose better theories. The problem here is that we are in a very early
    stage in the process of understanding climate change. In early stages, researchers
    have a strong tendency to develop theories based on their own worldview and
    to run experiments designed to prove their theory rather than test it. The current
    bias toward global warming will likely lengthen the time required to construct
    more accurate climate models.

    Two Different Views of the World

    To those who believe that the universe is the result of the supposed big bang,
    where invisible particles somehow came into being and randomly organized themselves
    into atoms, molecules, stars, and planets, there would be no reason to expect
    that the earth’s temperature would be controlled within a specific range. That
    life exists at all should be considered exceedingly unlikely from this perspective.
    Stephen J. Gould, an evolutionist, put it this way: “We are here because one
    odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs
    for terrestrial creatures; because the earth never froze entirely during an
    ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of
    a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We
    may yearn for a ‘higher’ answer—but none exists.”5

    To those who believe that the heavens and the earth were designed and created
    by a “higher” power, there is ample reason to expect that earth’s temperature
    will remain in a range to support life. In fact, God gives us that promise in
    Genesis 8:22:

    Within this worldview it makes perfect sense that the earth would have a temperature
    control system just like our bodies do, since God designed them both.

    Has the Media Accurately Reported on Climate Change?

    “When a dog bites a man that is not news, but when a man bites a dog that is
    news.”6 Likewise, a stable climate is not news, but a dramatically changing
    one is.

    In the late 1970s, numerous popular media outlets were reporting dire warnings
    about impending climate change. An April 28, 1975, article in Newsweek
    began with this phrase: “There are ominous signs that the earth’s weather
    patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may
    portend a drastic decline in food production,” and ended, “The longer
    the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with the climatic
    change once the results become a grim reality” (emphases mine).7 Sounds familiar,
    doesn’t it? We hear similar pronouncements today. For example, then-Senator
    Barack Obama said in 2006, “Not only is it [global climate change] real, it’s
    here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon:
    the manmade natural disaster” (emphases mine).8

    The surprising thing is that the Newsweek article in the 1970s was referring
    to global cooling, and then-Senator Obama was referring to global warming.
    Yes, that’s right. The panic in the ’70s was that the earth’s temperature was
    declining and would continue to decline. Today, the concern is
    the earth’s temperature is rising and that it will continue to rise.

    How Could Predictions About the Direction of Climate Change Be So Different
    After Only 30 Years?

    If, in the 1970s, you considered the data from only the previous 30 years,
    it would have been possible to conclude that the short-term trend is cooling,
    particularly if you extrapolate well into the future expecting that trend to
    continue (figure 1). Interpolation of data, trying to estimate a value within
    a range you have studied, is challenging enough. But extrapolation of scientific
    data into a region that you know nothing about is not wise.

    If today you again take the perspective of the last 30 years and extrapolate
    far into the future, it is possible to conclude that the short-term trend is
    warming (figure 1).9
    Actually, over the last century, it appears that the temperature rose from 1900
    to 1940, declined slightly from 1940 to 1970 and increased from 1980 to around 2000. It is easy to make headlines by drawing sweeping conclusions from small
    ranges of data; however, it is still unclear whether these short-term trends
    add up to an unprecedented rise in global temperature. Some climatologists claim
    that the science was not settled in the 1970s and that they were not in agreement
    with the popular press at that time.10 Today those climatologists
    are convinced that the latest data, now that it has been corrected, is reliable,
    and the earth is warming.11

    Very recently, a few people have begun to conclude that we may actually be in the early stages of another cooling trend.12 Those who suspect this generally fall in one of two camps. Some are looking at a specific, narrow range of time (1998 to 2012) where there has certainly been no increase in global temperature. Others are focused on solar activity. They are convinced that the sun is the major factor in determining global temperature. This, of course, is a very reasonable conclusion since almost all our energy comes from the sun. In fact, the number of observed sunspots in this latest sunspot cycle is expected to be the lowest in many decades, and the earth did experience the Little Ice Age at a point in time when sunspot activity was very low.13 Has the global temperature started to decline after having increased for about 400 years? Only time will tell. Frankly, with our limited understanding of the major factors that affect global temperature, no one should be confident in predicting the future global temperature.

    What Are the Politics of Climate Change?

    At present a number of expert climatologists and the IPCC (Intergovernmental
    Panel on Climate Change) appear to be in agreement that the earth’s temperature
    is rising and will continue to rise. However, it is hard to know what the scientific
    judgment of these individuals would be in the absence of overwhelming political
    pressure. Their funding and their livelihoods are clearly affected by their
    stance on this issue.

    We scientists want to believe that we are unbiased—that we are strictly interpreting
    the data and are not swayed by other factors. Are scientists different from
    all other human beings in this regard? Obviously not. We are swayed by our emotions
    and our beliefs, just like everyone else. So beware when scientists become emotionally
    attached to their theories, ignore the uncertainties in their data, or claim
    that “all reputable scientists agree” or that “the science is settled.”14 When one or more of these is true,
    you can be sure that the issue being discussed is not purely scientific. When
    “the science” really is settled, the evidence will be overwhelming, and there
    will be no need to claim that the science is settled.

    While investigating any subject, it is interesting to follow the money. There
    is big money in climate change issues. The person that is the most closely associated
    with “global warming” is Al Gore. “Critics, mostly on the political right and
    among global warming skeptics, say Mr. Gore is poised to become the world’s
    first ‘carbon billionaire,’ profiteering from government policies he supports
    that would direct billions of dollars to the business ventures he has invested
    “Mr. Gore says that he is simply putting his money where his mouth is.”16
    Gore’s many multi-million dollar investments in green energy projects and his
    purchase of a $9M ocean-view home in California are clear evidence of his financial
    success in this arena. He will certainly have a good vantage point from which
    to watch a possible rise in sea level!

    Is the Truth about Climate Change Really Inconvenient?

    It is tempting for each of us to focus only on what has happened in our lifetime.
    However, for questions related to climate, we need a much longer-term perspective.
    Have the global temperatures in the last few decades been significantly higher
    than in the distant past? Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure. No
    temperature measurements are available before 1880. Scientists have tried to
    correlate other scientific data with global temperature, but estimating temperatures
    in this way is fraught with difficulties. Correlation of ice core or tree ring
    data to global temperatures is full of assumptions that cannot be verified.
    Figure 2 shows eight different attempts that were made to predict global temperature.17
    The dark line is the average of these data for what they presume to be the last
    12,000 years of earth history. Confused as to why anyone would be convinced
    by these data? You should be. The most recent reconstructions are shown in the
    insert of figure 2 for the last 2,000 years. These data have led many climatologists
    to conclude that the climate is much warmer now than in the last 2,000 years.

    Historical evidence provides a different perspective on global temperatures
    during the last two millennia. There is good evidence that the climate in the
    Northern Hemisphere was warmer about a thousand years ago—the Vikings were able
    to farm in Greenland. After a few hundred years, they stopped farming due to
    a cooler climate. The temperature continued to decline for a few hundred more
    years, and the Thames in London began to regularly freeze.18 The
    decline in temperature reversed course in about A.D. 1700. If this warming trend
    continues, it may again be possible to farm in Greenland, and the sea ice in
    the north Atlantic may again be scarce. Figure 3 is an estimation of the relative
    global temperature from historical observations before 1900 and from weather
    station data after 1990. While we cannot be certain about what was true in ancient
    times from either historical or scientific data, the historical observations
    seem more reliable in this instance. From these limited data, it appears that
    the global temperature cycles around a mean temperature and has been slightly
    warmer in recorded history than it is today. There is no reason to panic.

    Are We the Cause of the Rise in Temperature Since the Little Ice Age?

    Many believe that this recent rise in temperature is caused by an increase
    in carbon dioxide due to our burning of more fossil fuels. Let’s look at some
    facts about carbon dioxide and examine the evidence of its effect on global

    The presence of carbon dioxide in the air is essential to life on earth. Without
    carbon dioxide, there would be no plant life, and without plant life there would
    be no animal life. Despite this, Lisa Jackson of the Environmental Protection
    Agency declared that carbon dioxide was a pollutant under the Clean Air Act
    and deemed that it was a hazard to human health.19
    So is CO2 essential to life or a pollutant? The government apparently thinks
    that it is both—essential at low levels and harmful at high levels. But is there
    a level at which CO2 is too high? As with most government regulations, this
    regulation preceded our understanding of the science. While CO2 does influence
    the global temperature, the exact relationship has not been established nor
    has the maximum CO2 concentration in air.

    We do know that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases act as
    a blanket over the earth. When sunlight heats the earth’s surface, the warm
    earth radiates some of that heat into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases slow
    the escape of that radiated heat. You have been led to believe that the most
    important greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide. It is not. Water vapor and clouds
    are actually responsible for about 80 to 90 percent of the total greenhouse
    effect. That’s right, at least 80 percent. That is why clear mornings
    are usually much colder than cloudy mornings. On clear mornings, we do not have
    that blanket of clouds to hold in the heat. The percentage of the greenhouse
    effect attributable to CO2 is believed to be as high as 20 percent
    by some and as low as 4 percent by others.20 Almost everyone agrees
    that the percent of CO2 that is man-made is only about 4 percent of total CO2.
    Therefore, the greenhouse effect caused by man-made CO2 is less than 1 percent
    of the total and may be a small fraction of 1 percent.

    Despite this, many scientists today claim that the rise in man-made CO2
    is the major cause of the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
    Just because global temperature and CO2 concentrations have risen
    over the past several decades does not mean that one caused the other. Figure
    4 shows that the correlation between the CO2 concentration and global
    temperature is not strong, particularly between 1900 and 1950. The temperature
    profile in figure 3 also does not match well with man-made CO2 levels
    because man-made CO2 was not high during the Medieval Warming Period.
    These data are not convincing.

    Is the Global Temperature Nearly Out of Control?

    Climatologists’ greatest concern is that a temperature increase during the
    last few decades might be amplified by positive feedback causing the global
    temperature to spiral out of control. They are worried, for example, that a
    higher temperature on the earth could melt more of the permafrost, release more
    CO2, and cause a greater greenhouse effect. On the other hand, a higher temperature
    on earth could cause more evaporation, more cloud formation, and more sunlight
    to be reflected away from the earth. This negative feedback could moderate the
    global temperature. Which type of feedback is more influential? Scientists are
    currently not able to quantify them well enough to know whether the negative
    feedback outweighs the positive.

    Engineers familiar with control systems are well aware that control systems
    dependent on positive feedback easily go out of control whereas those based
    on negative feedback generally do not. Since the earth’s temperature has been
    relatively stable for many centuries, it seems more likely that the earth’s
    climate is moderated by more powerful negative feedback systems.

    It appears that a brilliant designer has designed a molecule that is both essential
    to human life and essential for controlling the climate of the earth. Water
    is a polar molecule that is able to dissolve salts, proteins, and DNA that are
    essential for our cells to function and for life to exist. Water’s other physical
    properties are just as critical to controlling the earth’s climate. It takes
    more heat to change water from a solid to a liquid or from a liquid to a gas
    than any other common molecule. The 310,000,000 cubic miles of water
    on the earth’s surface are able to hold a tremendous amount of heat and provide
    great temperature stability to the earth. Water can readily transfer heat from
    the earth’s surface to the air by evaporation and condensation, a process which is the
    basis of the hydrological cycle and much of our weather. Cloud formation may
    also be the key to a negative feedback system that helps moderate temperature
    changes in the earth’s atmosphere. Without water, the range of temperature from
    day to night and from the earth’s surface to the upper atmosphere would be much
    greater. Clearly water is critical to human life in many, many ways.

    How Should We Then Live?

    In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, God commands us to subdue
    the earth (see Genesis 1:28). Most interpret this to
    mean that we should take care of the earth and be good stewards of its natural
    resources. If it were true that the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas did
    have a significant negative effect on our environment, it would make sense for
    us to modify our behavior. But it appears that we are just in the upper range
    of a natural temperature cycle. It is not at all clear that the small amount
    of additional CO2 produced by the burning of fossil fuels is detrimental
    to the environment. It is humbling to remember that when God was judging the
    earth with a global flood that He was creating inexpensive fuel sources for
    future generations. Let’s obey God’s command and use our scientific knowledge
    to be good stewards of our natural resources and preserve our environment for
    the next generation until He comes again.21

    This content was originally published here.


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