It’s over 100 degrees outside my home in Michigan today.
Yet another heat wave in a year that’s seen three or four already — the first of which came in March. (Yes, MARCH.) That one decimated Michigan’s cherry and apple crops. This one is baking roughly two-thirds of the country.
Last month, it was the Colorado wildfires, brought on by a severe drought affecting 98 percent of the state. In fact, according to the latest report from the National Drought Mitigation Center, 56 percent of the continental U.S. is experiencing some form of drought right now. That’s the highest measure since they started keeping track twelve years ago.
The month before that, we achieved yet another milestone: May 2012 was the 327th consecutive month with global temperatures above the 20th-century average. That’s 27-plus years of higher-than-normal temperatures.
We don’t have to wonder what global warming will look like anymore. We are seeing it right now. And it’s behaving exactly as climatologists have predicted for years.
Of course, it’s easy to think back to the most recent blizzard (though in many parts of the country, you’ll have to go back farther than last winter) and dismiss such talk as alarmist. Every record-setting cold snap is proof that every heat wave is just another part of the cycle. Come January, those of us in northern states will be muttering about how we could do with a little global warming right now.
There’s just one problem.
According to Kevin Tremberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, record lows aren’t keeping pace with the skyrocketing number of record highs.
In the 1950s, America experienced a fairly equal number of record-setting highs and lows. By the 2000s, we were setting two record high temperatures for every one record low.
So far this year, we’ve set ten record highs for every record low.
Natural variability simply cannot explain the imbalance. In the same way, none of the culprits suggested by climate skeptics — El Niño, volcanic ash, solar activity, etc. — can account for the long-term increase in global temperatures.
In fact, some of these alternative suspects should’ve taken us in the opposite direction. The last 20 years of solar activity ought to have had a cooling effect, if anything. Which means the sun actually blunted the impact of all our greenhouse gas emissions.
We no longer have the luxury of skepticism. The earth is warming. We are causing it.
The science of global warming has been established for over a hundred years. If you need reminding of the underlying physics, simply leave your car outside on a hot day, with the windows rolled up. (That won’t be too hard to do in Michigan today.)
As a Christian, I understand the reluctance to trust what scientists are telling us. (And yes, nearly all climatologists are telling us the same thing.)
The church has long had an uneasy relationship with science, fearing that it will erode faith. But more often than not, the problem isn’t that science is hostile toward faith. It’s that some of us in the church have picked fights that aren’t worth fighting. Just ask Galileo. Or Copernicus.
And even if you won’t take the scientists’ word for it, listen to the scriptures.
The earth is the Lord’s. It is not ours to do with as we please. We are caretakers and tenants, not its owners. According to some scholars, the Genesis story goes even further, depicting the earth as God’s temple — a temple he is coming back to occupy once more.
We owe it to the God we serve — not to mention the future generations who will have to carve a home out of this rock — to treat it with care. Climate change is polluting God’s temple. We can no longer afford to stick our heads in the increasingly hot sand.
Related: For one of the best summaries of climate change and answers to common objections, see “Responses to Questions & Objections on Climate Change,” published by Climate Works Australia. SkepticalScience.com is another helpful resource.