Global Warming and Religion

Global warming is the latest cause célèbre for activist movie stars and politicians. Things sure change quickly as environmental doomsday scenarios morph from one generation, and extreme, to another. For all the apocalyptic forecasts of melted icecaps and flooded American metropolises on the horizon, it was only in 1974 that Time and Newsweek reported on an alarming consensus among the "experts" of the day that the world was facing the imminent threat of a new ice age. That never came to pass, so it's on to the alternative calamity.

In between flying from coast to coast on private jets, or cruising the nation's highways in gas-guzzling SUVs, environmental fear-mongers like Al Gore routinely lecture Americans on ways they should conserve energy and cut down on "dangerous" greenhouse emissions. Equating the fight against global warming with a "moral crusade," Gore and the rest of the apostles of environmentalism are increasingly adorning their cause in what can only be described as religious parlance. I've long conjectured that environmentalism has become something of a religion and my experience of living in heavily-secularized Europe has only confirmed that suspicion.

The wave of hysteria over global warming is pathetic, having its source in the topsy-turvy arrangement of priorities by a post-Christian culture searching for purpose, forgiveness and absolution — searching, in other words, for an alternative to real religion. This explains the ferocity with which its proselytes attack those who question their conclusions and suppress arguments for conclusions other than their own. The environmentalist's hyper-defensiveness and anger reveal the ideological and emotional underpinnings of the entire movement even while adherents claim strict fidelity to science and empiricism.

 The vitriolic assault on global warming skeptics is extraordinary. Scott Pelley of CBS's 60 Minutes compared skeptics of global warming with deniers of the Holocaust. Dr. Heidi Cullen, who works for the Weather Channel, advocates that the American Meteorological Society strip its seal of approval from any weatherman publicly expressing doubts about man-made global warming. Probably the most bizarre threat came from the popular environmentalist blogger, David Roberts, who wrote that war crime trials, (what he coined a "Climate Nuremburg") eventually be brought against skeptics as punishment. Such threats and intimidation tactics call to mind the modus operandi of Communist dictatorships.

Dr. Roy Spencer, a highly acclaimed climatologist and former NASA scientist, currently at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, is quite critical of the "experts" and celebrities who are whipping up the hysteria about supposed man-made global warming. The assertion is that humans (Americans in particular) because of their avaricious consumption of fuel and energy are directly responsible for the higher quantities of carbon dioxide in the air. This, consequently, leads to an increase in the greenhouse effect in the earth's atmosphere and, since the natural atmospheric filtration has been weakened by human activity, infrared sunlight radiation "overheats" the earth.

Taking a different approach, Dr. Spencer believes that stabilizing, atmospheric precipitation systems and weather patterns have everything to do with natural climate change and that these factors are not endangered or affected by human activity. He suggests that the green house effect is determined by precipitation systems (whereas the global warming crowd believes it to be the other way around) and that, together, they keep the earth's climate naturally balanced. He believes that these precipitation systems keep the earth cool, as they compensate for the heat resulting from the greenhouse effect, which exists naturally as a result, principally, of evaporated water (i.e. cloud cover), rather than carbon dioxide. Dr. Spencer's sophisticated understanding stands in contrast with the sophistry of the global warming crowd. But they are too convinced of the righteousness of their "moral crusade" to bother with nuanced constructions and alternative hypotheses, such is the need to fill the void in their hearts for something that can give greater purpose to their lives.

Traditional religion, with its high demands for personal moral conversion, a lifelong commitment to living responsibly, the belief in objective truth and the subsequent conformity of one's actions to that truth, is an onerous path to follow. Those already seduced by moral relativism are happy to see the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition supplanted by "mother earth." Traditional rituals and Sacraments are replaced with a litany of environmental protocols and commandments: recycle, use mass transit, buy organic, become a vegan, etc. Guilt over personal sin is eclipsed by guilt at the collective, societal level for having "destroyed" the planet. And finally the Church is replaced by a regulatory monster of a state, promising to clean up the mess. This is the new world religion, but it is a religion without forgiveness. Despite their best efforts, secularized environmentalists have nowhere to go for absolution. They cannot succeed in completely erasing their souls' need for something greater than themselves, greater than even the created world.

The liberating, even revolutionary, message of Christianity is that the believer has, indeed, knows, a Person, not merely a thing, to go to for forgiveness and lasting peace. The Catholic Church teaches that man is the earth's steward and that he has a sacred duty to use the goods of the earth responsibly and well. This is environmental stewardship correctly understood. "God saw what He had created and it was good." Indeed, the Christian understanding of the environment and man's place in the created world is far more elevated, beautiful and complete than that of the secular environmentalist. In light of the Incarnation, God entered humanity, thus wedding Himself forever to creation, and supernatural grace permeates the entire world.

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  • Guest

    Even if the global warming theory is invalid, there is still nothing wrong with advocating energy conservation.  We all waste much more energy than we should.

  • Guest

    Yes, Claire.  That is true.  That is simply being a good steward.  James was not arguing against conservation or justifying some form of mass-consumption society.  He was showing us how environmentalists are supplanting Catholicism with unyielding environmentalism.


    Ad majorem Dei gloriam!

  • Guest

    Very compelling, well-documented response from British television to the whole climate change craziness (includes appearances by Dr. Spencer):

  • Guest

    Thank you for this article.  I have heard Dr Spencer speak and he offers a compelling alternate THEORY to the causes of the reality of global warming.  The theory that humans are the primary cause of global warmning is just that: a theory.

    THank you, too, for relating the "cause celebre" of those activists to religion, or lack of religion.  I think you are right on.  Most events in life are interelated.  The earth has its ecosystem and people create systems through their behavior.  For instance, the Culture of Death has its interdependent systems of fornication, birth control, and abortion etc…while the Culture of Life has its system of life giving, life long  marriage along with the institutions that support it….mainly the Church.  (Not to mention that the family brings the Trinity to life in a particular way thereby forming a system of LOVE.

    Long live Mother Earth as God her creator wills and with humans acting as good stewards over the gift of creation.!

  • Guest

    To me, this article is a perfect example of a problem with many in the Church: They equate the Gospel with the Republican agenda.

    I do not buy the worst case scenario on g.w. I remember reading a book that predicted a famine worlwide in the seventies in the seventies.

    However, there is no denying the climate is changing and changing rapidly. Can man damage the climate? Those who say no, it seems to me, are ignoring how man has hurt rivers, oceans and killed many species.


    Scientists are in general agreement on global warming. To ridicule the consensus runs the risk of repeating the rejection of the copernican theory of the solar system.


    Perhaps both sides in this debate need humilty and an open mind

  • Guest

    Almost no one doubts that that Global Warming is taking place. In fact, the climate has always been changing since the world was created. The question is what is the cause of this Global Warming? The “consensus” appears to say that the only cause is anthropogenic CO2 production due to the burning of fossil fuels. If this is the “only” cause, how then does one explain the Medieval Warm Period in Europe that lasted from about the 10th to 14th centuries and allowed grapes to be grown in Britain and the Vikings to explore and settle Greenland (the remains of medieval buildings including churches are a Greenland tourist attraction). How can anthropogenic CO2 caused by the heavy use of fossil fuels since WWII explain the warming occurring centuries before the industrial age? There must be something else to explain this warming. For other possibilities consider Solar Forcing: read the recent article by Nigel Calder, the former editor of the New Scientist, a UK publication. He just co-authored a book: The Chilling Stars- a new theory of climate change. In it, he discusses two mechanisms related to the sun: solar activity…and the deflection of cosmic radiation (affect the efficiency of condensation nuclei) caused by the slow varying sun’s magnetic field we are (see astrophysicist Dr. Nir Shaviv for more info).



    As Michael Crichton said, "the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels (therefore watch your wallet). The work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics” (see “Our Environmental Future").


  • Guest

    To: AugustineWM

    "To me, this article is a perfect example of a problem with many in the Church: They equate the Gospel with the Republican agenda.

    I do not buy the worst case scenario on g.w. I remember reading a book that predicted a famine worlwide in the seventies in the seventies.

    However, there is no denying the climate is changing and changing rapidly. Can man damage the climate? Those who say no, it seems to me, are ignoring how man has hurt rivers, oceans and killed many species.

    Scientists are in general agreement on global warming. To ridicule the consensus runs the risk of repeating the rejection of the copernican theory of the solar system.

    Perhaps both sides in this debate need humilty and an open mind"

    The data do not show that the climate is changing rapidly.  To so assert without citing facts is in fact to be engaging in closing one’s mind. 

    Nor is it factual that scientists are in general agreement on global warming unless one means by that merely the very small apparent increase in average global temperature without any assertion as to the cause.  Scientists are all over the map as to cause and not all agree that the data allow one to validly draw a conclusion that the earth is warming.  For example, the small increase observable in the temperature data may in fact simply be due to the major change in where the temperatures are being measured.  In the early centuries of the scientific era, temperatures were collected in largely rural areas as urbanization was not as extensive.  Today, temperatures are measured mostly in urban areas where heat is retained rather than being dissipated.  The other major source of data for the cliamte models is from satellites.  Those measurements track the cloud temperatures.  How reasonable is that? 

    To keep an open mind on this matter means that one must be a skeptic.  We must ask ourselves who if anyone is poised to make money off the global warming scare.  Al Gore is a principal in a company which brokers responses to global warming on the presumed basis that it is due to human activities.  While he liberates vast quantities of greenhouse gases in his house here in TN, he can buy "carbon crecdits" through this company that allow him to claim he is carbon dioxide neutral even as he exploits some poor peasant who has no way to burn fuel to heat his hovel, thus having a low carbon footprint which Gore can buy.  When Gore buys that credit through his company he can claim to be making little or no impact on released CO2 and in the process make himself a tidy profit as a principal in the brokering firm.  That sounds like the outline of a huge scam to me. 

    When the earth’s temperature increases, the ocean cannot store as much CO2 as when the ocean is cooler.  Thus, the scare-mongers may have the cause confused with the effect.  The surface temperature on Mars has been observed to increase over the same time period as the claim is made for the earth.  Who is burning fossil fuels up there? 

    In this case an open mind has to be a skeptical one.

    Old Sigma
  • Guest

    I was watching NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams last winter, and they were doing a story on global warming.  They were stating there cause, case by case and finally they interviewed a climatologist.  Brian asked what do you think is causing the unusual warm temperatures in New York.  And the climatologist responded along the lines that the warm weather and violent storms are most likely caused by the El Nino effect.  The interview was ended abruptly and Brian came back on saying, "we still think it is greenhouse gases" and moved on to the next story.  I do think it is important to be good stewards of the land, but there is a greater threat to humans and that is the culture of death.

  • Guest

    It makes me truly sad that the Christians in this country are defining themselves by an "anti-leftist" agenda rather than by any Christian mercy.


    Why is it such a stretch to think that humans may harm the environment. If everyone is so stuck on Genesis and evolution, why can't they understand from that same chapter that we are supposed to be the keepers of this earth?


    It blows my mind how little Christians (and sadly) Catholics think independently about these issues apart from sources like Fox News and this site shove at them.