The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presented its preliminary report today and concluded that global warming is "very likely" (meaning 90% sure) caused by human activity.
Here are my thoughts as a lay observer:
1. Global warming is real.
2. No one really knows whether this is a long-term trend (leading to glacial melt and loss of all ice caps — which would be catastrophic) or a short-term trend that may slow or reverse itself as a minor variation in global climate stability.
3. It is preposterous to say that the earth has a stable climate; research shows that the earth has always fluctuated in surface temperature, weather patterns, etc., sometimes with great variations lasting for many centuries (ice ages, etc.) or smaller variations lasting for shorter periods of time.
4. Until recent history (the past 200 years - from the beginning of the industrial revolution) the impact on human activity on climate change would have been zero. Yet climate change occurred even without human interference.
5. Are there other natural circumstances besides human activity that could explain the current warming trend? Yes. Sun activity, tectonic plate movement, volcanic activity, shifting of the earth's magnetic poles, etc.
6. Do I believe that human activity is responsible for 90% of the worlds temperature increase? No. But I am 100% sure that it is a contributing factor — perhaps even a significant factor. But nowhere near the 90% factor cited in the report.
7. Do I believe that we should attempt to reduce the pollution and atmospheric emissions that contribute to this warming trend? Yes. But not precipitously. As with pollution in the Los Angeles basin, some things take time. Our nation's release of "global warming-related" pollutants has declined as a percentage of our total national energy and industrial production. Auto emissions have also declined per automobile. This is good, but does not remove the problem. It only keeps it from being worse than it already is.
8. Rapidly developing nations such as Russia, China, and India account for the largest increase in global-warming emissions. These countries, and others like them, have not yet introduced the high technology and expensive additions to the production output that would in any way reduce the "bad" emissions to anything remotely comparable to that of the United States.
9. As one writer to the BBC put it, "Who is going to tell a billion people that they can't have air conditioning or an automobile?"
10. Should we, either as Christians or simply as concerned and responsible citizens of the world, do anything in response to this? Yes, of course. The simple acts of recycling, purchasing more fuel-efficient cars, using our air conditioners less frequently and at lower settings, eating foods that require less processing and transportation and the like will collectively help in this problem.