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.
11. As Christians, we should be concerned about our stewardship responsibilities in a world of God's own making. After all, we believe that "the earth is the Lord's and all that is therein." In judgment we believe that we will be held accountable for our behavior in this matter as well as in other moral and ethical areas of our lives.
12. Is there any scientific model, either supporting the Intergovernmental report or contradicting it, that offers any hope or practical solution to this matter of global warming? None that I have seen. Whether this warming trend is caused by human or natural causes there is little evidence that very much can be done about it in a comprehensive way. The world, the number of human beings and the growth of industrial consumption is simply too vast to bring under any sort of practical control.
13. What then, will happen? Who knows. Ocean levels may continue to rise, flooding low-lying coastal areas, islets and atolls. Entire nations may disappear (Micronesia and Kiribas come to mind). The reduction of global ice caps and the glacial ice of Greenland could produce accelerated warming or actually slow it down according to the various models I have seen. Areas currently arable may become deserts and desert areas may become arable. Major cities in certain climes may become too expensive to maintain large populations. Populations may actually shift globally to accommodate the climate changes. Shipping routes may even change if trans-polar shipping become feasible. Some national economies may suffer terribly. Others may actually benefit. The balance of world resources may also shift, affecting national alliances and balances of trade and economic markets. Political power will also shift along with the climate.
14. Is all this going to happen in our lifetimes? Some of it, yes. But, if the warming continues at the present pace it will be our children's children's children who will probably have to face the reality of major change in lifestyles and geo-political-economic transitions.
15. Is what you are saying true? Or have you just made it all up? Not being an expert I am simply expressing my current understanding of the situation based on what I have read. What this means, of course, is that I have mostly made it all up. On the other hand, for all their intellectual fire-power, so has the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.