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Climate change & other environmental concerns:

Introduction, Part 2 of two parts:
A tweet & two quotes. What would
happen if/when all the glaciers melt?
Why discuss climate change on a
religious web site? An infographic.

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This introduction is a continuation from the previous essay.

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Best climate change tweet ever:

@Scott Westerfeld: "Plot idea: 97% of the world's scientists contrive an environmental crisis, but are exposed by a plucky band of billionaires & oil companies."

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Two quotations related to climate change:

  • Gus Speth is an environmental lawyer and advocate, a professor at Vermont Law School and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos, a nonpartisan public policy research and advocacy organization. He said:

    "I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that with 30 years of good science, we could address those problems.

    But I was wrong.

    The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy. To deal with those, we need a spiritual and cultural transformation, and we scientists don't know how to do that." 1

With respect, this webmaster disagrees. It is true that "selfishness, greed, and apathy" are major problems to be overcome to prevent future environmental catastrophes from materializing. However, I feel that there are other major factors to overcome as well.

    One is the denial of the findings of scientists by many present-day religious and political conservatives. Since the time of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), huge swaths of the population have regarded science and religion as natural enemies. The two have different sources of information, different definitions of truth, and thus have entirely differing concepts of reality. Many people deny the existence of climate change and global warming as they deny the evolution of living species, the cause and nature of sexual orientation, the cause and nature of gender identity, etc.

    A second factor is the ease with which lawmakers' votes can be purchased at the state and federal level.

  • Rush Limbaugh, a talk show host and conservative commentator said:

    "... if you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in man-made global warming ... You must be either Agnostic or Atheistic to believe than man controls something he can't create." 2

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Our future? A superb video that shows what the Earth would look like if and when all of the glaciers melted:

Enormous amounts of water are contained in various glaciers across the world, primarily in the Arctic, Antarctic, and Greenland. These are all melting at an accelerating rate, most notably in the two poles. A video by Business Insider Science gives a view of what the world's land masses would look like if all of the glaciers melted:

 3

Unfortunately, the effects of such a glacier melt are hard to predict with any accuracy. That is because the sea level rise would be caused by the both the melting of the glaciers and the thermal expansion of the oceans caused by heating of the water. The effects of the former can be estimated accurately, but the effects of thermal expansion depends on the degree of heating.

Residents of Florida would be particularly hard hit since the current average height of land in that state is only about six feet above sea level. Michael D. Lemonick, writing for Climate Central said:

"For places like Hallandale Beach ... the sea has already risen more than a foot --- over the past century, and new research by Climate Central shows that some 2.4 million Floridians are at risk of flooding from even a moderate hurricane-driven storm surge. The odds of a catastrophic 100-year flood by 2030 are now 2.6 times higher than they would have been without global warming." 4

A recent study says we can expect the oceans to rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet (0.8 and 2 meters) by the year 2100, enough to cause major problems in many of the cities along the U.S. East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and elsewhere. More dire estimates, including a complete meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet, would result in a sea level rise by 23 feet (7 meters). This is enough to submerge London, England. It would place the bottom floor(s) in most of the world's oceanside hotels under water.

If all the glaciers were to melt entirely, the level of the oceans would rise by about 216 feet (66 meters). Many cities and costal areas around the world would be under water -- including the entire state of Florida.

There have been five mass extinctions in the history of the Earth. These are times when there is a massive loss of animal species and animal populations. Some scientists are referring to the present time as the start of the sixth extinction -- the first one to be caused by humans rather than by natural forces. Researcher Mark Urban of the University of Connecticut has combined the results of 131 earlier studies and concluded that:

  • If greenhouse gas emissions continue at the present rate that 16% of the Earth's species will be threatened with extinction by the year 2100.

  • However, "If greenhouse gases were capped and temperatures rose a couple degrees less, then the extinction threat would be nearly halved." 5

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Why does this religious site discuss environmental concerns?

A topic like this might normally be considered a scientific matter, without a significant religious component. It might not be expected to appear on this web site. We have included it because environmental concerns and religion are linked in at least two ways:

bullet Many religious conservatives deny that the problem exists or that it is serious. Some of this belief may be derived from the general distrust that many religious conservatives have towards science and scientists. Another source may be their common belief that Jesus Christ will soon return to Earth and instantly correct any pollution problems. Thus, some feel that we need not pay much attention to these matters today.

bullet Morality has always been closely associated with religion. A case can be made that leaving a highly polluted world behind for future generations is a profoundly immoral act, to say nothing of the massive loss of life caused by environmental degradation over time.

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Citizens for Public Justice, a national Canadian religious group, has produced this infographic:

climate change graphic 6

The two degrees Celsius rise in temperature, shown above, is equivalent to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. 3.7 degrees Celsius is about 6.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Gus Speth, "Shared Planet: Religion and Nature" program, BBC Radio 4, 2013-OCT-01. Reprinted at http://barhillchurch.org.uk/
  2. Rush Limbaugh, "Limbaugh: ‘If You Believe in God, Then Intellectually You Cannot Believe in Manmade Global Warming,’ Nation of Change, 2013-AUG-15, at: http://www.nationofchange.org/
  3. Alex Kuzoian, "What the Earth would look like if all the ice melted," Business Insider Science, 2015-FEB-18, at: https://youtu.be/
  4. Michael D. Lemonick, "The Future is Now for Sea Level Rise in South Florida," Climate Central, 2012-APR-6, at: http://www.climatecentral.org/
  5. Sarah Zielinski, "Climate Change Will Accelerate Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction," Smithsonian Magazine, 2015-APR-30, at: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/
  6. Infographic: Living faithfully into a new climate," Citizens for Public Justice, at: http://cpj.ca/ The CPJ encourages sharing of this graphic.
  7. Daniel R. Taub, "Effects of Rising Atmospheric Concentrations of Carbon Dioxide on Plants," Nature, 2010, at: http://www.nature.com/
  8. Tom Zeller, Jr, "Climate Change And Species Extinction: The New Normal Is Not The Old Normal," Huffington Post, 2013-JUL-24, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  9. David Pruett, "When faith and facts collide," Huffington Post, 2014-AUG-24, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

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Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Rewritten: 2016-MAY-03
Latest update: 2016-SEP-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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