Yet Another Sign of the Nearness of Christ’s Second Coming?
The Science page article on global warming in the Daily Telegraph of 29th Sept. 2004 began by stating: “The Earth's atmosphere is so polluted that the planet is dying.” In a speech on 14th Sept. 2004, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was “shocked” by the latest scientific forecasts on the “alarming and unsustainable” consequences of global warming, adding that even in his lifetime the impact on the world could be so far-reaching and “irreversible in its destructive power” that it altered human existence radically. For “the latest scientific forecasts” we will turn to Dr Mayer Hillman, Senior Fellow Emeritus, Policy Studies Institute, who wrote the book, How We Can Save the Planet (Penguin, 2004), and an article in The Independent Review of 27th May 2004.
The introduction to the article says “Our leaders are finally waking up to the fact that climate change, far from being a ‘green’ fantasy, is a real, imminent and potentially catastrophic threat to humanity.” Extracts from both publications follow - many of the facts and figures quoted are from publications of the UK government and international organisations:
“Climate change is the most serious environmental threat the human race has ever faced, perhaps the most serious threat of any kind... If we, collectively and individually, do not act resolutely on it and to the extent that is imperative, the prospects are grim... Higher temperatures are predicted worldwide... Sea levels will rise inexorably and rainfall patterns will be greatly altered, with the frequency of drought conditions and severe flooding far more common... Much of the earth's surface could become uninhabitable, and most species could be wiped out. In the UK... we will experience hotter, drier summers, warmer, wetter winters and rising sea levels. .millions of people will be at high risk from flooding, there will be thousands of deaths from excessive summer temperatures; diseases from warmer regions... and patterns of agriculture and business will have to change for ever... We are already witnessing the first stages of a monumental catastrophe... The greenhouse gases we emit now, and have been emitting - mainly carbon dioxide from energy use - will remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years as the earth slowly reacts. Future generations will bear the heaviest burden for the present generation's irresponsibility. We are currently on the road to ecological Armageddon, with little apparent thought for the effects on ourselves, let alone on the populations succeeding us... the implications of climate change are not yet being taken seriously enough...
...Evidence that climate change is already occurring, and will do so at a more rapid rate in the future, is increasing all the time... radical change is required in people's behaviour. This will require individuals both to demand rigorous government intervention... and to make changes to their own lives to reduce their personal emissions of carbon dioxide... greenhouse gas emissions around the world are accumulating in the atmosphere at an alarming rate... Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are increasing, and have been doing so since the Industrial Revolution (between 1750 and 2002 they increased by a third). .
...Annual emissions have doubled since the mid-1960's and trebled since the mid-1970's - tripling in less than 50 years. (The UK has been responsible for 15% and the USA for 29% of the accumulated global emissions since 1750, almost half between them!) The 1990's was the warmest decade of the 20th century... 1998 being the warmest year since 1860 when world temperature measurements began. Scientists... have confirmed that the earth is now warmer than it has been at any time in the past 2,000 years... there is no sign of this trend reversing... climate models predict changes in rainfall amounts and patterns, and increased occurrence of storms, heatwaves and other extreme events. Some of these expected changes can already be seen in the UK and around the world... a leading British climate scientist has stated: “There is no longer such a thing as a purely natural weather event”
...Mountain glaciers have been shrinking in almost all areas of the world... There has been a substantial thinning of Arctic sea ice in late summer: in August 2000 there was no ice at the North Pole... sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased by an area the size of the UK (a quarter of a million square Kms) per decade since 1972... the average sea level around the UK is now about 10 cms (4 ins) higher than it was in 1900, and Atlantic waves hitting the western and southern coasts of the British Isles are over 1 metre higher... The change in temperature is equivalent to the UK moving south at 20 metres a day... Plants now grow for an extra month every year, with spring starting earlier and winter coming later. The North Sea has warmed by 3 degrees C... delayed effects from the warming caused by the emissions already in the atmosphere will stretch way into the future. Global increases in mean surface temperature, rising sea levels...and melting ice sheets are projected to continue for hundreds of years. Even if all emissions of greenhouse gases ceased tomorrow, the climate would continue to change and, with it, its effects on life on the planet We are changing the climate not just for generations, but for tens of generations to come...
...The New Economics Foundation suggests as many as 150 million people may be forced from their homes by climate change by 2050. Many species will become extinct: it is expected that by 2060 Arctic pack ice will have melted so much that all polar bears will starve because the animals they feed on, such as seals, will become scarce... The consequences of allowing the higher emission scenarios to become reality are global, irreversible and catastrophic... This is not the view of alarmists, but the considered opinion of the overwhelming majority of international climate scientists. It is acknowledged by most governments and their advisers... The UK Government's chief scientist warned (April 2004) that if global warming continues unchecked, by the end of this century Antarctica is likely to be the only habitable continent...
...The Foresight Flood and Coastal Defences Project predicts that by 2050 more than 3.5 million people in the UK will be ‘at high risk’ of flooding in their homes... The World Health Organisation blames climate change for at least 160,000 third world deaths (in 2003). The message is clear. Doubting the imminence of significant global warming may once have been an intellectually defensible position. It isn't now... The UK Government said in 1990 that it was “mankind's duty to act prudently and conscientiously so that the planet is handed over to future generations in good order"... As well as posing the most demanding challenges to the character and quality of our way of life, the issue has to be seen and acted on from a moral perspective.”
The book goes on to explain that present predictions are based on the climate continuing to respond in a predictable way to increasing temperatures, and that our current understanding of the climate system is not reliable enough to be sure that something unexpected could not happen. For example, studies have been done indicating that changes currently taking place, such as the massive run-off of fresh water from melting ice at the north pole, could slow down or even stop the gulf stream, which transports warm water past the UK, leading to Western Europe cooling down by 5 degrees C within a few decades - resulting in a new Ice Age - thus bucking the trend towards ever-increasing warming in other areas of the world! Dr Hillman argues that the only way to save the planet is by mandatory global carbon rationing - nations, businesses and individuals being able to buy part of the carbon ration of others who do not need to use all theirs.
This, with vigorous efforts to improve the efficiency of all industrial processes, machinery and vehicles, and measures to reduce their carbon emissions, would help to slow down the inexorable increase in global warming and its disastrous effects. Each kilometre travelled per person by air within Europe produces two and a half times the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions of the same distance travelled by car and about 5 times that produced by train travel. Hence the book concludes that air travel is the most polluting form of transport and will have to be drastically reduced. To illustrate this, just one round flight from London to New York produces carbon emissions per person only 25% less than the current British averdge annual emissions per person - which means that the whole of the likely annual carbon ration per person would probably be used up on just one return flight to New York - leaving nothing for central heating, car, train and other surface travel! From this it will be evident that advertisements by cut-price airlines, holiday and travel companies and travel articles encouraging ever more flying - such as weekend shopping breaks to New York, week-end safari trips to Kenya, etc., etc. - are quite irresponsible and the big increase in flights, especially to long- haul destinations, is damaging the planet. Yet Governments do nothing to discourage flying, but instead plan more runways and more airports - the UK government even exempts airline tickets, aviation fuel and new aircraft from tax and customs duty!
In confirmation of the above, the September 2004 issue of National Geographic magazine, with a front cover caption, Global Warning, devotes over half of its features pages to a three- part series on global climate change. The editorial says that the subject is too important to ignore: “From Antarctica to Alaska to Bangladesh, a global warming trend is altering habitats, with devastating ecological and economic effects... the Earth is getting warmer and... human behaviour is a contributing factor... we are going to take you all over the world to show you the hard truth as scientists see it.”
The 74 pages are packed with very convincing evidence that global warming is already well under way. For example there are illustrations (p. 21) comparing the area of perennial ice cover at the North Pole in 1979 and in 2003, between which years its area had decreased by 9% per decade. But this is not the whole story, since the ice cover also decreased in thickness - some surveys say it had decreased by 40%, others put it at 15% - but even that, with the big reduction in area, means there has been massive melting of the ice at the poles, which - combined with the melting of glaciers globally - has already contributed to a global rise in sea level. For anyone, especially Christians, willing to honestly face the facts of global warming and the projected implications for the future of the planet, for the human race, and, indeed, for their own life-styles, the book by Dr Hillman (reasonably priced at £7.99) and the September 2004 issue of National Geographic are essential reading and strongly recommended. Both should be available in public libraries.
Recent developments seem to confirm the alarming predictions. There was an unprecedented rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in 2002 and 2003. In 2004 there was the Boscastle flood disaster, and the north of England was hit by exceptionally wet weather, farmers suffering the worst harvest in living memory, abandoning oil seed rape and cereal crops in waterlogged fields, and facing financial ruin with multi-million pound losses. At the end of August, the NFU said “barely a third of the wheat crop had been harvested at a time of year when farmers should be clearing their fields to prepare for seeding.” Potato blight appeared on the potato crop for the first time in many years. Lord Haskins, who has farmed in Yorkshire for 30 years, claimed arable farmers were potentially facing worse problems than livestock farmers during the foot and mouth crisis (Guardian, 28 Aug. 04).
Famine was threatened as hordes of locusts devoured crops in Mauritania, W. Africa. Within 6 weeks, a succession of powerful hurricanes battered the Caribbean area (with 4 pounding Florida - a record for one season), costing up to 2,000 lives and over $22 billion in insurance claims. Ivan, nicknamed ‘the terrible’ - the massive hurricane, nearly 600 miles across, with winds of up to 160 mph, creating waves two storeys high, left a trail of devastation in Grenada, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Cuba and the US south coast, from where 2 million people fled inland - was one of the very worst ever experienced in the Caribbean - a Category 5, the highest. The incidence of hurricanes does fluctuate from year to year, but it is surely significant that while there were 10 in the Caribbean in 2003 (2 of Category A), there were 16 (4 of Category 4/5) in 2004 - a big increase. It seems the higher the sea temperature the more hurricanes of greater destructive power can be generated. The sea temperature in the Caribbean in 2004 was only 1 degree C higher than in 2003 - suggesting the large increase in hurricane activity may have been due to a very small increase in sea temperature.
It should be obvious that to extract billions of tons of coal, gas and oil from deep within the bowels of the earth and then burn them in the closed system of the planet's atmosphere, thus producing an ever-increasing concentration of pollutants, is a procedure of the utmost folly - but that is what humanity has been doing for well over a century! - with the disastrous results that are only now becoming apparent. The fact that in 6 weeks humanity uses up the same quantity of oil which was used up in the whole of 1950, demonstrates the massive increase in oil consumption over the past 50 years - which is bound to accelerate increasingly, not only due to more demand in the West, but to massive increases in demand from ‘third world’ and developing countries - especially China and India. The accelerating demand for oil - and the resultant increase in global warming and its disastrous consequences - seems quite unstoppable.
It is becoming clear that the technological and economic successes, and improvements in standards of living in the West over the past century have been achieved at the expense of seriously damaging the planet's ecology, so that its very survival - and that of our extravagant lifestyles (compared to those of earlier centuries) - is now seriously threatened, with potentially disastrous consequences for even the near future. We have truly been living, and continue to live, in ‘a fool's paradise’ - but, clearly, ‘the good times’ are coming to an end. Not only the West, but the whole world is already beginning to reap the — serious consequences of our folly. Even worse, the ‘third world’ and developing countries, encouraged by globalisation, are trying to catch up with the West's economic ‘success’ - ambitious to join us in our ‘fool's paradise’! - thus compounding the problem. It appears that the targets set by the Kyoto agreement on reducing carbon emissions, even if all countries achieve their target reductions, are not even enough to stop the rise in global temperatures, let alone reduce them - since they are not based on a reliable understanding of the safe limits of greenhouse gases, but were determined by what was thought to be politically possible in the developed countries.
The National Geographic declared: “Three years ago the United States spurned the Kyoto Protocol, citing cost. But even Kyoto would barely slow the rise in heat- trapping gases. Controlling the increase ‘would take 40 successful Kyotos,’ says Jerry Mahlman of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research.” The treaty needs to be ratified by 55 countries, responsible for at least 55 per cent of global emissions in 1990 - which has not yet been achieved. Russia has now taken the first steps to ratify, which would enable the treaty to come into force in the first half of 2005. It would be binding on all signatories - which do not include USA, China, India or Australia etc. Mr Blair has pledged to persuade the USA to face up to the “catastrophic consequences” of climate change and sign up. It is of concern that many countries who have signed up are unlikely to achieve their target reductions. Clearly, Kyoto is too little and too late - surely a case of ‘Nero fiddling while Rome burns’!
As Dr Hillman says, even if all carbon emissions stopped immediately the delayed effects would continue to change the climate well into the future. It is clearly impossible to stop carbon emissions altogether and the draconian measures needed to achieve even a modest slow down in global warming to limit damage to the planet would cause such an upheaval in nations, industries, businesses and individual life-styles as to bring about the catastrophic collapse of the present global economy - which would be unacceptable to most to even contemplate. Many will resort to ‘denial’ or ‘put their heads in the sand’, hoping the problem will go away. Realistically, the introduction of global carbon rationing is a long way off, if it ever comes, and any other measures taken, including more stringent Kyoto targets, are not going to be enough to save the planet. Few can opt out of the moral responsibility for having contributed to global warming and, clearly, we all have a moral obligation to do all we can now and in future to limit carbon emissions.
Finally, how are we to interpret all this in the light of the end-time prophecies in Scripture? The Lord Jesus prophesied “distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth”... “there will be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Lk. 21:25-26; Matt. 24:7,8, NKJV). When the situation deteriorates to crisis proportions - as it clearly will -because there are so many vested interests involved which would prevent any really effective action being taken, the world will need a strong man to unify all nations and force them to take drastic action to save the planet - could this be the cue for the Antichrist to make his bid for power globally? If extreme weather conditions, like those which devastated the UK harvest in 2004 continue to worsen globally, as predicted, and more farmers abandon farming or turn their land over to other uses such as golf- courses, leisure parks etc - this could eventually lead to food shortages and famines such as are implied by Revelation 6:5-8. Rev. 8:7 refers to “a third of the trees” and “all green grass” being “burned up”, while Rev. 16:8,9 refers to men being “scorched with great heat” by the sun, possibly due to global warming.
The truth is that, even with the Antichrist in control, it will be too late for humanity to take the drastic steps necessary in time to save the planet - clearly anything they do will be too little and too late! Even though the future looks unremittingly bleak, there is still hope for humanity and the planet - for “The Lord God omnipotent reigns” (Rev. 19:6) and He will not allow humanity to destroy the planet! Since humanity will be unable to save it, clearly only the “glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) can save the planet, bring to an end global warming and purify the atmosphere - and He will do so - at “the restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21).
That is, at His Second Coming, first privately for His church; then, following the seven terrible tribulation years, publicly to defeat the Antichrist and his hordes, judge the world and reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16) and Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6), when “the whole creation which groans and labours with birth pangs together until now” - “will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:22 & 21). Then all humanity's pride and polluting technology will lie in the dust, as Is. 2:12,17 says: “For the day of the LORD of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty...the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.” In the meantime our Lord Jesus reassures us: “When you see these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Lk. 21:28, emphasis added). Is not the global warming crisis yet another very clear indication that His coming must be very near indeed? May we all be ready - and urge unbelievers to accept the Gospel, repent and believe on Him while there is still time!
Bernard A. Reeves.
Other articles on Climate:
Climate Change in Prophecy by John Williams
Climate Change by Alfred Knights