Righting America

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Cheer Up! Warmer is Better! | Righting America

by William Trollinger

A sea-side street is filled as far as the eye can see with burned-out vehicles while gray smoke from fire-riddled structures overtakes the blue sky.
Aftermath of the fires in Lahaina, Hawaii. Image via mauinews.com.

In his recent article, “Right-Wing Extremism is Going to Boil Us Alive,” Tom Engelhardt observes that 

It could be the Gulf Stream collapsing or the planet eternally breaking heat records. But whatever the specifics, we’re living it right now . . . You couldn’t miss it – at least so you might think – if you were living in the sweltering Southwest; especially in broiling, record-setting Phoenix with 30 straight days of temperatures above 110 degrees Fahrenheit; or in flaming Greece or western China on the day the temperature hit 126 degrees Fahrenheit or sweltering, blazing Algeria when the temperature reached an almost unimaginable 135 (yes, 135!) degrees Fahrenheit; not to speak of broiling Canada with its more than 1,000 fires now burning (a figure that still seems to be rising by the week) and its 29 million acres already flamed out; and don’t forget Italy’s 1,400 fires; or Florida’s hot-tub-style seawater, which recently hit an unheard-of-101-plus degrees Fahrenheit.

And Engelhardt penned this just before terrifying fires engulfed Maui, virtually destroying the town of Lahaina. 

As U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced three weeks ago, “the era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived.”

But good news!  Answers in Genesis (AiG) CEO Ken Ham has confidently pronounced that “there’s no biblical or scientific reason for the cacophony of panic when it comes to climate change.” As regards science, Ham points us to AiG’s very own experts, Jessica Jaworski (M.S. in wildlife ecology) and Avery Foley (M.A. in theology from Liberty), who make the case that there is no need to attend to the “climate alarmism” promoted by alleged scientific experts in climate science, given that

  • Warmer is better! . . . if the world is warming, cold snaps will be reduced, and even if the number of heat waves were doubled, we’d still have a net reduction in human mortality.”
  • Efforts to curb CO2 emissions not only would be very expensive, but “the impact on temperature would be so small that it’s basically undetectable, thereby having no positive impact on ecosystems or human well-being.”
  • Climate scientists exaggerate global warming and the effects of CO2 on global warming, and thus “there is no rational basis for predications [sic] about future temperatures or for policy responses to such predictions.”
  • Warmer = greener. Atmospheric CO2 is crucial for life and contributes to a variety of ecological benefits – including increased plant productivity. As the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere rises, plant growth also increases . . . The result is more food for everything that eats plants and everything that eats something that eats plants. For us, that means more abundant, and therefore cheaper, food.”

It’s a veritable love letter to fossil fuel corporations! Jaworski and Foley even start their article with the happy assertion that “fossil fuels lift nations from poverty.” Of course, there is nothing surprising about AiG contributors offering slavish support for Exxon et al., given that Ham’s organization eagerly promotes the ideas of the Cornwall Alliance, the Christian Right’s leading climate change-denial organization, an organization funded by (spoiler alert) the fossil fuel industry. 

Can we say “follow the money”?

Anyway, these are the “scientific” reasons for dismissing “climate alarmism.” 

As regards the Bible, well, the expert here is Ken Ham, who asserts that “we will never sort out all the claims about climate change until we all agree to begin with the right foundation – the Word of the infinite Creator God.” And according to Ham, the Bible teaches us that 

Humans aren’t going to destroy themselves or the earth because God is in complete control, and he will determine when the ultimate catastrophic climate change will occur.

Ham’s biblical evidence for this assertion is Genesis 8:22, the favorite verse of climate change deniers: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” 

I confess that I am at a loss as to how this verse establishes that the Bible rules out the possibility of human-made catastrophic climate change. But making sense is not a requirement when it comes to fundamentalist proof-texting.

All this said, Ham proclaims himself a “climate change alarmist . . . [who feels the] need to warn people about the coming catastrophic climate changes that will affect all of humanity.” What does he mean? In his words: 

I’m not referring to a supposed slight global temperature increase allegedly caused by humans burning fossil fuels. I’m referring to the ultimate catastrophic climate change everyone should be aware of when one day in the future, Jesus will return, and the earth (and the whole universe) will be judged with fire . . . because of our sin in Adam. (Emphases mine.)

Let’s leave aside AiG’s threadbare science (so clearly reflected in the Creation Museum) and its commitment to unfettered capitalism (whatever the cost). Let’s leave aside Ken Ham’s biblical cherrypicking and his violent dispensational premillennialism.

What is particularly striking here is the complete lack of empathy. Millions and millions suffering in sweltering heat, with particularly dire consequences for the poor and the homeless. Fires raging out of control, with towns (see Lahaina) turning to ash. Desperate migrants trying to go somewhere, anywhere, to escape the heat. 

Of course, why would we expect an empathetic response from an organization that created a tourist site (Ark Encounter) that commemorates/celebrates the slaughter of up to 20 billion (their number, not mine) human beings (including children, infants, and the unborn)? Why would we expect empathy from an organization that puts a tourist photo shoot at the Ark door that, again according to AiG, God shut in order to consign all these billions of people (again, including children, infants, and the unborn) to a horrific mass drowning?

But cheer up! Warmer is better!