Righting America

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While the Planet Burns, Ken Ham Fiddles | Righting America

by William Trollinger

Over the past week there have been innumerable news reports on the increasingly dramatic effects of global warming:

Picture of a firefighter walking in front of a huge blaze of fire.
A firefighter walks in front of a huge blaze heading towards a home in Strawn, TX. Image via The Telegraph.
  • From NPR: “This very weekend, crops are burning, roads are buckling and seas are rising, while lakes and reservoirs recede, or even disappear. Ice sheets melt in rising heat, and wildfires blitz forests. People are dying in this onerous heat. Lives of all kinds are threatened, in cities, fields, seas, deserts, jungles, and tundra.”
  • From The New Yorker: “The record-breaking heat wave in Europe this week has produced some haunting scenes: enraged passengers stuck on a train with no air-conditioning; fire consuming homes in the London suburbs; a man escaping a burning town in Spain, his clothes aflame.”
  • From Vox: “Temperatures in Europe this week certainly expand the real of what’s possible in the present and into the future . . . Of course, Europe isn’t the only place that’s sweating this summer. Much of the US is also facing a heat wave that has worsened wildfires and created risks of power outages, while India and Pakistan saw a massive heat wave across the region in May. And climate change is expected to nudge future thermometers even higher. As hot as it’s already been, this is still likely to be one of the coolest summers we’re going to experience for the rest of our lives.”

As the title of The New Yorker article puts it, “If This Isn’t a Climate Emergency, What Is?”

Picture of a facebook post from Ken Ham.
Facebook post from Ken Ham.

All of the harrowing evidence notwithstanding, Ken Ham is here to tell us, as he posted on Facebook late last week, that “there is no climate crisis.” It is generous to describe Ham’s post as a “word salad” (thanks, Camille Lewis, for alerting me to this phrase). But here’s my best stab at trying to translate what Ham is saying:

  • Because we live in a sinful world, the climate will not be perfect, so deal with it..
  • Moreover, the weather patterns that we see now are not any different or any more severe than what we have seen in the past.
  • Moreover, today people are living in new places and so they are more affected by the weather. [I confess that I can make no sense of what Ham is saying here.]
  • Moreover, humans cannot markedly reduce greenhouse gases because we cannot markedly reduce greenhouse gases. [I won’t even try to parse Ken Ham’s “science.”]
  • But no matter, given that sunspots, ocean currents, and lots of other things also affect the weather.
  • And take heart, as God has promised that humans cannot destroy the Earth or affect temperatures or affect seasons.
  • More than this, the government needs to stay out of trying to limit climate disasters, as it has only one job, and that is law and order.
  • Instead of this imaginary “climate crisis,” the real problem in America is abortion and the LGBTQ menace.

Word salad indeed. But it’s just a Facebook post. However, it turns out that the Answers in Genesis [AiG] articles on climate change are, in the end, no more lucid and no more logical. According to AiG publications:

  • There is no conclusive evidence that the Earth is warming.
  • But if the Earth is warming, it is not significant, and it is not because of humans.
  • But if the Earth is warming and it is significant, this may very well be a good thing.
  • But if the Earth is warming and it is significant and not a good thing, this is simply another chapter in climate history, which is the story of dramatic change and catastrophe (see Noah’s Flood).
  • Moreover, it’s important to keep in mind that anti-global warming activists are anti-Christian leftists driven by politics and greed.
  • Finally, in the end it will be God who destroys the Earth, not humans.

(For more on these claims, see here, here, here, and here.)

To say that AiG’s scientific and biblical “arguments” are not robust is an understatement. In other words, there is no there, there.

So, if it’s not science and/or the Bible that is driving Ham, AiG, and the Christian Right in their full-scale climate change denial then what is? 

In his terrific book, Paranoid Science: The Christian Right’s War on Reality, Antony Alumkal convincingly argues that those arguing there is no climate emergency or crisis are driven not by theology (and certainly not by science), but, instead, by a full-scale commitment to laissez-faire capitalism.

Kathleen Wellman bolsters this argument in Hijacking History  when she documents that  fundamentalist high school textbooks (including those used by AiG’s own K-12 school) repeatedly claim that “free-market capitalism is God’s economic plan and thus intervention by governments or through regulation is illegitimate” (298).

The Christian Right’s absolute commitment to laissez-faire capitalism drives their claim that there is no climate emergency, and thus there should be no intervention in behalf of the planet. This point is made blindingly obvious by the fact that, as Alumkal points out, Calvin Beisner and the Cornwall Alliance – the Christian Right’s foremost climate change-denial organization – “fund their projects with money from the deep pockets of the fossil fuel industry” (190). And AiG is busy promoting the ideas of the Cornwall Alliance, as evinced by numerous articles and book chapters by Beisner that can be found on the AiG website.

For Ken Ham, AiG, and the Christian Right, laissez-faire capitalism is sacrosanct. Whatever the costs to human beings. Whatever the costs to God’s other blessed creatures. Whatever the costs to the environment.

Burn, planet, burn.