Scep­tics be­ing de­ceived?

The Church of England - - LETTERS - Jonathan Goll, Birm­ing­ham

Sir, I sym­pa­thize with SP Jack­son (Let­ters Page, 27 March). He or she feels that the sci­en­tists are too dog­matic, and is wor­ried that be­lief in ‘cli­mate change’ is a trendy view of the mo­ment. Now, I think he/she is wrong, but as an evan­gel­i­cal my­self, I know why this writer is tempted to take that view.

Evan­gel­i­cal­ism has taught me not to get swept away by ‘ev­ery wind of doc­trine’, and I’m cau­tious about ac­cept­ing what may look like the lat­est sci­en­tific fad. Yet I be­lieve Chris­tian cli­mate change scep­tics are be­ing de­ceived in two ways. One is that, although sci­en­tists will ob­vi­ously be think­ing of their ca­reers, this fi­nan­cial pres­sure dwarfs that be­ing ap­plied by the big en­ergy and oil com­pa­nies on the world stage.

If we use less en­ergy, they stand to lose a lot of money, and their se­cret fi­nanc­ing ex­plains not a few cli­mate change scep­tics. The Royal So­ci­ety has com­plained about the Amer­i­can gi­ant ExxonMo­bil, which was dis­cov­ered to have fi­nanced a num­ber of “in­de­pen­dent” ex­perts.

Se­condly, evan­gel­i­cals are wary of “New Age” think­ing, of­ten rightly so. Such think­ing of­ten sug­gests that per­sonal sal­va­tion comes from eat­ing cer­tain foods, or fol­low­ing cer­tain life­styles, which are of­ten sur­pris­ingly aus­tere. Avoid­ing cli­mate change - usu­ally very im­por­tant for such peo­ple - is thus a mat­ter of a per­sonal aus­ter­ity that not ev­ery­one, frankly, can fol­low. Fac­ing up to one’s sin, how­ever, is rather avoided, and there is a de­cided flavour of “earn­ing one’s way to heaven”. Evan­gel­i­cals should be wary.

How­ever, I sus­pect that most of us, par­tic­u­larly the poorer of us, do not have much in­flu­ence on the cli­mate; our own “car­bon foot­print” is too small. Sur­pris­ingly easy mea­sures, such as check­ing our build­ings have the right in­su­la­tion, buy­ing cars with a low mpg, or get­ting so­lar pan­els on our churches, will go a long way to help.

The big­gest con­tri­bu­tion most of us can make is by putting pres­sure on the huge cor­po­ra­tions that dom­i­nate our planet. I dis­like cor­po­ra­tions. They are ar­ti­fi­cial peo­ple many are serv­ing. Surely they are idols? And their legal struc­ture means that even if their di­rec­tors are rea­son­able peo­ple - which many are - they are forced to act in the short-term self­ish in­ter­ests of the share­hold­ers.

Naomi Klein, in her re­cent book ‘ This Changes Ev­ery­thing’, ar­gues that we will have to aban­don the present - to my mind, idol­a­trous - eco­nomic struc­tures, or this planet is doomed.

The gen­eral trend of world sur­face tem­per­a­ture is up­wards, but ir­reg­u­larly. (It tends not to feel that in this coun­try, be­cause when it gets hot­ter here, we get more rain.) 1998 was an ex­cep­tion­ally warm year, so com­par­isons with it are mis­lead­ing. The Arc­tic ice is rapidly col­laps­ing; this win­ter it ad­vanced less far than it has ever done. The Antarc­tic icesheet has crept for­ward slightly - although the ice-sheet be­hind it is melt­ing - but the Arc­tic melt out­weighs this.

As was pre­dicted in the 1990s, our cli­mate is get­ting wilder and wilder, as there is more and more en­ergy in the sys­tem. To my mind, we must fight the idol-wor­ship­pers to pre­vent our planet be­ing wrecked.

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