(Editor’s Note: Rick Hammer is a professor of biology at Hardin-Simmons University and an environmental action coordinator for the Abilene area of the Texas Interfaith Power & Light organization. He believes that we are called to be stewards of creation. April marked the 400th consecutive month with above average temperatures on Earth–not a cause for celebration.)
By RICK HAMMER
Earth just celebrated a milestone: April 2018 marks the 400th consecutive month with above average temperatures. At first blush, we might want to say that this climate science fact is nothing to write home about. However, in all seriousness, when this earth climate milestone is viewed within the larger context of ongoing climate change, conveying the message loud and clear—if not shouting—that our planet and home is in a state of unprecedented global change, that should be an urgent priority.
The scientific evidence is indisputable that planet earth is getting hotter. Global temperatures have risen 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit since the late nineteenth century, with most of that warming occurring during the last 35 years, along with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. The rate of warming observed over this short time period of just three decades is unprecedented, and likely exceeds any rates that have occurred over the last several thousand years. What is the explanation? Scientists have determined, from a wide array of scientific data, that human modification of the atmosphere is to blame. Specifically, the amount of CO2, or carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere has increased dramatically since the late 1800’s and the rise of industrialism.
The detrimental effects of this unnatural rate of warming have become all too common in recent years. Worrisome symptoms of a warming planet include: warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreat, decreased snow cover, sea level rise, declining arctic sea ice, and ocean acidification. These symptoms are almost certainly the result of human-induced climate change. NASA has an excellent web page on Global Climate Change where you can read in more detail about all of these symptoms and the evidence behind them.
For most of us, the foregoing litany of evidence of anthropogenic—that is, human-induced—climate change, is old news. Just this week NASA’s new administrator made the statement that he believed climate change is real and is being caused by human actions.
So, where do we go from here? What should be our course of action? Should we or can we do anything to at least slowdown that rate of warming of our planet? Do we humans, faithful Christians or otherwise, have any responsibilities in addressing this problem? Well, let me speak for myself and my faith tradition. As a Christian and follower of Jesus Christ, and as a botanist and ecologist trained with a Ph.D., I think it is helpful for us to remember that we—the human race—have been created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), the Imago Dei.
Properly understood, being the image bearers of God assigns humanity a unique role as God’s kingly representatives in creation, that is, planet earth. We are to be stewards and caretakers. And ultimately, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, reveals a God who binds himself to all of His creation. We cannot then deny the goodness of the physical world. Bottom line is that we are called to be stewards of this good creation of God. We are obliged to act, as ordained image bearers of God, both from theological reflection and the objectively informed scientific evidence that God has in effect revealed to us, directly on the dimensions of the climate change problem.
Personally, I am motivated to act, now. I want to be part of the solution and have been drawn to climate change advocacy. I volunteer as the environmental action coordinator for the Abilene area for the faith-based Texas Interfaith Power & Light organization. It’s a small contribution, but small contributions from all of us can add up.
Finally, just this week I received an invitation from the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), a worldwide grassroots climate advocacy group that seeks to build a non-partisan advocacy coalition to address the climate change problem, to attend their upcoming conference in Washington D.C. as the Texas Congressional District 11 representative. Attendance and participation in the training workshops would equip me to serve as God’s image bearer and representative. I believe God is calling me to be involved in this way. We are all called. How is God calling you to be His representative on this warming earth? It’s worth our sincere prayer and reflection. Please remember me in yours.
Rick Hammer is a professor of biology at Hardin-Simmons University and an environmental action coordinator for the Abilene area of the Texas Interfaith Power & Light organization.