Extreme weather events have recently been experienced in many parts of the world. Torrential rains have brought floods and high temperatures uncontrollable fires. Many hundreds of people have lost their lives and homes have been destroyed on a vast scale. Such events are clearly beyond human control.
So are these events simply the result of freak weather patterns and may never be repeated, or is our climate changing? Is it possible that taking steps to limit the rise in global temperatures will stop this happening? Or are these events simply telling us that the future of our world will be very different from the past?
A changing climate
Our climate has always changed. It may be hard for us to imagine rivers like the Thames in London being frozen solid, but 600 years ago that’s what started to happen and it happened quite regularly for almost 400 years. More recently the world-wide climate has been warmer.
During that colder climate period, called ‘The Little Ice Age’, frozen rivers were so frequent that ‘Frost Fairs’ were often held on the Thames and its frozen surface became a highway.
The signs are that our climate is not fixed and it’s changing again. We will need to adapt to a changing climate.
Adapting to climate change
Climate change adaptation measures need to be taken now. For example, if sea levels are rising then defences must be built, or populations moved to new homes that are out of danger.
But such preparations cost money and must be carefully organised to avoid the disaster that climate change could bring.
Organisations like the United Nations are very well aware of what’s needed and are already spending vast sums of money helping vulnerable countries and people to prepare for the worst possible effects of climate change. But will their efforts be enough?
If you stand lots of dominos on their ends in a long row, when one falls over it knocks the next one down and so the rest of the dominoes fall over too. This is the ‘domino effect’.
Part of the problem is that we live in a very complex world. Our climate is the result of many different factors that are all delicately balanced and linked together, like a row of dominos. If one climate factor changes – like the size of the polar ice caps – there is a ‘domino effect’ that changes other climate factors too.
For example, man-made ‘greenhouse gases’ in the atmosphere have increased over many years, causing the average temperature of the earth to rise. This rise in temperature is melting the polar ice caps and raising sea levels, so homes are lost. And smaller ice caps reflect less sunlight, so the seas get even hotter and the remaining ice melts even faster. And as the world gets hotter even more ‘greenhouse gases’ – that were trapped in frozen soil – are released into the air.
Once it starts, climate change – like a row of falling dominos – becomes almost impossible to stop!
A recent review published in the Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and reported in The Guardian newspaper (August 2018) gives a very sober warning:
“A domino-like cascade of melting ice, warming seas, shifting currents and dying forests could tilt the Earth into a “hothouse” state beyond which human efforts to reduce emissions will be increasingly futile”
Looking for a solution, some scientists point the finger at the rise in the emission of ‘greenhouse gases’ as a result of human activity. They argue that cutting down these emissions will help to stop global temperatures rising any further.
Others scientists fear that such efforts may be ‘too little too late’, as a domino-like cascade has already been set in motion. Climate change is now happening, they tell us, and it’s already beyond our control.
Only one solution!
It seems quite possible that before very long the following Bible prophecy may be a very appropriate description of our own world:
“On the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.” (Luke 21:25-26 ESV)
Fortunately, that prophecy doesn’t stop there. If life on earth faces a very uncertain future, there will be only one solution.
Describing the return of Jesus Christ, the Bible tells us very clearly not to give up hope when all seems beyond human control:
“At that time they will see [Jesus Christ] coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads…” (Luke 21:27-28 NIV)
To see Jesus coming with the power to limit the disastrous effects of extreme climate change will be a very welcome sight indeed!!