Christians and Climate Science: Moving Beyond Fear to Action

When we see Christians responding in fear, we know that’s not who we’re meant to be.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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The Global Weirding series is done in a way that is very sensitive to conservative Christians. It’s a great resource to recommend to people.

I don’t deny the reality of man-made (and possibly catastrophic) climate change. Nevertheless, I think fear is a very rational response to the actions of the climate change lobby, for two reasons.

First, giving this lobby political influence will usher in an era of eco-fascism: tyranny in the name of Mother Earth. Here’s an example:

Scientists now tell us that if you’re living in the West, and you want to fight climate change, then the best thing you can do for the planet is to refrain from having a child. Having one fewer child will save 58.6 tonnes of CO2-equivalent per year, compared to just 2.4 tonnes saved by living without a car, 1.6 tonnes saved by avoiding a round-trip transatlantic flight, 1.47 tonnes saved by buying green energy, 1.15 tonnes saved by switching to an electric car, 0.82 tonnes saved by going vegetarian… and just 0.21 tonnes saved by recycling and 0.10 tonnes saved by upgrading your light bulbs.

We already tax fuel, and many countries have laws banning incandescent light bulbs. How long will it be before prominent scientists publicly advocate taxing couples at an exorbitant rate for having more children, or even compulsory sterilization after the birth of a second child? Not very long. It would be the logical thing to do, if your number one priority is the well-being of the planet - after all, it “worked” in China, didn’t it? Gaia is a harsh mistress, it seems.

But in reality, the West is facing a demographic winter. Even in the U.S., the fertility rate is now 1.84, which is well below replacement level. There are fears that America faces a Japanese-style demographic collapse. In that case, who will pay for the pensions of young people born today?

What’s good for Gaia is not good for us.

My second reason for opposing the climate change lobby is that we really don’t have a technological solution to the problem of global warming, anyway. Forget the articles you’ve been reading about how the price of wind and solar energy is coming down. Even if it were zero, the fact is that we can’t possibly switch to an economy run entirely on wind and solar energy. Bill Gates’ own science advisor explains why:

The materials required to make wind turbines (and photovoltaic cells), such as steel, require fossil fuels to make them. Smil pessimistically concludes:

“For a long time to come - until all energies used to produce wind turbines and photovoltaic cells come from renewable energy sources—modern civilization will remain fundamentally dependent on
fossil fuels.” What’s more, “we have no non-fossil substitutes” that can replace “coke for iron-ore smelting, coal and petroleum coke to fuel cement kilns, naphtha and natural gas as feedstock and fuel for the synthesis of plastics and the making of fiberglass, diesel fuel for ships, trucks, and construction machinery, lubricants for gearboxes.”

And yet the green lobby tells us that we must cut carbon emission to ZERO by 2070, in order to prevent a climate disaster:

Professor Mark Jacobson claims we can do it, but he’s dead wrong, according to a panel of scientists who published in PNAS recently:

And the cost of implementing Professor Jacobson’s unworkable plan? By his own admission, it’s a cool $100,000,000,000,000 over a 20-year period:

If we listen to the green lobby, we’ll end up wasting trillions (not billions) on hare-brained solutions that won’t work anyway. And what will happen to the money we wanted to spend on eliminating poverty? Gone, gone, gone.

I’d say fear is a very rational response indeed to a lobby like that.

So what are we to do, assuming man-made global warming is real and significant? What we should be doing is pouring more money into research on solutions that really will work - because right now, with the exception of nuclear energy (which no-one likes anyway), we don’t have any. Carbon capture and storage might be the way to go, as it gets to the root of the problem. If we could make CCS work, we wouldn’t need to worry about having fewer children. So what’s holding it back? Ironically, it’s renewable energy. CCS can’t compete with wind and solar (which will never solve our global warming problem anyway).

I’m all for facing up to climate problems, but we need to do it intelligently. The green lobby is anti-democratic, anti-people and unintelligent.

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Hi, Vincent. I’m glad you acknowledge the problem and our human responsibility in it (at least in your opening lines, although I notice that your later enthusiasms still betray your lingering doubts.)

It looks like a big laundry list of new stuff to be afraid of – new fears to replace the old, and everything you think is fearsome all has to do with government, I noticed. I won’t argue with you that governments do quite a lot of extremely unwise things. But to assume that therefore we should throw up our hands and assume that all regulation is unnecessary at best and damaging at worst is also not a rational solution. But, like you, I don’t look to government to single-handedly deliver us to any eco-promise land. Perhaps unlike you, I do not think that large corporations or market-driven solutions will be single-handedly delivering us anywhere good either. In fact that is pretty much what got us to where we are in the first place. You wrote:

Is something only worthwhile if it will single-handedly solve all our energy problems?
If so, I guess we can stop trying to help the poor with this or that program or effort because it seems “the poor will always be with us”. Or education must be of no value whatsoever because it isn’t solving all our problems. Presenting the impossibly high bar is the convenient method for dismissing all that you find inconvenient. You probably noticed the theme word for my response to you has been “single-handedly”. If / when we do begin to have good long-term solutions that take shape, I’m sure that public / private sectors will both have roles (maybe big roles!) to play – not to mention grass roots lifestyle changes. The point is I’m still part of a very big problem, and Scriptures and love for God and His creation helps me to see that. It is that love and joy that calls me and so many others to try to address this in ourselves first. Not fear. And we call others to share in that same caring, loving task regardless of their beliefs. The results are in God’s hands, of course. So I do feel the responsibility that God has given me, and I want to exercise it well: when I vote every couple of years in an election, and even more importantly in how I vote every day by how I live.

Perfect love casts out fear. Lord, help us all move toward that.

[edited to remove a bit of self-righteous trope – probably didn’t get it all …]


The pdf document you linked regarding wind energy included this surprising (to me) line:

Undoubtedly, a well-sited and well-built wind turbine would generate as much energy as it embodies in less than a year.

Of course, this was surrounded by qualifiers for why the above claim should not be much considered as any significant score favoring wind energy. But considering the critical source, I take it this concession would not have been included unless the author felt compelled to acknowledge it. I was actually impressed that a structure as big as some of these are would “pay for” all its own energy costs that quickly. I know that it is a very fuzzy and subjective number to try to arrive at (hence skepticism is needed either way on this). Sure, you count the materials it’s made from, but what about the factory needed to build it? How about the energy needed to run that factory? Or the vehicles workers drive to get to there? And we can see how this would scale up to enormous costs quickly. But, however you count all that, I suspect that the fossil fuel plants if treated with the same calculus will fare no better --and probably be much worse. They too would have a rather lengthy energy cost to recover to pay for their own existences, even before considering their ongoing fuel consumption. But meanwhile, my point in my prior post still stands regardless.

Finding ways to mitigate current fossil fuel production costs could still be part of a large package of strategies to help. And on that score, thanks for causing me to look more into what CCS is all about. From my brief reading so far, I have my doubts about the wisdom of thinking that will do much for us environmentally in the long run. But I would be happy to be wrong.

But the actual “green lobby” you describe doesn’t exist. You gave a laundry list of largely unrelated comments, hypothetical, suggestions, and observations from a very wide range of people, not a monolithic group.

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The actual “green lobby” doesn’t exist? Tell that to Canada’s green party, which wants to stunt the world’s population and is pushing for reduced fertility worldwide:

The head of the UN Millennium Project Jeffrey Sachs is also a strong proponent of decreasing the effects of overpopulation.

Paul Ehrlich is still a prominent advocate of population control:

I could name others: John Holdren, Eric Pianka, John Bongaarts, and, of course, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.

But what’s really spooky are the population control advocates who brainwash students with their views:

It’s happening. I can remember teachers who advocated similar views back in the 1970s. It’s much worse now.

And those teachers from then could probably site teachers from their own childhoods also who saw all these dire things just around the corner. It isn’t that catastrophic evils never happen – they do. But those who incessantly see them always just around the next corner (wrongly 99% of the time as it turns out) would do better to look for actual evidence.

There will always be (and have always been) people in governments and elsewhere that were they to completely have their way would be a tyrannical terror to many others. How evil such alleged programs are perceived to be is more a function of whether the beholder agrees with the enforced agenda or not rather than on any purity of motive regarding tyranny vs. democracy. Objections against tyranny nearly always evaporate as soon as the agenda is more to one’s liking. I’m not saying tyrannical-seeming agendas are always evil. Just that there seems to be little reason offered here that would justify getting worked up into a froth.

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Yeah, not the one you’re describing.

No they don’t. The very article to which you linked says “The policy did not make it into the party’s official election platform”. But let’s look at the policy.

May says the Greens would adopt an approach to reducing fertility that would still respect human rights. They’d seek to educate women and girls, improve health care, and expand access to birth control and abortion — goals, May says, the Greens already support — to help stunt the world’s population growth.

Well I hate to break it to you but this is what a number of countries are actually doing, and have been doing for years. Birth control is population control, simple.

What’s wrong with reducing the effects of overpopulation?

Yeah but you can’t show me a monolithic “green lobby” which holds all these views and enacts them through lobbying, legislation, and corporate influence. You’re just grabbing bits and pieces from here and there; this person’s views about X, this person’s views about Y, this person’s views about Z.

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This is some of the most ridiculous fear-mongering I’ve seen around here in quite a while.

There we go, some good old-fashioned name-calling. Throw some red meat out there to agitate the masses. The Liberals want us all to be sterilized to save the planet! Where do you come up with this stuff? On second thought, I really don’t want to know. But do us all a favor: Please don’t associate this trash with the name of Christ in any way. We have enough problems with the younger generation as it is.


I’ll be brief. I cited a scientific study showing that the best thing people could do to combat global warming was to have fewer children. If saving Gaia is your number one ethical priority (as it is for many ethicists, especially those who adopt a biocentric standpoint), and if you really think that there’s a danger of catastrophic global warming occurring, then the logic is inescapable: birth control becomes a moral duty, not a choice. From there, it is but a short step to publicly advocating that couples be taxed at an exorbitant rate for having more children, or even sterilized after the birth of a second child. You cannot fault the logic.

Of course, this is totally at odds with Christianity. But if you don’t think people have a duty to get themselves sterilized, despite the perilous situation the planet is in, then it is your job, as a Christian, to explain to our young people why they don’t have such a duty, because many of them will be asking.

They recommend four different actions which can have a significant effect on global warming, and one of them is having “one fewer child”. That’s it.

[quote=“vjtorley, post:11, topic:36342”]
If saving Gaia is your number one ethical priority (as it is for many ethicists, especially those who adopt a biocentric standpoint), and if you really think that there’s a danger of catastrophic global warming occurring, then the logic is inescapable: birth control becomes a moral duty, not a choice.[/quote]

Fortunately in most Western countries the birth rate is already less than 2.1 (the replacement rate), because birth control is already widely used.

This is the slippery slope fallacy. No one is suggesting this, because the birth rate is already continuing to fall, without any interference from government.

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The No. 1 factor driving the drop in birth rates is the education rates of women. For example, this article says:

“the evidence from sub-Saharan Africa clearly supports the causal role of female education in fertility decline. For example, an education reform in Kenya that increased the length of primary education by a year resulted in increased female educational attainment, and delayed marriage and fertility. One randomized control trial found that reducing the cost of school uniforms in Kenya not only reduced dropout rates, but also reduced teenage marriage and childbearing. Another study found that increasing female education by one year in Nigeria reduced early fertility by 0.26 births.”

This suggests that one way for governments to combat climate change is to pour money into educating women! Of course, it would be hard for the conspiracy theorists to make much hay out of that. Much easier to stir up the masses when you can raise the specter of mass sterilization.

I’m sorry, Vincent, but you spent too much time on the front lines of the Culture War. This type of rhetoric and scare tactics and ludicrous conspiracy theories is what has gotten us into the mess that we find ourselves in today. You can disagree without demonizing your opponents.



An increasing number of people are advocating that couples have not two children, but just one, at least partly for ecological reasons:

The case for having just one kid by Wendy Thomas Russell, PBS Newshour (January 13, 2015):

Top 10 reasons to have only one child
  1. It’s eco-friendly. You’re replacing two trash-accumulating, water-wasting, gas-burning individuals with one, which means your impact on the environment is drastically reduced. You get to be a mother without destroying Mother Earth.

The only kids are alright: Good reasons to consider stopping at one child by Lisa Hymas at (February 15, 2011):

According to a 2009 study published in Global Environmental Change [PDF], an American can prevent 20 times more carbon pollution by having one fewer kid than by adopting a number of eco-friendly habits (like driving less, switching to efficient windows and lightbulbs, etc.) for an entire lifetime. In the long term, the study authors determined, each child increases a parent’s carbon legacy by about 570 percent, because kids are likely to have kids of their own and so forth.

And here’s another article in the Guardian by Lisa Hymas, titled, I decided not to have children for environmental reasons (September 27, 2011):

My carbon footprint is more than 200 times bigger than an average Ethiopian's, and more than 12 times bigger than an average Indian's, and twice as big as an average Brit's...

When someone like me has a child – watch out, world! Gear, gadgets, gewgaws, bigger house, bigger car, oil from the Mideast, coal from Colombia, coltan from the Congo, rare earths from China, pesticide-laden cotton from Egypt, genetically modified soy from Brazil…

And so, for environmental as well as personal reasons, I’ve decided not to have children. I call myself a GINK: green inclinations, no kids.

You may say that none of these individuals actually advocates coercion or forced sterilization. But psychological bullying by teachers who tell children it’s their moral duty to stop at one (or none) is just as corrosive of individual freedom. It leaves people feeling they are wicked for having a large family.

You write that there is no monolithic “green lobby.” True, the movement is diverse, but there are certain views which are widely shared. Most would agree that a world population of 11 billion, forecast for 2100, is probably not sustainable, and many believe that 2.5 billion people is all that the planet can support, on an omnivorous diet. American liberals (who are by and large more green)
have markedly lower fertility rates than conservatives. And sadly, 60 percent of the world’s population now live in countries with below-replacement fertility rates. I know: I live in Japan. As far as I can see, the writing is on the wall. And much of it has been put there by self-hating humans who put their planet before themselves. How sad.

I’ll stop here, and give you the last word.

Is it just me… or does having sympathies for the Intelligent Design movement correlate significantly with enthusiasm for conspiracy theories? If yes, what could be the root cause of that?


Look at the roots of the ID movement. The entire premise of “Darwin on Trial” is a conspiracy theory.

But it goes deeper than that. I would point to Francis Schaeffer’s 1968 book, Escape from Reason, and Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth in 1970. The next thing you know, Christian intellectuals are “fighting back” against “the Left,” trying to save our culture from the effects of the Enlightenment and the anti-Christian persecution that is surely just around the corner. That’s why it’s so easy to paint those who disagree as pawns of Satan instead of real human beings.


That makes it difficult to argue that we’re in danger of a program of forced sterilization, doesn’t it?

One child; in other words, one less than the average.

Personal choice.

Yes I will say that.

Evidence for this psychological bullying please. Where is it going on?

But as I have already pointed out, population rates in the West have been plummeting for decades, and are still dropping, for reasons entirely unrelated to climate change. Why? Because people have gradually been choosing to have fewer and fewer children, for reasons entirely unrelated to climate change. If you’re really worried about falling population rates, you need to understand why this is actually happening. For example, in Japan the declining birth rate has absolutely nothing to do with climate change. Same as in China, same as in many African countries. Absolutely nothing to do with “self-hating humans who put their planet before themselves”. Do you try this stuff on people in Japan? Tell them they’re self-hating humans who put their planet before themselves?


Vincent: despite your intellectual wanderings, there is no problem on earth that can’t be reduced or eliminated by a reduced population. We are beyond the earth’s carrying capacity and we only thrive because we are borrowing from the future.

To that I would add “Amusing Ourselves to Death : Public discourse in the age of show business” by Neil Postman (I find his name ironic re: “The Postman” the post-apocalyptic novel by David Brin to become a movie with Kevin Costner).

Also “Freakonomics” and “SuperFreakonomics” as indicators of the “Escape from Reason” I read all when they first caem out…

If you look closely at the Major and Minor Biblical prophets, you can read the collapse of the Israelite society (north and south) in the same way as the “Fall of the Roman Empire” and our current cultural condition. Malthusian doomsday forecasts are endemic because they are the logical outcome of the decay in any society that passes its “Golden Age”. Once we have identified we have had a “golden age” of anything, it is because we can see the degradation in comparison.

See Cross Topic To what degree might chronological snobbery affect our thinking about the matters we discuss on this forum? for further discussion.

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Sadly, like ‘World War Z’ and ‘I, Robot’, the book and the movie “The Postman” shared a name far more than a plot. :grin:

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