Christians and Climate Science: Moving Beyond Fear to Action

A very perceptive book, as well as the Freakonomics titles. With apologies to @Casper_Hesp, who has some connection to L’Abri, if I recall correctly, I did not mention Schaeffer’s book in a positive sense. Although I greatly respect the man and the work that he did, I think he was wrong in his philosophical diagnosis of Western culture. However, it was the men who pushed his ideas to the extreme who did the real damage. Somehow, they thought they could turn back the clock 400 years to the golden age of the Enlightenment. Modernism and relativism became the bogeymen, as well as scientists, intellectuals, educators, the media, etc., etc., etc. If you want to see the fallout, just look around.

Sorry to “double up” on you. Many people talk about God judging this country, usually for some laundry list of sins. If we want to take God’s judgment on Israel as our example, we first have to realize that the United States is not in covenant with God, and it is certainly not a theocracy. We can learn from Israel’s example, but we have to apply that example to our own situation. Second, we have to recognize the principle of corporate solidarity, in that the king often was taken as representing the entirety of the nation. So, with those caveats in place, here’s what my own study of the prophets revealed:

Almost always, God’s case against the nation came down to a few simple things: 1) Disloyalty to God and his covenant, 2) Corruption of courts and lack of justice, 3) Mistreatment of the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the stranger. Here are two representative passages, Isaiah 58:1-10 and Jeremiah 22:1-5 –

“Cry aloud, spare not;
Lift up your voice like a trumpet;
Tell My people their transgression,
And the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek Me daily,
And delight to know My ways,
As a nation that did righteousness,
And did not forsake the ordinance of their God.
They ask of Me the ordinances of justice;
They take delight in approaching God.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen?
Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’

In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure,
And exploit all your laborers.
Indeed you fast for strife and debate,
And to strike with the fist of wickedness.
You will not fast as you do this day,
To make your voice heard on high.
Is it a fast that I have chosen,
A day for a man to afflict his soul?
Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush,
And to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call this a fast,
And an acceptable day to the LORD?

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’

If you take away the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.”

Thus says the Lord: “Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and there speak this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah, you who sit on the throne of David, you and your servants and your people who enter these gates! Thus says the Lord: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. For if you indeed do this thing, then shall enter the gates of this house, riding on horses and in chariots, accompanied by servants and people, kings who sit on the throne of David. But if you will not hear these words, I swear by Myself,” says the Lord, “that this house shall become a desolation.”’”

If you notice, the prophets are in agreement with Jesus on this point … If there is judgment coming our way, it is because of these corporate sins, not because of individual sins.

Edit: Expanded the last sentence a bit

Without implying support of everything @vjtorley has said, this is an important point.

One can agree that climate change is (1) real, (2) caused by humans, and (3) of grave consequence, while still questioning the wisdom of costly efforts that even the experts who promote them agree will not work.

We need some solution to this problem, but what exactly is it?


Yes, you’re right. But I don’t agree with Torley’s apparent suggestion that since we cannot reverse the process of climate change with our current technology, we should just throw up our hands and do nothing. I’m sure you know better than I that science and technology proceed incrementally. Today’s inefficient tech may lead to tomorrow’s breakthrough.

Sorry for the edit, but I do have one suggestion: Spend money on education, especially for young women in third-world countries!


I don’t think we should be thinking there will be any “It” that will be “the” solution. Even if there was a revolutionary cold fusion breakthrough tomorrow and suddenly all our oceans became sources of virtually free energy, can you imagine what that might do to the whole global warming situation? We don’t take such advances and respond with “oh good! now we can continue doing our x,y, and z but with only a fraction of the energy we needed before!”. No – what happens instead is we respond with: “oh good! now we can do 2x, 2y, 2z, and the a, b, c, and d we’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t before!” We end up spending all our gains toward increased consumption instead. Give a family a hefty increase in income and they rarely put it all away in savings while maintaining their same lifestyle. Rather, their lifestyle changes. To me this is the main reason that ecological sustainability will be found more with a plethora of attitude changes than in technological gains, much less one revolutionary breakthrough.

I’ll take exception to the first part of your statement. I sat under Scheaffer for a month of personal study while he visited India in 1973. However, I’ll agree that the excesses of followers overstated the systematics (as so many followers of ground-breaking thinkers do.
I found Scheaffer was speaking to my need for an “Intellectual Answer” to my conservative church upbringing in the “Just So” school of theology. It helped me break into an adult world-view of Christianity and I later moved away from Schaeffer after looking critically at Os Guinness’ “the Dust of Death”.

Oh, I agree completely. My statement was not to take up the complete ideal of us reflecting Israel exactly. However, the loss of the “Spiritual” guidelines of any nation as it drifts from its founding precepts always brings a decadence, regardless of its philosophical, theological, or economic foundation.

ALL cultures go through major upheavals and I think we are currently experiencing the division between the rural agronomy with iron industrial and a judeo-christian memory (al la Schaffer original idea) to that of a digital economy with a “secular” (social-progressive) philosophy. This divide is generational as much as anything, so a “new” balance will eventually come about as the older generation (me and the baby-boomers) pass into history.
Obviously I do not expect the US to go into an exile or follow Israel in other ways. I strongly feel the US is not destined to lead in any Biblically prophetic sense whatsoever.

Your quotation of Jeremiah and Isaiah are two of my favorite passages which I use when I am looking at these issues! So we are closer together than perhaps I sounded in my prior post!.

Ray :sunglasses:

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I am not sure there will be any solution available that the Western nations would be politically or economically willing to embrace. To do so would mean sacrificing our cultural love of material/digital consumerism and individualism on a scale that would change our nation beyond recognition.

And that is the thing, I believe, scares us the most. It is easier to ignore it and pass it on to the next generation to fix. Besides, without major changes to China’s economy (energy profile), our ability to change it in any great manner is moot. The western world’s energy consumption profile is enough to keep raising the temperature of the planet, even if we did get rid of Co2 problemm and used wind/water power exclsively! .

As a former (retired) Senior Network Admin for Bergquist Company (a manufacturer of AC/DC circuit boards and LED devices), I studied the electrical loading of computer systems. Do you realize over half (3/5) of all power consumed by a computer is turned into heat by the AC/DC conversion. The lower half of the waveform is truncated into a digital pulse, leaving the remainder to waste heat and into the ground wire (fires with ground wires are common in buildings without proper rewiring for large numbers of computers).
The DC pulse is turned into heat as the circuits and components does its “work”. In fact, all power actually “used” is turned into waste heat and released into the environment (even our bodies at about 100 watts per hour).

There is an answer to this but it requires wiring a whole building with a DC converter that uses both sides of the waveform for DC power conversion (what large server farms use, removing all internal power supplies). But the most of the power consumption and heat waste is in individual devices like home computers and all the cell phone chargers and batteries (even more wasteful (80-90%). And you still have the waste heat of all the systems dumped into the HVAC systems of a building (or home, car, pocket, free air).
Most energy studies that state how efficient digital equipment is when compared to older technology, does not take the waste dump of the AC/DC into account.

Electric cars and other “safe” technologies rely on AC/DC conversion and are no better, if not worse. Getting rid of only fossil-fuel generation is not enough to prevent the continuation of Global warming even if it is a major percentage of the problem.

Ray :sunglasses:

Oh! and the new LED lightbulbs also waste AC/DC heat. Their efficiency is only measured at the light output, not how hot the base gets when it is operating!)

There is no “it”, there is a “them”. There is no one single solution. That’s actually one of the most important points; we need to take a range of actions in order to reduce global warming. We know it is possible, because earlier actions succeeded in slowing global warming, so there’s no excuse for not trying to do more. We also know very well the kind of actions which will mitigate climate change, and we need to be doing a lot more of them. But the fact is many of them are politically unpleasant, and there are powerful corporate interests invested in opposing them.


The problem has been long term and the solution requires a long term trajectory that ultimately protects BOTH the environment and world economies. Forcing poor nations into greater poverty makes the cure worse than the disease.

The long term trajectory is to develop ways to use CO2 as a raw material for the synthesis of valuable things such as building materials, components for cars, houses, tv, computer etc. This requires a concerted effort, and the biggest obstacle(s) comes from the green lobby(s) who oppose as an ideology all fossil fuel technology, and the outdated fossil fuel generators who want to use their dirty plant for the income they obtain.

Renewables are intermittent and “pay back” for material construction is lengthy because of this, and the low-intensity per unit - one power station can generate more than 1000MW continuously - you need a huge number of wind and solar farms to do the same/

The technology exists for zero-emissions fossil fuelled plant with sound economics - but the political will and the progressive outlook does not.

No hard feelings :slight_smile: . I visited L’Abri a few times and I really appreciate the work they do. However, the only book I read from Francis Schaeffer himself is True Spirituality and I did not really like it. He continues to have a large influence on the Christian world because, for example, he helped formulate the Lausanne statement of faith.

You have some misinformation here, Ray. And some truth too. Regarding the AC/DC conversion in systems – that may have been true enough at one time. Was it recently that you were looking at this data as a senior network analyst? Full-wave rectifiers are old technology and they do not discard half of every cycle as waste like half-wave rectifiers would. My electrical engineering degree is from 1992, and it was already tried and true technology then. So with all the not-so-new energy consciousness companies have now had for a while competing for their various “green ratings” it would be disappointing if they hadn’t long ago “plugged these leaks” so to speak – it would be astonishingly low-hanging fruit. That said, you are right that servers and client systems are a large energy consumer in our society now, and yes – all energy turns ultimately into heat as it always has.

Okay – this needs to be teased apart to avoid some serious misunderstanding, because you run the gamut here from truly serious energy consumption (like HVAC systems) all the way to comparatively trivial energy consumption (device chargers). Your extra energy consumption from leaving a device charger plugged in all day (with or without any device charging on it) is a very tiny sliver of your energy consumption. Most of them would be consuming less than 10 Watts while they are charging your device! and less than 1/2 a watt if a device is not currently charging. (There could be older ones that use more – or larger laptop charger will be closer to 100W consumption while charging a computer). SO – if you had diligently unplug your cell phone charger from the wall while it isn’t in use, (and we’ll assume an inefficient 0.5 W of power) that saves you 12 watt-hours of energy in a 24 hour period. This is enough to run a 1 KW window unit AC for … wait for it … a full 43 seconds! (Or about the same for a hair dryer running with full heat for the same time too).

Take away: small device chargers are small potatoes in all this. We have much bigger fish to fry. Air conditioners, ovens, or nearly anything with heat elements in it will quickly drown out any trickle savings your could possibly gain by carefully unplugging small device chargers. (Caveat: if your charger still feels warm to the touch even when it has not been charging anything, then it probably is older or might have a problem. But even then I would probably be unplugging it more to eliminate potential fire hazard than because of any significant energy savings.) Still, (as I heard one power consumption researcher observe regarding unplugging unused chargers): “If everybody does a little bit, then as a nation what we accomplish is … merely a little bit.”

There is no disputing that AC/DC conversions are not 100% efficient --I’ll not argue with you there. But they still are not as wasteful as a fossil fuel engine is. Moving toward electrical technology is not a free-lunch. Nobody should be claiming otherwise. But it does remove the energy source away from dedicated fossil fuel … to … whatever means of electrical production you have in your region. So that might still be fossil fuel, but it may increasingly be some green source too. That means if you’re running your electric car in my home state of Kansas, it was running on about 30% wind energy this last year. So electric cars are poised to be tapped into increasingly greener energy sources whereas ICR vehicles are locked into fossil fuel consumption. But even if your state was still all coal-sourced electricity, the share of your carbon footprint going up a (probably scrubbed) power-plant smoke stack will be smaller than what comes out of the tail pipes of a traditional vehicle. So even here in the U.S (65% coal-sourced electricity) an electric car only puts out 202g of CO2 per km driven, whereas the typical American gasoline car puts out 300g for the same driven km according to this site. Some countries do even better with their greener electricity, and some do worse. But in either case, the electric car automatically improves as the sources improve. No such luck for all the rest of our cars. And of course, the whole highly-powered individual transport idea is a questionable (at best) paradigm to begin with for long distance locomotion, whether electric or not.

One last thing. LED lights have power ratings that really do beat the best fluorescent technologies (which in turn had easily beat incandescent technologies). Those ratings already take into account any losses they incur from the AC/DC conversion in their bases. You may be right that said conversion is where they suffer most of their losses. But you are not correct to imply that this hasn’t been already accounted for in their rated consumption. (I’ve tested this). When an LED bulb is rated at 5W (and gives the equivalent lumens that a traditional 60W bulb had), that means that the LED bulb is really consuming only 5W (or 1/12 of the electrical energy of the 60W bulb). While they are still more expensive up front, they really are a much greener lighting solution than we’ve ever had before.

Edited to back off just a bit on my comparison between IC / electrical cars.

Mea culpa. And thanks for your generous clarifications. Not an excuse but an explanation for my foolhardy post, I had a colonoscopy and I was recovering from anesthesia. As the warning said “Do not drive a car or make any legal decisions for the next 24 hours”. Yeah, I should have taken that to heart about spouting off here!

I should have realized I needed to update my knowledge… This was the 1998- 2008 version of AC/DC Cell Phone tower power conversion implemented in our products at that time.

My apologies to all…

Ray :frowning2:

This is an interesting discussion about environmental policy, but we shouldn’t overlook the fact that the impetus for this article is the large-scale denial of the mere reality of anthropogenic climate change by many Christians, especially Evangelicals. This is the more immediate problem, IMO.


No problems – and thank you for posting as you did, because even in composing my response I discovered I needed to update a few bits of my own knowledge as well that were a bit out of date. Thanks for pushing me to do that!

I think Mr. Torley’s response shows an interesting progression from how many responded to these issues even just ten years ago. Back then there was still plenty of “it’s not happening”, and especially “well – if it is, it’s not necessarily human-caused.” And certainly both of those reactions haven’t completely gone away yet, but do you notice that Mr. Torley (at least in his opening lines) concedes those first two points? He has moved on beyond denial (even of anthropogenic causes) to general fears of how people (especially governments) are responding or might respond to it. In other words the debate may have shifted away from the earlier denials to argumentation over “so what should we do?”

If my reflection is accurate, that would be progress, no?

Agreed, that’s progress.

One good thing about LEDs in our hot climate, is that the diminished heat load also saves on air conditioning costs/ electrical usage, so you double the savings.

I have a feeling that the impetus, as you call it, is really bound up the with “Packaging” of other political/cultural problems Evangelicals are facing. The fact that the climate change issue has been “forced down our throats” as I have heard people say, is coming from the political left. If it had come without the political overburden of all the other liberal/progressive ideas being pushed, it might have gotten a fairer hearing.

The fact that we, as a population of varying politico/religious backgrounds, are generally bound together into like-minded groups, regardless of how accurate or not that may be. it is the same with the left/progressives or any other group. And the media bias on both sides does little to enlighten things.

I think (IMHO) that to Evangelicals the whole issue is “bug-dust” compared to other issues over the last election cycle. The fact that the ecology-mind groups, which we deride as “Tree-huggers” and such throughout my generation, is likely not ever going to change much on this issue. It is likely the millennials who are paying attention to this more than baby-boomers.

Ray :sunglasses:

That is frosting on the cake for those places and times where we need air conditioning! I used to think that during winter times efficiency of appliances would be of no consequence since you do need the heat too after all. So your inefficient light bulb is just adding wanted heat to your house which would translate to 100% efficiency, right? But the one drawback (other than encroaching summer seasons) is that it is possible for some of us to do much better than 100% efficiency. If you are fortunate enough to have an efficient heat pump cooling or heating your home, then that same Joule of consumed electrical energy that turns into 1 J of household heat can instead pump four or five times as much heat into your house from the outside. Such a coefficient of performance means the mere 100% efficient heating is no longer the best expenditure for your electrical energy.

I’m just glad that all these green industrial applications are now solid parts of our economy. To me one of the best ways to get otherwise politically suspicious parties to get more excited about green things is to show how successful so much of this already is/has already been in the private sector. So the question to ask them is this: who do you want to be the strong leaders in the continued developments / deployments of these new technologies? The U.S.? Or China or other European nations? If we want to give our leadership away, those other nations will be very happy to take up that mantle and all the associated jobs. Are we patriotic and wanting to be leaders? Or not?

That isn’t a mere polemic. That’s reality. And if all tree-hugging liberals were to disappear tomorrow, then their politically-motivated opponents would still have reality to face. And reality will be neither a kind nor an accommodating mistress to those still wanting to dabble in alternate versions of her.

Nailed it. :hammer: