The Earth Strikes Back! | Tomorrow's World

The Earth Strikes Back!

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Does global warming signal the end of the world? Does alarming global climate change relate to Bible prophecy? The truth of the matter may surprise you!

Not long ago, a major newspaper in England ran a feature article with this bold headline: "Is this the end of the world? Earthquakes. Hurricanes. Floods. What is happening to our planet?" The article referred to three major hurricanes that devastated New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast of America in 2005. It cited deadly heat waves and droughts, and the huge tidal wave that swept across the Indian Ocean leaving a trail of death and destruction.

The author reeled off a string of global calamities: "The sea is turning to acid, the air is choking us, the polar ice caps are melting. Famine, pestilence and plague used to be dread words from the Bible; now they are reasons for compassion fatigue… No wonder some people believe we are living in the End Times." The article described how 200 leading scientists had warned British Prime Minister Tony Blair that "global calamity was closer than ever because of climate change." The writer admitted, "Even those of us who are less convinced that the end is absolutely nigh do watch the news, read the papers or flee the latest natural disaster and wonder what on earth is happening to our planet. Is this the beginning of the end?" (The Independent on Sunday, October 16, 2005).

On February 2 of this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body of scientists and members from 113 countries, released its "Climate Change 2007" report, forecasting that temperatures and sea levels will continue to increase "for centuries." The panel predicted sea levels to rise between 7 and 30 inches by the end of the century, and temperatures to rise 2 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit.

Is something ominous and extraordinary really happening on this earth, or are concerns about climate change nothing more than partisan fears unsupported by facts? Have we entered a unique and unprecedented time in the history of our planet, or are we merely witnessing extremes of nature that fall within the normal range? Is the earth, long abused by human development, now striking back?

Today, many sense that big changes are occurring around the globe, yet few realize there is a unique source that explains the real significance of world events. While scientists can record facts, they can only speculate about the future. The Bible, however, contains dozens of prophecies that reveal what conditions will be like at the end of this age, just before the return of Jesus Christ. Jesus told His disciples to watch for a series of events that would mark this crucial turning point in history. Are global environmental conditions actually beginning to resemble long-pondered Bible prophecies?

Decades of Warnings

Concerns about a perceived link between dramatic environmental events, global climate change and the future of human civilization are neither new nor surprising. Dr. Paul Ehrlich, professor of biological sciences at Stanford University, has written: "The dire environmental dangers our civilization faces are certainly no secret… For decades, environmental scientists have warned of interconnected environmental trends, such as loss of plant and animal diversity, rapid climate change, and the spread of toxic chemicals over the earth, that, unless reversed, could ultimately bring down our civilization" (One with Nineveh, p. 7). Ehrlich quotes a 1993 report by 58 academies of science: "The magnitude of the threat… is linked to human population size and resource use per person… As human numbers further increase, the potential for irreversible changes of far-reaching magnitude also increases" (ibid., p. 8).

While serving as chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality during the Carter administration, Yale forestry professor Dr. James Speth was among those sounding an alarm regarding threats to the global environment. More than 25 years ago, Speth collected scientists' alarming reports about anticipated global climatic disruptions—reports that have proved startlingly accurate. Speth and others began to see "a new agenda of global environmental challenges more threatening and difficult than the predominantly domestic concerns that motivated us… Climate change, devastation of ocean fisheries, deforestation in the tropics, loss of species, land deterioration, and other unwanted processes were occurring on a frightening scale and pace" (Red Sky at Morning, p. xi).

Researcher Clive Ponting of University College, Swansea, in the United Kingdom, warns: "It is now virtually certain… that global temperatures will rise to a level never before experienced in settled societies or even in the last 100,000 years… Global warming is therefore a demonstration, for the first time on a world-wide scale, of the results of ignoring vital ecological constraints. The consequences for life, earth and humanity will be profound" (A Green History of the Earth, p. 405). But what exactly is happening to the earth's environment to generate such serious concern from scientists?

Our Threatened Planet

The most fundamental and far-reaching environmental challenges we face today are increasing levels of planet-warming greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane and chlorofluorocarbons that trap heat coming from the sun. Carbon dioxide is released from burning fossil fuels—oil, gasoline, coal and natural gas. Methane is released by the microbial decomposition of organic matter. Air conditioning systems use chlorofluorocarbons. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have risen from pre-industrial levels of 280 parts per million (before 1750ad), to more than 380 parts per million in 2005, and ice core samples from Antarctica show that "carbon dioxide is 27 percent higher than at any other time in the last 650,000 years" (Environment, Jan/Feb 2006, pp. 6–7). Global emissions of carbon dioxide could increase as much as 60 percent between 2001 and 2025, as populous nations like India and China continue to industrialize and acquire more gasoline-powered automobiles (Speth, p. 18). Between one-third and one-half of the world's forests have been destroyed, which adds to increasing carbon dioxide levels because trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (ibid., p. 14).

This increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide correlates closely with increasing global temperatures. In the last 30 years, the earth has been warming by about 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit each decade, bringing earth's average temperature to the "highest since the end of the last ice age about 12,000 years ago" (New York Times, September 26, 2006). Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States, points out in his noteworthy book, An Inconvenient Truth, that 20 of the 21 hottest years since the 1860s have occurred in the last quarter century (pp. 72–73). The effects of increased temperature are most dramatic nearer to the North and South Poles, where melting snow and ice reflect less sunlight, and the exposed land and ocean absorb more heat from the sun—amplifying the warming effect. Several recent studies show that "melting of the winter sea ice in the Arctic had accelerated enormously in the past two years, with a section the size of Turkey disappearing in just 12 months" (The Independent, September 9, 2006).

Around the world, glaciers are melting at increasingly rapid rates. Studies indicate that thawing permafrost areas in sub-arctic regions will release methane, which has 20 times the warming capacity of carbon dioxide. Researchers see this unanticipated release of large quantities of methane as a "climate time bomb" waiting to explode, which will dramatically increase global temperatures (Science News, September 9, 2006). Norwegian scientists have discovered that concentrations of chlorofluorocarbons—which trap heat a thousand times more than carbon dioxide—have doubled between 2001 and 2004 (New Scientist, September 30, 2006). All this has accelerated temperature increases in the last 20 years.

One consequence of global temperatures rising, and sea ice and continental glaciers melting, is sea levels rising. As warming temperatures melt glaciers that release water into the oceans, sea levels rise. In the last century, ocean levels rose about 8 inches while the earth's temperature rose about one degree Fahrenheit (New York Times, June 20, 2006). Scientists estimate that a three-degree rise in temperature would melt much of the float ice in the Arctic and ice shelves in the Antarctic, as well as the Greenland glacier, which could raise ocean levels several feet (The Revenge of Gaia, Lovelock, pp. 51–53). This would inundate much of south Florida, the U.S. Gulf Coast and eastern seaboard, much of southeastern England and many low-lying islands in the Indian Ocean. Millions of people would be displaced and forced to migrate from Kolkata, Beijing and Shanghai (Gore, pp. 198–209). Rising sea levels make coastal developments and cities along tidal rivers more vulnerable to storm surges. If London were inundated and devastated by a storm surge, it could be ruined as a financial center, "which would lead to Frankfurt becoming Europe's financial center" (The Times, August 23, 2006). Sir David King, chief science advisor to the British government, has noted that because of rising temperatures and sea levels, "The maps of the world will have to be redrawn" (Gore, pp. 196–197).

As glaciers and sea ice melt, millions of gallons of fresh water will be released into the oceans. This will dilute the salt concentration of ocean water, and could disrupt the flow of the Gulf Stream. This could have catastrophic effects on the agricultural areas of northwestern Europe. Rising temperatures are also associated with record heat waves and increasing droughts, torrential downpours and disastrous floods, as well as record-breaking storms and hurricanes. The three hurricanes that pounded New Orleans in 2005 were the largest, most intense storms ever recorded! In 2006, some of the hottest and driest conditions on record devastated farm production in Australia (The Sydney Morning Herald, October 28, 2006). A recent report by a governmental agency in the UK predicts the earth's temperature will increase by 3 degrees centigrade (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050, which will "cause drought and famine for 400 million people and devastate wildlife… because of lost arable land and water shortages" (The Times, May 4, 2006). Temperature increases have already reduced the population of Emperor penguins in the Antarctic by 70 percent, as stable sea ice essential for nesting has thinned, broken apart and floated out to sea (Gore, p. 178). Rising global temperatures in recent decades have also contributed to the spread of infectious diseases like malaria and West Nile Fever to new areas (Environment, June 26, 2006, pp. 6–7). Over the last quarter-century, some 30 new diseases have emerged—and old diseases are now surging again (Gore, p. 174).

Civilization in Danger

Scientists who project the consequences of global warming describe the future with a sobering perspective—which has remarkable biblical overtones! One scientist observes: "We are modifying physical, chemical and biological systems… [of the earth]… at faster rates, and over larger spatial scales than ever recorded on Earth. Humans have unwittingly embarked on a grand experiment with our planet… [that] has profound implications for all life on Earth… we are fast approaching many of the earth's limits. Current economic practices which damage the environment… cannot be continued without the risk that vital global systems will be damaged beyond repair" (Speth, p. 17). Cambridge University professor Martin Rees notes that "in the twenty-first century, humanity is more at risk than ever before from the misapplication of science. And the environmental pressures induced by collective human actions could trigger catastrophes more threatening than natural hazards… I think the odds are no better than fifty-fifty that our present civilization on Earth will survive to the end of the present century without a serious setback" (Our Final Century, pp. 8, 186).

Author James Kunstler describes a series of "world-altering forces [economic, political and environmental]… that will fundamentally alter the terms of everyday life… on a scale no one has ever seen before" (The Long Emergency, pp. 1–2). He writes: "Global warming is no longer a theory being disputed by political interests, but an established scientific consensus… [and that in addition to rising temperatures, flooding, spreading disease and desertification]… global warming will contribute to conditions that will shut down the global economy" (ibid., pp. 8–9). In this context, Kunstler describes what scientists call an "omega point"—the point where "the vast interconnected networks of Earth's ecologies are so weakened that human existence is no longer possible" (ibid.).

Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation, has warned: "Few Americans and few Washington political leaders comprehend how very little time we have left to act before we lose control of global warming. Within our children's lifetime the planet, under current rates of greenhouse gas emissions, will hit a tipping point that can trigger runaway global warming" (National Wildlife, Aug/Sep 2006, p. 9). James Lovelock, a Fellow of the Royal Society, wrote: "Despite all our efforts to retreat sustainably, we may be unable to prevent a global decline into a chaotic world ruled by brutal war lords on a devastated Earth" (Lovelock, p. 154).

Climate Change and Prophecy

It is sobering to see how the warnings of prominent scientists and world leaders are beginning to resemble Bible prophecies that describe the end of this age and the time preceding the return of Jesus Christ. When Jesus was asked, "What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?", He told His disciples to watch for a period of "wars and rumors of wars… famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places" (Matthew 24:3–7). The Apostle John pictures these same end-time events as the last three "horsemen" (war, famine and disease) that will kill a quarter of the world's population (Revelation 6:3–8). Today, scientists forecast that millions will die from climate-induced famines, and in wars over resources like water and oil (Kunstler, p. 5; Speth, pp. 18–19). Jesus called these increasingly global calamities "the beginning of sorrows" that would precede His imminent return (Matthew 24:8, 32–35). Scientists say today's climate changes are only the leading edge of more catastrophic changes coming in the future.

Jesus also predicted that before His return there would be a "great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world… and unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved" (Matthew 24:21–22). Is it merely a coincidence that leading scientists today are saying virtually the same thing—that rising temperatures may alter the earth so dramatically "that it will be unable to sustain life" in the years ahead? Today, as scientific studies document the increasing extinction of species, plankton and coral reefs are dying in warmer and more acidic oceans, while commercial fishing is decimating the world's fish stocks. Strikingly, the prophet Hosea warned that a time would come when "the land will mourn; and everyone who dwells there will waste away with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air; even the fish of the sea will be taken away" (Hosea 4:1–3).

The prophet Joel predicted an unprecedented drought, "the land mourns… the new wine is dried up, the oil fails… the grain is withered… the beasts groan… the water brooks are dried up" in conjunction with the "Day of the Lord"—the period leading up to Christ's return (Joel 1:2–3, 10–20; see "The Day of the Lord" on page 10 of this issue). Long ago Moses warned that disobedience to the laws of God would lead to drought and famine (Leviticus 26:14, 19–20). Is it just a coincidence that scientists now predict that climate change will turn much of the earth's productive agricultural surface into parched desert incapable of producing food?

The biblical reason for the prophesied calamities is that human beings have forgotten the laws of God—including the biochemical and ecological laws God designed to govern the functioning of our environment (Hosea 4:6). As a result, God tells us He will let us experience the consequences of breaking these fundamental laws, and that we will reap what we have sown (see Hosea 4:9; Jeremiah 2:19). Modern scientists have come to the same conclusion about global climate changes caused by human activities—that "we brought it upon ourselves" (Speth, p. 21). Today, scientists are writing about "the revenge of Gaia"—yet this is nothing new; thousands of years ago, Moses warned the Israelites that if they defiled the land, it would vomit them out (Leviticus 18:28). Yes, as was foretold, the earth is striking back! But are we doomed? Are we really facing the end of the world?

Tomorrow's World

Forecasters trying to look beyond what they see as the coming collapse of our modern civilization envision the need for a "guidebook"—written in clear and simple terms—that will enable survivors to "rebuild civilization without repeating too many of our mistakes" (Lovelock, pp. 156–158). This book should be "a manual for living well and for survival" that contains vital information about the purpose of life, our proper relationship to the earth, basic laws of health and guidelines for proper behavior (ibid.). Modern intellectuals, who assume that no such book exists, do not realize that this essential information can be found in the Bible. Scripture states that the earth belongs to God (Psalm 24:1), and that human beings were meant to take care of it as stewards (Genesis 1:28; 2:15). When Jesus returns, He will "destroy those who destroy the earth" (Revelation 11:18) and use His saints to bring about "the times of restoration of all things"—including the environment of this earth (Acts 3:19–21). The present dramatic climate changes are not a preview of the end of the world, but rather are a prelude to a much more exciting future you can be part of—if you begin to live by what is actually in the Bible, and learn to recognize the significance of environmental changes taking place around the globe, as we approach Tomorrow's World!


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