Christians In The Global Greenhouse -- By: Donald A. Hay

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 41:1 (NA 1990)
Article: Christians In The Global Greenhouse
Author: Donald A. Hay

Christians In The Global Greenhouse1

Donald A. Hay

I. Introduction

The inhabitants of planet Earth are quietly conducting a gigantic environmental experiment. So vast and sweeping will be the consequences that, were it brought before any responsible council for approval, it would be firmly rejected. Yet it goes on with little interference from any jurisdiction or nation. The experiment in question is the release of CO2 and other so-called ‘greenhouse gases’ to the atmosphere.2

This quotation from Broecker typifies the increasing alarm being expressed by environmental and atmospheric scientists over the ‘greenhouse effect’. Put simply, this effect arises from the activities of the human race in releasing into the atmosphere quantities of carbon dioxide (by burning fossil fuels) and of other trace gases such as chlorofluorocarbons, methane and nitrogen oxides (from activities as apparently harmless as using aerosol sprays, or driving cars). These greenhouse gases have no substantial effect on the incoming radiation from the sun, which heats the earth’s surface: but are very effective in preventing the escape from the atmosphere of the infrared radiation from the warmed surface of the earth. As the green-house gases accumulate, so the warming effect becomes more and more pronounced. Furthermore, man’s activities have also interfered, in a substantial way, with the natural processes by which carbon dioxide and other trace gases are removed from the atmosphere: the destruction of tropical rain forests is a very significant example. The precise environmental impact of

these activities is far from certain,3 mainly because the interactions between the atmosphere, the oceans and the land in determining world climates and biological activities are so complex. Some of the scenarios envisaged read more like science fiction: ‘The world is warming. Climatic zones are shifting. Glaciers are melting. Sea level is rising’.4 But the same authors go on to state:

These are not hypothetical events from a science-fiction movie: these changes are already taking place, and we expect them to accelerate over the next years as the amounts of carbon dioxide, methane and other trace gases accumulating in the atmosphere through human activities increase.

The purpose of this paper is to ask whether Christians have a distinctive viewpoint on these matters. In section II it is noted that the issues raised go far beyond scientific...

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