Tuesday, October 9, 2018
Tuesday, Oct 9, 2018
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Tuesday, October 9, 2018. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
After UN report on climate change, deluge of headlines warns of impending doom
Yesterday, the world was confronted by an entire array of headlines, all basically trying to say the same thing, and that is this we are destroying the earth. It is probably already too late to do anything about it. Human life as we know it may come to an end and planet earth probably cannot be saved.
Headline from the BBC in London: “Final Call to Save the World from Climate Catastrophe.”
Headline from US News: “Rapid Unprecedented Change Needed to Halt Global Warming.”
Headline from the Washington Post: “The World Has Just Over a Decade to Get Climate Change Under Control, UN Scientists Say.”
Headline from the LA Times: “Global Warming Report Carries Life or Death Warning.”
Headline from Time Magazine: “Scientist Just Laid Out Paths to Solve Climate Change, We Aren't On Track to Do Any of Them.”
Perhaps the most eloquent of all is the headline from the New York Post, one of the city's major tabloid newspapers: “Terrifying Climate Change Warning: 12 Years Until We're Doomed.”
One of the most extensive of the articles made the front page of the Washington Post—again, this headline: “The World Has Just Under a Decade to Get Climate Change Under Control, UN Scientists Say.” Chris Moony and Brady Dennis report, "The world stands on the brink of failure when it comes to holding global warming to moderate levels, and nations will need to take unprecedented actions to cut their carbon emissions over the next decade according to a landmark report by the top scientific body studying climate change."
The next paragraph, "With global emissions showing few signs of slowing, and the United States, the world's second largest emitter of carbon dioxide rolling back a suite of Obama era climate measures the prospects for meeting the most ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris agreement look increasingly slim." The next sentence, "To avoid racing past warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, that's 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit over preindustrial levels would require a rapid and far reaching transformation of human civilization at a magnitude that has never happened before, the group found."
Now, that's an astounding series of sentences. I read them all leaving out nothing just to make the point. It begins with the warning that the world has just under a decade to avoid what basically comes down to apocalypse and then within just a short series of sentences, before the end of the second paragraph we read, “That what will be required is nothing less,” let me quote it again, “that a transformation of human civilization at a magnitude that has never happened before.”
Now, I'll just ask an editing question here, how exactly do you decide how to treat that story even on the front page of the Washington Post? It seems like the New York Post is at least more honest in saying basically doomed, then by the time you finish the Washington Post article first two paragraphs, and find out that what's going to be required to avert catastrophe according to this report is a total reordering of human civilization. That's a bit much to read before breakfast.
This is not to say that this report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is not a serious report. It's not to say that it lacks all scientific credibility. Many of the people involved in this report are some of the most credible and respected climate scientists from around the world. It is to say that no report like this offered by any agency of the United Nations emerges from a nonpolitical context. This doesn't come from somewhere of value neutrality, such a place does not exist. This comes from within a certain worldview, and it also comes within a highly politicized and highly ideological context. That means, we need to read this report, and we need to read press reports about this report in a very careful way. Understand me? What are we actually reading?
By the time you look at the actual report from the United Nations group it becomes very clear that the highly exalted Paris Accord from which the United States withdrew last year are themselves ruled to be inadequate to reach the goals of keeping climate change below two degrees, aiming for 1.5 degrees Celsius. Now, also note something really interesting that was embedded within that second paragraph in the Washington Post article, that is the fact that we are told that the goals of limiting climate change are based upon records of what the climate was during the preindustrial era. Now, wait just a moment. That's really a long ways back. Furthermore, if it doesn't mean anything else, it means to some extent rolling back the gains of the industrial age.
This is where Christians need to think very carefully. If we date the industrial age at least to the last decade, no later than the last decades of the 19th century when human beings began to harness steam routinely, and then to turn all of that energy into factories, when we look at the industrial age, we're looking at now almost a century and a half of human experience. What's happened during that century and a half? Well, you would have to go back and say before that time there was no air conditioning, and there were no automobiles, there were no airplanes, there was no refrigeration as we know refrigeration today, there were no antibiotics, anesthetics were not routinely available, modern hospitals would have been impossible. You just begin to roll everything back and you understand why there is that abrupt sentence at the end of the second paragraph saying what will be required if we are to avoid doom is a transformation of human civilization.
These are the words of the Washington Post, again, “A transformation of human civilization at a magnitude that has never happened before.” If nothing else we should be at least glad that this report and the media reports in the main about the United Nations agency report are really honest about what they are demanding. They are demanding a reordering of human civilization. Many years ago, Bjorn Lomborg and others, who do accept the reality of climate change, and who even accept a human contribution to climate change pointed out that the only rational response is one that is based in rational choice theory, and a cost benefited analysis.
Now, in the main that's how most people reach routine decisions, it's based upon an assumption of what will be profitable, and what would lead to loss. Leaning into profit, avoiding loss. That's how corporations make their decisions. That's how institutions make their decisions. That's how nations make their decisions. As Lomborg and others argued eventually there will be some kind of balance between the understanding of profit and loss given the realities of what climate change will mean and what it would mean to try to respond to that challenge. That's to say that it's fundamentally unlikely.
Let's just call that an understatement that people in the modern industrialized west are going to say, “You know? We can actually do without automobiles, and airplanes. We can do without air conditioning and refrigeration. We can do without anesthetics and antibiotics. We can do without cat scans and school buses. We can simply return to the preindustrial era.” Now, just to make the point as plainly as honesty would demand it that is not going to happen.
Furthermore, the proof positive that, that is not going to happen, and isn't even really a serious proposal is the fact that the people that came up with this report, and the people reporting about the report are flying on airplanes, and they are driving in cars, and they're using all the artifacts of the industrial and even the postindustrial information age revolutions in order to file their stories, in order to make their report, and of course you have the ludicrous picture of people calling for an absolute end of carbon emissions by getting on private jets and flying across the Atlantic, and the Pacific routinely crossing across the United States in order to make their points at invited events. I also doubt that there were many people who walked to the meeting in which the report was released.
What we are looking at here is a crisis of honesty. It is a clash of world views, and it's also a test of just how serious Christians are as we are called to think about these things as Christians based upon an unapologetically biblical worldview. That means we need to pause, not to say that all of this report is thus to be dismissed, that's not a responsible, morally serious argument. But nor is it morally serious to argue for an immediate reformulation of human civilization lest we face doom.
There are a couple of other interesting paragraphs. For instance, in the Washington Post report I read, “The document in question was produced relatively rapidly for the cautious and deliberative IPCC, representing the work of nearly 100 scientists. It went through an elaborate peer review process involving tens of thousands of comments. The final thirty-four-page summary for policymakers was agreed to in a marathon session by scientists and government officials in Intron, South Korea over the past week.” Now, what should you be listening for there? Well, here's something to listen for, we are told that the final document and the summary for policymakers was agreed to in a marathon session that included whom? Scientists and government officials.
Now, it is not accurate to say that scientists operate without a specific worldview. It is certainly true that when you add government officials to the mix you then can't turn around and say that this is merely to be received as a supposedly scientific report. You put politicians in the room, guess what? It is no longer plausibly merely scientific. The next paragraph reads, “The report says the world will need to develop large scale negative emissions,” that's put in quotation marks, “Negative emissions programs to remove significant volumes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, although the basic technologies exist they have not caught on widely, and scientists have strongly questioned whether such a program can be scaled up in the brief period available. The bottom line, Sunday's report found is that the world is woefully off target.”
Now, wait just a minute, again. We are told that what will be required is not just the cuts in carbon emissions to which the world was committed, or at least many nations were committed in the so called Paris Accords, but that we will also now require negative emission programs. These are technologies, the Washington Post says, “The technologies do exist, but we need to know that they do not exist in any workable large scale form to remove carbon from the atmosphere.”
Other major media reports pointed out not only that there is no wide scale technology yet that exists to do so, but that other climate scientists warned that the use of such technologies could actually have negative effects rather than the positive effects that are hoped for. Perhaps at this point, Christians should ponder whether, or not the answer to human intervention in the climate is to call for even more human intervention in the climate. Perhaps a bit of human humility at this point is to ask whether, or not we know enough to start tampering further with the climate that we already confessed is at risk because of human behavior.
Now, here's an interesting point of consensus. If you were to go back about 15 years ago when the language was more commonly about global warming before the language was changed to climate change, the reality is that there was a very clear political distinction between those who said, “Yes, climate change is real, and there is human involvement that is behind it,” and those who would say, some of them perhaps even that global warming is not real, that climate change is not a discernible pattern, and that human beings have not contributed to it.
Now, that's no the consensus. The consensus is what is now in contrast in place in 2018. In 2018, there is a much broader consensus. It includes, for example, the Trump administration. The Trump administration has acknowledged in previous reports the reality of climate change, it has also acknowledged the reality of a human contribution to climate change, what it has rejected are the claims made by many of exactly how this should be addressed, and on what time table. Christians also have to understand when a report like this comes out that the credibility of the report has everything to do with the credibility of the agency, or the entity releasing the report. That takes us back from 2018, in the present, to 2009.
Just under a decade ago in 2009 this very organization, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations was on the front pages, because of a very different controversy. That controversy emerged after emails shared between officials, and scientists in the group had been hacked and released to the public. Emails, that were devastating to the credibility of the organization. Emails in which some climate scientists admitted that they were retrospectively creating data in order to meet the theories demanded by the politicians.
Now, that does not mean that this report is coming from the same kind of process, but it is to say it's coming from the very same organization. Furthermore, when you see an argument like this you need to track back and ask, who are the winners, and who are the losers, if this kind of report is taken seriously? Here's where we also need to understand that without denying climate change and without denying human responsibility to respond to it, you have to understand that governments, and industries, and economic factors are very much at play, and there will be those who would gain tremendously by a United Nations international consorted effort to shift to their products, and services rather than to the old industrial economy of carbon based fuels.
This is where we also have to understand that over the last decade or so there's already been a significant shift in the world's energy usage, and sources to those renewable sustainable green forms of energy, but this report tells us that, that will have to jump from 24% worldwide today to something more like 50% or 60% by 2030. But here's where we need to remember that over the last decade or so the worlds dependents upon sustainable, or green, or renewable energy sources has already risen to about 24%.
That raises the secondary question, as to whether, or not market forces, the natural operation of the world, and the advance of such industries will indicate that, that number, that percentage is certainly going to go up. Then you have to remember something else, also projected to go up, way up, is the worlds total energy need over the same period of time. Well, why is that so? Well, it is so because of the very important basic fact, there are many nations in the world that do not yet have what those of us in the west have, in the western industrialized nations. They do not have access to refrigeration, and air conditioning, and other conveniences of life that truly understood are not near conveniences.
A recent report indicated here in the United States air conditioning, alone, accounts for a massive energy use, but that same report, which was backed up with government involvement from the United States asked the question, “Is air conditioning under modern conditions actually a need or is it merely some kind of convenience?” The reality is it depends on certain days, or certain people it's a convenience. A very welcomed convenience on a hot day, but for others it's not a mere convenience and for all people on certain days it's not a mere convenience. The reality is that unbroken heat amounts to a very significant health crisis all over the world amounting to an enormous number of human deaths every single year.
Why those operating from a biblical worldview can understand environmental evils better than those operating from a secular worldview
This is where Christians operating from a biblical worldview have to go back to the very beginning. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Everything starts there. Everything flows from there. A Christian worldview reminds us that the creation is not an accident, that the cosmos is not merely some kind of cosmic incident. It is God's divine creation for his glory, and for our good as human beings. The only being made in his image, able consciously to take responsibility for the creation, and assigned that very responsibility in Genesis chapter one.
When human beings are told to exercise that responsibility, it comes in the context of the overarching biblical theme of stewardship. Dominion, which is a biblical mandate in Genesis chapter one, look at just verses 27, and 28, is not outside of the moral context of stewardship. We are in essence as Christians understand, as human beings, given responsibility to tend a garden, but we are tenant gardeners, we are responsible for the garden on behalf of the one who owns the garden. We will give an answer to the owner of the garden for how we have cared for the garden.
That this owner does not want us to leave the garden untilled, and unfertilized, and untended, he wants us to use the garden for it's intended purpose, human flourishing, human good is intended by God in creating planet earth, and putting human beings within it, and giving to human beings the responsibility, and even sharing in his own dominion, his own rule over this creation. Those who are operating out of a biblical worldview understand that we actually believe that pollution and other environmental evils are deeper evils than a secondary worldview can understand, because they're not merely assaults on mother earth, or mother nature. We don't believe in any such entity. They are rather insults to the creator who made the entire cosmos for his glory.
At the same time, we have to understand there is a deep anti-humanism that runs through so much of the ecological movement, and especially so much of the green community, and so many of those who are involved in much of the discussion about climate change, and a human contribution to climate change. These are the very same people who want us to believe that human beings are a blight upon the planet. But Christians also understand that human civilization though always tainted by sin is itself a demonstration of human beings made in God's image doing what God made human beings to do. Building, buildings. Damming up rivers. Creating sources of energy. Creating hospitals. Coming up with antibiotics. Coming up with air conditioning, and also with refrigeration. We understand that, that's what human beings do, not because we're some kind of cosmological accident, because we're not, rather it's what human beings do, and have the drive to do, because this is how we were made by the creator in his own image.
Thoughtful Christians will not merely dismiss this report, or the press reports about the report. They won't merely say, “Well, here are the green ideologues just proving themselves to be evermore green,” rather Christians should say, “Now, wait just a minute. Let's look at the very same reality, and let's consider it by the higher mandate of Christian stewardship, of the human stewardship of the earth, of our understanding of human beings made in God's image as a gift to the world, not as a blight upon planet earth.” This is where we also understand that human civilization is actually the accumulated result of untold millions and billions and trillions of human decisions.
We are responsible for those decisions, that's whey were responsible for our own civilization, but we also have to understand just how radical a report like this turns out to be. Calling without any embarrassment for a transformation of human civilization at a magnitude that has never happened before. This is where Christians finally have to understand that as radical as such a demand is it's not likely to happen. That is, civilizational change doesn't happen that rapidly, and civilization isn't made up of one mind making a decision, it is made up of now seven billion minds, making seven billion different sets of decisions, but if nothing else it also raises a very interesting question, what about all those reporters that told us that the biggest thing in the world was about who would sit on the United States Supreme Court, all that appears to have been washed away when on Monday morning those very same people put out a newspaper saying, “Oh, by the way, the planet is probably doomed, anyway. What does it matter who sits on the United States Supreme Court?”
Calling abortion a ‘fundamental right’ is a radical step, but it’s the next step for those committed to the culture of death
But next, the scene shifts to France where in recent days the liberal newspaper in Paris, Libération, has raised the issue as to whether doctors who are currently in France given conscience protections on the question of abortion should have those conscience protections revoked. At the end of September a group of socialist party senators in France decided to move forward with legislation that could completely suppress this conscious protection for French physicians and other medical professionals. We are told, according to report from the French Press Review that last year in 2017, 217,000 French women needed “medical assistance to end their pregnancies before term.”
Now, just consider the language used there. The press report defines over 200,000 French women who, let's look at the language again, “Needed medical assistance to end their pregnancies before term.” That means we should note, demanding medical assistance to kill the unborn child within them. The language matters, it matters massively. But then we understand a very interesting twist in this French story, because we find out that earlier in September the president of the physicians union representing gynecologists, Bertrand de Rochambeau, sparked a debate by saying that doctors should have no part to play in what he called, the withdraw of life.
In other words, the head of the physicians union of gynecologists there in France came out saying that medical doctors should have nothing to do with abortion rather they should protect the sanctity of human life. Yes, that happened by the head of the French Physicians Union of Gynecologists and Obstetricians, and yes it happened in France. But this has led to outrage in much of French political culture, and especially on the French left, and let's just say the French left is really left, and this leaves this doctor in the position of becoming the catalyst for having demands now made in the French government that all the conscience protections for doctors be removed.
The current health minister of the government of Emmanuel Macron criticized the doctor and “called for an investigation of the behavior of certain objecting doctors who the administer fears may be failing in their legal obligation to either perform abortions, or in the words of the report, to redirect their patients to a colleague who will perform an abortion.” Now, I'm turning to this in France, because it's very timely and it's a bit surprising, especially given the fact that this doctor had issued such a very clear pro life sentiment, that's out of step with much of the French government, and it is certainly out of step with much of the liberal west where abortion is now demanded, and medical professionals are increasingly being qualified by whether, or not they will perform abortions, as we have seen.
It is now open end discussion in Canada as to whether, or not applicants to medical schools should be required to give assent in advance that they will do abortions, because the argument from the left is that doctors who will not perform abortions are not performing the full array of medical services and thus are not good stewards of their medical education. You see just how perverse this logic is? Wesley J Smith, writing even before this news report in the pages of National Review reported what is already very apparent, “The medical and bioethics establishments and the international abortion lobby want to drive pro life, and Hippocratic oath believing doctors, midwives, and nurses out of medicine. We've seen the debate in Canada over access to medical school education. We have seen Scandinavian governments rule that midwives who will not participate in abortion can no longer serve as midwives.”
Wesley Smith points out that this logic will not even be restricted to abortion and is already in some circles being extended to assisted suicide. There are also demands, and this includes calls in the United States for medical doctors to have to give assent to an ideology of gender dysphoria even gender dysphoria in children before the can be credentialed for certain medical specialties. But at this point, I also want to draw attention to a major report entitled, Unconscionable When Providers Deny Abortion here that was released just this year from an international coalition, known as the International Women's Health Coalition, and the Women and Health in Uruguay Organization.
Now, what's important here is that what you see is an international organization receiving international political funds campaigning in this massive report for the elimination of conscience privileges for medical personnel everywhere on planet earth. The opening paragraph of the report reads, “The global women's movement has fought hard to increase access to safe and legal abortion. These efforts have contributed to the growing recognition of abortion access as a fundamental right, with countries around the world liberalizing their abortion laws.
In many instances, however, backlash to progress is the increasing use of what is known as conscience objection in the context of reproductive healthcare, which results in the denial of abortion services to those who need and want them.” Again, look at the language, reproductive healthcare, look at the outright call to eliminate these conscience objection provisions, look at the claim that abortion is a fundamental right. Now, just don't passover that quickly. A fundamental right, is a right that can in no way, by no court or government under any circumstance be curtailed. Calling abortion a fundamental right is an astonishingly radical step, but it's the next step in those who are committed to the culture of death.
Finally, as we bring this to a close, all of this should remind us that when these international groups release their international reports its very easy for Christians, particularly in the United States to say, “That's there, not here,” but this is where we need to remember that what's there, comes here. Furthermore, there are very well funded international organizations doing everything they can not only to influence, but to coerce national governments, including the government of the United States to join the revolution.