Hawaiian Senator Mazie Hirono recently stated that people should “believe in climate change as though it’s a religion.” She then very quickly added, “It’s not, it’s science.”1 But one can’t help but wonder: Is climate change—especially the belief in catastrophic anthropogenic (man-made) global warming (CAGW)—a religion of sorts?
Many people think religious beliefs are held in the absence of evidence for those beliefs. Of course, this is a caricature of true, biblical faith. Real faith involves certainty. The Bible’s very definition of faith (Hebrews 11:1) contains the words “evidence” and “assurance.”
Despite this common misconception, one can make a case that belief in CAGW is not based on evidence.
The issue at the heart of the controversy is something called equilibrium climate sensitivity.2 This sensitivity is the long-term change in average surface temperature, after the climate has settled down in response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). Those who are worried about global warming claim climate sensitivity is high, whereas those who are less concerned think that it is low.
If one ignores badly-flawed research, such as Michael Mann’s famous (or infamous) “hockey stick” graph,3-5 there are two main arguments for high climate sensitivity. The first argument is that computer climate models have consistently predicted significant warming. However, these climate models are relatively crude, and past model predictions of temperature change, in retrospect, have almost always been higher than the actual temperatures.6,7
The second argument is the astronomical (or Milankovitch) ice age theory. This theory holds that slow changes in Earth’s orbital and rotational motions over tens of thousands of years cause subtle changes in the way sunlight falls on the Earth. These sunlight variations are thought to control the timing of ice ages. However, these changes in sunlight are too small to alone cause past ice ages.8,9 Hence, advocates for the astronomical theory insist that climate sensitivity must be high, enabling the climate to somehow amplify these small changes to bring about ice ages or warm periods.10
However, original ICR research has shown that, even by secular reckoning, scientists undermined their “smoking gun” evidence for the theory in the early 1990s.11 In fact, it seems that some scientists became aware that evidence for the theory was deficient in 1996, and then quietly tried to find supporting evidence for the theory.12,13 But neither the larger scientific community nor the general public seems to be aware of this. And without evidence for the astronomical theory, this last argument for CAGW collapses.
Biblically, Christians would expect climate sensitivity to be relatively low, since God has promised a certain degree of climate stability (Genesis 8:22) in our post-Flood world. This doesn’t necessarily mean that some warming won’t occur. In fact, some creationists think higher CO2 levels in the pre-Flood world may have contributed to a more temperate climate.14 But it does mean that this is not an issue over which people should be panicking.
Rather than heeding the call to embrace climate change alarmism as some kind of religion, people would do far better to confront the real danger facing the human race. Every single one of us will have to give an account to our Creator at the end of our lives. Given the many wrong things that we all have done in our lives, this is a terrifying prospect. But there is hope and salvation for those who find forgiveness of sins in the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. Richardson, V. 2019. Mazie Hirono: ‘Believe in climate change as though it’s a religion. It’s not a science.’ The Washington Times. Posted November 13, 2019 at washingtontimes.com, accessed November 14, 2019. In fairness to Senator Hirono, it seems that The Washington Times may have misquoted a portion of her statement. If one listens carefully to the audio of her statement, she seems to say, “It’s not, it’s science,” not “It’s not science.” The video of her statement may be viewed here.
2. Biello, D. The Most Important Number in Climate Change: Just how sensitive is Earth’s climate to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide? Scientific American. Posted on scientificamerican.com November 30, 2015, accessed February 26, 2019.
3. Mann, M. E., R. S. Bradley, and M. K. Hughes. 1999. Northern Hemisphere Temperatures During the Past Millenium: Inferences, Uncertainties, and Limitations. Geophysical Research Letters. 26. No. 6: 759-762.
4. McIntyre, S. and R. McKitrick. 2005. Hockey sticks, principal components, and spurious significance. Geophysical Research Letters. 32, L03710.
5. Muller, R. Global Warming Bombshell. MIT Technology Review. Posted October 15, 2004 at technologyreview.com, accessed November 14, 2019.
6. Spencer, R. New Lewis & Curry Study Concludes Climate Sensitivity is Low. Posted on drroyspencer.com April 24, 2018, accessed November 14, 2019.
7. See Figure 3 in Cupps, V. and J. Hebert. 2016. A Realistic Look at Global Warming. Acts & Facts. 45 (4): 10-13.
8. Kerr, R. A. 1997. Upstart Ice Age Theory Gets Attentive But Chilly Hearing. Science. 277 (5323): 183-184.
9. Secular scientists think many ice ages have occurred in Earth history, whereas creation scientists think there was just one Ice Age that followed the Genesis Flood. See Hebert, J. 2013. Was There an Ice Age? Acts & Facts. 42 (12): 20.
10. Hebert, J. 2019. Climate Alarmism and the Age of the Earth. Acts & Facts. 48 (4): 11-14.
11. Hebert, J. 2016. ‘Big Science’ Celebrates Invalid Milankovitch Paper. Creation Science Update. Posted December 26, 2016 at ICR.org, accessed November 14, 2019.
12. Monastersky, R. 1997. The Big Chill: Does dust drive Earth’s ice ages? Science News. 152 (14): 220.
13. Raymo, M. E. 1997. The timing of major climate terminations. Paleoceanography. 12 (4): 577-585.
14. Humphreys, D. R. 2009. God’s global warming worked just fine: Evidence from the pre-Flood world suggests that we need not fear global warming from carbon dioxide. Creation Ministries International. Posted on creation.com August 11, 2009, accessed November 14, 2019.
Stage image: Senator Mazie Hirono
Stage image credit: Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Dr. Jake Hebert is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas.
Is Climate Change Activism a Religion?
Genetics, Human History, and Christian Faith