Global Warming Poses a Great Threat

Rob Edwards, environmental editor of the Sunday Herald, reports that, as a result of global warming, the Antarctic ice sheet is melting faster than we thought. The consequences could be catastrophic and beyond anything scientists have so far predicted. The Antarctic ice sheet contains 30 million billion tonnes of ice, four times more than all the fresh water in the rest of the world. Only a small part of it has to melt to trigger a cataclysm.

According to Lloyd Peck, senior scientist at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, the level of the world’s seas could rise by about five metres if the ice sheet melts, submerging half of Bangladesh and three-quarters of the Netherlands, and drowning Calcutta, large parts of Sydney, London and Florida. “This is definitely not science fiction,” insisted Peck, “this is a possibility; it is something that could happen.” Altogether, 50 million people in Bangladesh live less than five metres above sea level. There are also many other low-lying areas in the world that will be affected.

There is evidence that climate change has started to thaw the ice covering the peninsula that stretches out west from Antarctica. Almost 90% of the glaciers are now retreating by an average of 50 metres a year. But it is not only Antarctica that is vulnerable to meltdown. The ice sheet that covers Greenland could begin to thaw after a 2.7°C rise in temperature. That could cause sea levels to rise by a further five metres or so, displacing millions of people from coastal cities.

Other frightening scenarios related to global warming are now being put forward. The entire Amazon rainforest could dry out and die. The world’s climate could flip into a new stable state 6°C hotter than now, turning a third of the land to desert. This scenario may sound far-fetched, but the more scientists have learned about climate change, the more concerned they have become. They know that rising temperatures are already causing droughts, floods and storms around the world.

“Things are moving faster than we thought,” says Peter Cox, a climate change expert at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Dorset. “The ice sheets are more dynamic, and dramatic events are coming thicker and faster than we predicted.” Humanity is now heating up the world ten times more rapidly that when the earth emerged from the last ice age.

The most important cause of global warming is the burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This carbon pollution blankets the earth, trapping in heat, and causing global warming. Reducing these emissions is the first step in stopping global warming.

More scientific evidence

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in the USA has opened a new section on their website (www.ucsusa.org/) to discuss problems related to global warming. They say, among others, that the mainstream scientific consensus on global warming is becoming clearer and more compelling every day: changes in our climate are real and under way. One of their findings is that seven of the ten warmest years in die 20th century occurred in the 1990s. The hottest year since reliable instrumental temperature measurements began was 1998, when global temperatures soared due to one of the strongest El Ninos on record. They also point out that the Arctic ice pack on the North Pole has lost about 40% of its thickness over the past four decades.

UCS identified the following major consequences of sustained global warming:

·       A faster rise in sea level.

·       More heat waves and droughts, resulting in more conflicts over fresh water resources.

·       More extreme weather events, producing floods and property destruction.

·       A greater potential for heat-related illnesses and deaths, as well as the wider spread of infectious diseases carried by insects and rodents into areas previously free from them.

·       If climate trends continue unabated, global warming will threaten our health, cities, farms, forests, beaches, wetlands and other natural habitats.

The UCS also commented on the increased intensity of hurricanes:

The recent series of hurricanes that have battered the southern and eastern United States have raised questions about the link between hurricanes and global warming. The intensity of the strongest hurricanes is projected to increase due to the higher sea surface temperatures in a globally warming world. Precipitation from hurricanes is also likely to increase appreciably, leading to flooding and mudslides. In addition, hurricane storm surges will be larger due to sea-level rise from melting ice and snow and the thermal expansion of ocean waters. At greatest risk of larger storm surges, of course, are low-lying coastal areas along the Gulf Coast, such as Florida’s Panhandle, Alabama’s Gulf shores, and southern Louisiana.

Global warming is not necessarily causing more hurricanes, but it may well be causing bigger and more powerful ones with stronger winds and higher storm surges. Warmer seas fuel the large storms forming over the Atlantic and Pacific, and greater evaporation generates heavy downpours.

Biblical scenario

For the coming great tribulation, the Bible predicts natural disasters and changes in climate that go far beyond any of the worst case scenarios advanced by the scientists: “Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory… And there were noises and thunderings and lightings, and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth… And great hail from heaven fell upon men, every hailstone about the weight of a talent. And men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great” (Rev. 16:8-9,18,21).

Unprecedented natural disasters will strike the earth. In spite of the severity of these disasters, the hardness of human hearts is revealed by the fact that they will still not repent but rather curse God because of all the plagues. Even when sea and waves are roaring and men’s hearts are failing them from fear of the things which are coming on the earth (Luke 21:25-26), they will still not repent.

Present signs in the natural world indicate that there are a number of good reasons to be highly concerned about possible future events in nature. The powers of heaven and earth will be shaken by God to punish the wicked. However, Christians should not despair because Jesus Christ said: “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28). The promise of redemption means, among others, that in the twinkling of an eye true believers will be snatched away from this terminally ill and dying planet: “Watch therefore and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36; cf. 1 Cor. 15:51-52).