What’s the worst that could happen? (A cost-benefit analysis of climate change)

[Note: This is a followup to an earlier post on why I believe every Christian should care about the environment.]

The earth is God’s temple. A growing number of evangelicals accept the importance of “creation care.” So why don’t more of us care about climate change? According to one survey, only a third of Christians say climate change prevention is an important part of our responsibility to steward the earth (though a majority say it’s important for other reasons).

Put another way: Why are Christians, particularly evangelicals, more skeptical about climate change than the general population?

Humanitarian organizations like World Vision (my former employer) see climate change as one of the biggest threats to the poor and vulnerable in the developing world. Even the US military, hardly a haven for liberal thought, recognizes climate change as the most significant threat to our national security.

So why do we who are Christian have such a hard time seeing what they see?

For those who remain skeptical about the causes and implications of climate change, I’d like to pose a pair of questions that Rich Stearns shared with employees of World Vision when I was there:

1. What’s the worst that could happen if we respond aggressively to climate change, only to learn in hindsight that our concerns were overblown?

The answer: Collectively, we might wind up a few hundred billion dollars poorer. That’s the equivalent of 1-2% of ONE YEAR’S global GDP.

Some of that would be money well spent — even if climate change turned out to be more of a whimper than a roar. For example, with a finite supply fossil fuels (no matter how much we “drill, baby, drill”), do any of us really believe we shouldn’t invest in alternative energy sources?

2. What’s the worst that could happen if we do nothing, only to learn that human-induced climate change and its effects are real — and every bit as serious as we’ve been told?

Let’s start by putting it in crass economic terms. Failing to rein in greenhouse gases could cost up to 20% of global GDP. (And you thought the last recession was bad.)

More important is the human impact. No surprise, it’s the desperately poor — those who have contributed the least to climate change — who stand to suffer the most. In fact, they’re already feeling the effects of climate change. From the increasing frequency and intensity of droughts in parts of Africa, to rising sea levels already threatening to overwhelm an entire nation.

Two decades of progress combating extreme poverty could be wiped out if we fail address climate change.

That’s our choice: Spend a few hundred billion dollars now or lose trillions later — and jeopardize millions of lives.

Still, many doubt the science behind climate change, even though the underlying principle, the greenhouse effect, has been a proven scientific fact for well over a hundred years. But why? What’s the motivation for all this skepticism?

Could it be that those of us in the top 2% simply don’t want to give up the standard of living to which we’ve grown accustomed? Could it be that we’re happy to go on using the earth as we see fit and leave the mess for someone else to clean up?

As Christians, we will have a hard time reconciling this attitude with the biblical reality that the earth is not ours — that it is not first and foremost our dwelling, but God’s.

What will we say when the time comes to give an account for how we’ve tended God’s temple?

8 thoughts on “What’s the worst that could happen? (A cost-benefit analysis of climate change)

  1. I would dare to say I live back to basic more than most people. We drink our own raw milk, we raise other animals, we eat out of our own garden, we live in a very small easy to heat place, we live on solar and so on and on.

    You asked what is so bad if we are wrong.

    How about an agenda call Agenda 21 from the United Nations that uses the faulty science of global warming to take away peoples property rights. I used to be in the housing industry and have seen the abuses to people’s property rights because of this hog wash.

    If you want a picture or where Agenda 21 is going research America 2050 were the vision of America is for food and water to be rationed by the Global Food Council, THere will be no more rural areas. ( I have a good friend who is a commisioner and we are always talking about the several programs out there where federal money is taking both private and public land out of the hands of the people. This is happening in every county in America) You can only travel with a permit. You will be told what you will be when you grow up, Of course major population control devises will be implemented to keep the population down. This is you 1984, your Animal Farm.

    I work with a vet at a stock yard and they are now telling farmers they have to do the national ID RFID Chip on all cattle and horses. To do so farmers have to sign some wonderful paperwork that takes away their ownership of the farm and turns their property into their premises, Oh yes, they have to keep paying taxes on it, like all other stolen lands by the green movement, but they loose all rights to use it as a they see best.

    Do you know who started the green movement? It was started by those who belong to the Theosophical Society. Do you know what that is? Is is a very nice name for church of Satan. Do you know what these people were doing in the 1920’s? They were setting up the eugenics movement that went to Nazi Germany to kill 6 million Jews. Do you know were they went after the war? Right back here to the good ole USA. Do you know what they set up here? Planned Parent Hood, the Sierra Club and other wonderful environmental organizations. There plan was to set up a new religion based on the environment. They new they would not get people to change unless they felt there was a need bigger than themselves.

    So here we are in our days, Christians falling hook line and sinker with this religion started by murderers and the church of Satan.

    So I ask you, what is so bad if your wrong?


    If you want to talk about conservationism talk of Christ.

    “Jesus is the first conservationist, not one drop waisted”

    Original quote by David Griffin


  2. I knew you would resort to that. Ignorance always does.
    So what meeting with any state vet have you sat in on to hear how farmers have to do what I mentioned? Oh none! I thought so. I guess you will inform the state vet of Washington how his unfunded madate to RFID the animals, due to a provision in the Obama health care bill is all conspiracy.
    How many conversations have you had with any commissioner about the rewilding of N. Americal and the Agenda 21 wild corrador. How many convesations have you had with him about the law suites filed that take away the rights of property owners and the county and state government to handle thier own environmental affairs. Oh none! I thought so.
    I bet you did not even look up Agenda 21 or Amercial 2050 did you.
    Those who rule do not need conspiracy theories, when they have so many useful idiots who won’t type anything in their search engine. Let alone attend meetings with farmers and a state vet, or talk with county commisioners.

    Forgive me, I thought this blog was looking at facts not fantasy.



  3. Gonna have to side with Ben on this one (and I even looked up those very rationale, non-paranoid sounding theories the poster mentioned!), although a government takeover of all farmlands and the church of Satan convincing scientists to manipulate studies for no apparent reason sounds totally reasonable too.


    1. The problem is you have looked into them. I have worked in two industries where I see the implimentation of the flowery sounding programs.

      But you won’t believe because you don’t do anything that has anything to do with exercising your property rights, that is if you even own property. Nor are you in the cattle business.

      Go live your sheltered lives, ignorance is bliss.

      There is no cost to be green, not to you or your children.



  4. I don’t “do anything that has anything to do with exercising [my] property rights.” You mean besides owning a home?

    So…the UN issues a proclamation 20 years ago endorsing sustainable forms of development, and from this you conclude there’s an Orwellian plot afoot to take away my property rights, tell me where I’m allowed to travel, and perhaps sterilize me?

    I suppose by that logic we should assume that since the UN supports increasing life expectancy in the developing world, they’re hatching a secret plan to cryogenically freeze every human on the planet to keep them from dying.

    As someone who’s worked in the NGO sector, believe me: the UN isn’t organized well enough to pull together a conspiratorial plot on the magnitude you’re suggesting, even if they wanted to.


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