Thursday, March 24, 2022

Carbon Neutrality and Climate Change

 In the last several decades climate change has been the new topic du jour. A famous saying attributed to Mark Twain, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” may more accurately be ascribed to Charles Dudley Warren, author and editor at The Hartford Courant in the late 19th century. He was a good friend of Mark Twain.

Many modern journalists and politicians, however, are trying to “do something about it.” Political prophets of doom pronounce the termination of our society within a decade if we do not act immediately to remedy the situation. In their view, it is not the weather but rather, long term climate which must be changed. Humanity must become the agent of change, according to the doomsayers. Seldom is an unusual weather phenomenon reported without climate change being identified as responsible. Often linked to their warnings is a political agenda. Climate change remediation will not be cheap, of course. Our society may be bankrupted even if we do not face extinction, we are warned. Other quotes from famous men include, it’s “now or never” and “ we are at the limits of suicide” (Pope Francis). Politician Bark Obama warns of “submerged countries, abandoned cities, and fields that no longer grow,”

“Climate change” now stands in for the former “global warming.” The first term refers to long term measures of precipitation, temperature, and wind patterns. The latter term refers primarily to global temperatures. A favorite topic of conversation has transitioned from friendly banter to alarm. We must keep in mind that weather and climate support human flourishing. It is one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity.

We do not minimize the threat of dangerous weather. Our climate system has been gifted to humanity by the Creator of All Things. God has put man in charge of managing the vagaries of weather perceived as both good and bad. I recall an uncle who preferred to remain on an open screened in porch during thunderstorms so he could enjoy the grandeur of the event. I also recall crawling under an overturned wooden rowboat on a riverbank to shield my father, my brother and me from a severe storm during a fishing excursion. “God will take care of us,” my father assured us. It was one of my life’s poignant moments. Unusual, hazardous weather is a feature of a climate system generally favorable to plant growth and living creatures. Plants and animals on our planet are able to adjust to inconvenient or even violent weather and still enjoy the ultimate benefit inherent in our majestic climate system.

Modern scientists have discovered many technological solutions to the challenges posed by our climate system. Many of these challenges relate to conditions generated by Earth’s burgeoning population. For example, Earth’s population has doubled since 1973, tripled since 1952. World population is now 7.9 billion. The burning of fossil fuels  to support our enormous human population still generates a significant quantity of CO2, a greenhouse gas which has slowly increased from 0.03% to 0.04% of the atmospheric composition. This small increase amplifies the greenhouse effect, a measure of heat retained by the Earth’s atmosphere. Amplification of the greenhouse effect is responsible for climate change currently highlighted by our media.

Many factors produce the greenhouse effect. The aviation industry contributes 6% of anthropogenic warming. Eliminating CO2 emissions resulting from aviation would be a significant help in our battle against CO2 and harmful climate change. Swiss and German engineers led by Remo Schappi have proposed and demonstrated a new technology to replace most of the CO2 producing fossil fuels used by the aviation industry, according to a recent blog posted by Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe. Ross states, “…their solar production system uses concentrated solar energy to convert CO2 and water vapor from the atmosphere into a mixture of molecular hydrogen (H2) and carbon monoxide (CO), otherwise known as syngas. It then uses a solar-powered gas-to-liquid unit that converts the syngas into…methanol, which can be substituted for CO2-producing kerosene that presently fuels all the commercial and military aircraft in the world.”

The above description exemplifies one “carbon neutral” process developed by brilliant technologists. We propose that Our Creator has gifted scientists with knowledge to “manage the vagaries of weather and climate.” This phenomenon is similar to the exhortations of scripture authors who state that humans are strengthened by adversity. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2-3 ESV). A scientific problem, therefore, could be similar to a spiritual problem. We must work to remedy both types of problems. Ultimately we are strengthened as we work to solve challenges.  



Friday, March 11, 2022

Meteorological Seasons

 Most calendars proclaim March 20 as the first day of spring. This date marks the beginning of astronomical spring. Even though the March 20 calendar date generates excitement, most residents cannot explain the significance of that date from an astronomical perspective. Even fewer residents could explain why on rare occasions the first day of spring might fall on either March 19 or March 21. The last March 21 “first day of spring” occurred in 2007 and will not occur again on that day until 2101. The 2020 first day of spring was the first March 19 occurrence since 1896 across the entire spectrum of US time zones. Varying time zones and calendar modifications affect precise dates when the first day of spring arrives. Trivia enthusiasts thrive on such esoteric information. People uninterested in trivia may exult in the emotional significance of the “first day of spring.”

Easier to understand than astronomical spring is meteorological spring. This season is always considered to be March, April, and May. It never varies.  (September, October, and November in the Southern Hemisphere.) In short, this term relates to weather, specifically, familiar springtime weather. As this post is written, the local population is reveling in somewhat warmer weather conditions. Neighbors may greet us with “It’s warmer today,” or “It’s supposed to be warmer tomorrow.” Of course, there could be a hard cold snap or an incident of frozen precipitation. If the latter occurs it will probably not remain frozen very long, but there were a few notable exceptions to this rule. The Storm of the Century of March 1993 in the eastern half of the US was a profound exception. Other storms more typical of winter your blogger personally experienced in March while living in New Jersey were March 18-19 1956, March 2-5 1960, and even a rare April 6-7 1982 mid-winter-type blizzard.

Meteorological summer, autumn, and winter follow meteorological spring. In divine wisdom, our Creator has established seasons to benefit humanity in diverse ways. A world population approaching 8 billion would not produce enough food without the existence of seasons. Readers may wish to study this topic more completely. For those challenged by more detailed research, we suggest:

When God ordained seasons, He performed transformative miracles for the benefit of humanity. Transformative miracles are defined as ancient environmental modifications superintended by the Creator which shaped and prepared our home planet to benefit Earth’s future teeming billions of residents. Among such miracles is the appropriate tilt of the Earth’s axis as it revolves around the Sun. Without this 23 degree tilt Earth’s life-sustaining seasons would not be possible. Knowledgable Earth residents are able to study the parameters of Earth’s seasons and give glory to the God of Creation. The author of Genesis 8:22 refers to conditions in all four seasons with devotional exuberance: “For as long as  Earth lasts, planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never stop.” (The Message translation)

When meteorological spring approaches, our wild creatures and plants adjust to the changing conditions in interesting ways. Flocking behavior, particularly in birds, is no longer necessary to insure effective group food gathering or group safety. As spring advances they become more intent on finding mates and scouting sites for nest building. The sounds of late winter bird songs during brightening late winter days suggest future reproductive activity. Late in winter, we have heard calls of owls who hatch their babies in February. Squirrels provide entertainment by chasing each other through tree branches on mating forays as winter recedes. Green plants also share in the joys of renewal:

Significant human joy is produced by observing God’s provision of work/rest cycles. These cycles are illustrated by the divine gift of planetary seasons which benefit humanity created In His Image. The natural world praises the genius of the Creator: “Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them, let all the trees of the forest sing for joy” (Psalm 96:12).