NASA states, "The Earth's climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 11,700 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization...The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia." They follow this by stating a number of fact on global climate change to include:
"The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere."
"The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of more than 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969."
"The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost an average of 286 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2016, while Antarctica lost about 127 billion tons of ice per year during the same time period."
"Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa."
"Satellite observations reveal that the amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and that the snow is melting earlier."
"Global sea level rose about 8 inches in the last century. The rate in the last two decades, however, is nearly double that of the last century and is accelerating slightly every year."
"The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events."
"Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent. This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year." (citation)
It is clear that humans are contributing to the accelerated effects of climate change, though this has been a subject of debate by climate change deniers for years. Some are enthralled in the science and intent on lessening their carbon footprint on the world, while others simply do not believe that the evidence points toward a significant issue brought forth by human consumption and waste. Regardless of your individual view of the subject of climate change, we can all agree that the Lord has given us a wonderful, mysterious, and beautiful earth full of life. So, if God has entrusted us with such a generous gift, what does the Bible have to say about our responsibility to be its good stewards while we are here.
Well, let's start with the obvious? Who is supposed to care for the earth? The Bible clearly states in Genesis 1:26-30, "Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so." It is man's (and woman's) job to care for the earth. In fact, it is our job to care for everything on the earth as well! Have you fed your fish/turtle/dog/cat today? Did you set out humane mouse traps so that the mouse that has moved into your kitchen can be safely relocated and not killed? God made us to care for these things, not destroy them as we please.
God is actually very specific about how we should care for the land He has given us when He says "And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination." (Jeremiah 2:7) God created the whole earth to help us out as we live here. This is accomplished through the resources the land produces that give us food to eat, water to drink, and resources to create everything from clothing to modern day conveniences like telephones and computers! God wants us to take care of the earth so that it might produce good things to keep His people going for years to come and is angry when we do not do so!
So if we are meant to care for the earth, does that mean we own it? Is it ours? Not so fast! Here's what the Psalmist David has to say about that: "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein." (Psalm 24:1)
We must all remember that we are just guests on this earth, sent to care for the good things God has allowed us to use and care for while we are here. It is like house-sitting in a beautiful mansion with delicate objects all around and animals that are in need of great care.What a large and amazing responsibility God has laid before us, but He has done so because He knows we are up for a challenge. So, the next time you find yourself dropping a wrapper on the ground or filling up your SUV, remember, God trusts you to take care of what He thinks is good and important. Are you ready to take hold of the responsibility?