by Tolly and Betty Kizilos

After 20 years of debate, there is hardly any doubt that global warming is real and threatening the well being of our planet. And, there is near universal agreement among scientists that this potentially devastating event is caused by the actions of human beings. Everyone who cares for life on earth has a responsibility to do all that is possible to reverse the trends. Christians, in particular, are obligated by their faith in the God of love, who created all there is and pronounced it good (Gen. 1:31a), to take all possible lawful and ethical actions that lead to the survival of life on Earth.

The prestigious journal of M.I.T., Technology Review of July/August 2006, explains the facts and offers specific solutions, which reflect the views of the scientific community. We know, of course, that cyclic temperature variations have been occurring for thousands of years. But, that’s not the problem. People who try to minimize the Earth’s present predicament by attributing it to these natural temperature cycles are doing great harm. Our present predicament is caused by our wasteful use of energy, which produces much more carbon dioxide (CO2) and coal particulates than the atmosphere can handle without distress. CO2 has much more power to affect the Earth’s temperature than any other known factor. In just the past 150 years mankind has increased the CO2 concentrations by a staggering 32%. It is well known that CO2, the earth’s temperature and the sea level are interrelated and move together. Jim Hansen, the most respected climate scientist in the world, quoted by MIT’s magazine, says that “if we continue to increase green house-gas emissions [the most important of them being CO2], temperatures will rise between 3.6oF and 5.4oF this century, making Earth as warm as it was three million years ago, when seas were between 45 ft. and 105 ft. higher than they are today.” A large part of the world’s landmass would disappear, wiping out many of the earth’s great cities. This is what would happen if we don’t change. Will we?

This is the ominous trend we are on, and it is already affecting our environment: polar bears on Hudson Bay, already struggling with pollution and oil drilling, are losing weight and their number is declining fast, as the ice shelf melts, literally under their paws, and the feeding season shrinks. Butterflies are abandoning southern Europe and flying to the cooler climate of Finland. The plants and animals of the higher elevations are most distressed because they have no cooler places to migrate to for refuge from the rising temperature. And, along with the temperature rise, the sea level is rising by a fraction of an inch every year.

Dr. James Hansen, NASA
Director of
Goddard Institute

The situation we are in is bad, but not desperate, Hansen claims, because we can change it. Without getting into the statistics of the situation, it turns out that 81% of the CO2 pumped into the atmosphere is related to coal fired power plants. The technology for cleaner power plants along with CO2 capture and sequestering, probably underground, exists, but is not used because energy would cost 15% to 20% more than it does for a conventional power plant. The world relies heavily on coal for its growing energy needs, and plans to build 1400, 500 MW or bigger power plants by 2020, including 140 of them in the U.S. If we value life on Earth, these plants must not be built, unless they use the “clean” coal gasification process along with sequestering of the CO2 . There are some problems that must be solved here also, but we need to work on them with speed, not fight against the process as some vested interests are doing. We, as Christians have to educate ourselves, take a stand, and demand sensible, life sustaining actions from all decision makers.

Next, the world needs to satisfy some of its energy needs using nuclear power plants with designs that are proven and improved, rather than wait several decades, if not longer, for the government’s far-out ultimate designs that are being studied. Technology Review quotes experts in the field who say that present day nuclear power plant designs are “the most promising near-term alternative to additional conventional power plants.” When power brokers want to stop certain actions, they recommend further studies of the problem. Further studies of nuclear power plant designs is now shown to be a strategy for stalling their building while coal fired plants are being approved – 18 of them in Texas, according to a recent NPR report! Tell your government officials where you stand on nuclear energy.

Three-Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant

Next, the M.I.T. report recommends that we need to double automotive efficiency, in whatever way possible, and to implement the best available technologies in buildings of all kinds. Doubling car mileage and using the most efficient building technologies we have could more than cancel out the emissions from the 1400 power plants the world plans to build! Since 35% of the electricity those power plants make goes to lighting, it figures that buying energy-saving light bulbs and turning off lights are very commendable and very life-affirming acts. So is spending a few extra dollars to buy the more efficient furnace, or the more efficient refrigerator and other appliances. You get your money back in a couple of years and you can do a good deed as well. Similarly, when buying a car, give the mileage higher priority than most car buyers give it. Only wanton ignorance or total alienation from life can explain why people ranked mileage 18th among 56 buying considerations, behind the sound system and even the “cup holders”! Since the experts think doubling car mileage is very possible, and since the planet is seriously harmed by low mileage, shouldn’t our leaders find a way to double car mileage?

Wind energy, solar energy and ethanol production from corn and biomass are also steps in the right direction, though none of these good sources of energy can affect substantially the course of events without attention to cleaner coal-fired power plants with sequestered CO2, building efficiency and car mileage doubling.

Wind turbines in Greece (Voice of America)

Though taking into account global warming in personal economic decisions is an important responsibility of a Christian, the most critical contribution we can make as Christians is to push at all levels of government for efficient use of energy, by goodwill, by regulation and by law, if need be. The free market can take care of the problem, but only if all the resources that the producers use are paid for. Clean, not-overheated air and water are not free, but they are not made part of the costs, and someone must make them so. We must not allow greed by self-interested parties to direct decisions that are good for short-term extra profits, but deadly for the long-term survival of our grandchildren and life on this planet. And, most of all, we need to pray that God will act through his people to save the planet he was so pleased with when he brought it into being.

Tolly Kizilos, the author of Tradition and Change, holds BS and MS degrees in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, and Betty Kizilos holds a BS degree in Physics, also from MIT.

(Table source: United National Environmental Programme/GRIS-Arendal

(Posting date 10 December 2006. Surface air-temperature chart at beginning of article from NASA website

For more information about Tolly Kizilos, see the HCS biographical sketch about him at the URL: HCS encourages readers to view other articles and releases in our permanent, extensive archives at the URL

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