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Bad Information (Climate Change, Evangelicalism and the Global South)


Perhaps the most important thing to know about bad information is it does not have a uniform effect on the people it is given to. It has a disproportionately adverse effect on those who are at the margins. For example telling people a diet of deep fried foods is fine will hurt older people with a risk of heart disease and stroke the most. Low risk people in their 20’s who take this advice will generally do fine.

As the center of gravity of Evangelicalism shifts to the global south I am hoping the center of power follows suit for the simple reason that a faith that doesn’t address climate change is one that destroys lives and livelihoods and foments instability (the Middle East drought was one of the catalysts for the civil war in Syria which ultimately gave us ISIS). In America we’ve been comparatively lucky though climate change was probably a factor in a few droughts and strengthened Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. But places like Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Ethiopia are experiencing unprecedented droughts and the Marshall Islands are disappearing due to rising sea levels. If you read the world news you’ll see many more stories like these.

I am not heartened by the attitudes towards climate change I see in American Evangelicalism. I think a lot of ministers believe in it but a large portion of their flock does not and it’s not a big priority because for most of us Americans climate change just means a few more nice days in the fall to take a walk or a bike ride. But I think of billionaire investor Mark Cuban’s quote, “never take advice from someone who doesn’t have to live with the consequences”, applies here. We can give bad information about climate change to those in the global south because we aren’t hurt by this information the same way they are. I am heartened by Pope Francis’s willingness to address climate change and I think that willingness points to a less first world centric view the Catholic church has taken on. I just hope the Evangelical Christian church can embrace this more global perspective and think more critically how their choices affect those on the rest of our planet.

3 Responses to Bad Information (Climate Change, Evangelicalism and the Global South)

  1. Avatar Bryan McRoberts
    Bryan McRoberts says:

    The national weather service has many times said that climate change is not impacting the severity of hurricanes and similar weather events. To say otherwise is to further the distribution of bad information. To say that ISIS was caused by a drought is false. It was clearly caused by a void of power when Iraq fell apart after the US withdrew. The drought simply made it harder for the locals to fund themselves and made it harder for them to defend themselves, but pretending that the drought was the main cause is simply false. There is a general cycle of droughts and weather events that is completely independent of climate change (and keep in mind that the actual climate change is almost always at the lowest end of the spectrum of what the ‘experts’ claim will occur). I applaud the center of evangelicalism moving, but not because they will treat climate change differently – for me it is purely because their voices need to be heard so we can make evangelicalism less western-culture specific and benefit from the perspectives of other cultures. Climate change is not the most important issue facing the world today. In the Middle East the issue is largely human rights (as in keeping-your-head right to life) and freedom of religion. Climate change concerns are far down the list when you’re worried about being able to stay alive because people will kill you if you have the wrong religion.

  2. this article the Director of the National Weather Service said climate change is partially to blame for recent wild weather.

    Climate science is messy. It does not offer a neat causality chain like a link in a Rube Goldberg device where a ball hits a hammer and the causality can be traced back to the first domino. We can only say with (a sometimes small) percentage certainty whether climate change has affected specific weather events. For example the last two winters in the Midwest were colder than usual and one theory is the polar air was warming so the jet stream that normally serves as a buffer between us and the North Pole was non functional thus we got exposed to colder weather. But scientists can’t prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt. What we do know is there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and ocean and air temperatures have been rising in the past 50 years and this increase has been accelerating in the past decade.

    The persecuted church is something that more people should be concerned about, Christians in particular. Saudi Arabia is basically a successful ISIS and cuts the hands off of people who try to spread the gospel.

  3. I agree with Bryan, and thank him for helping prevent the spread of more bad information. Climate science is not just messy. It is plagued by bias, reporting error, deception, inconsistency, faulty assumptions, exaggeration, non sequitur, and misplaced faith. In short, it’s a perfect mirror of its practitioners. The biggest danger with its acceptance has always been the evils that can be unleashed through public policy built upon such a foundation. These evils could potentially reach the level of genocide, so it is important for every Christian to combat them by questioning the assertions, rejecting the untruths, and standing for clarity and liberty.