What should our biblical stance on climate change be? In our circles, there seems to be this idea that it is not man-made because God is in control. What should we be doing?
We need to recognize, first of all, that our current local and global climates are a direct consequence of the worldwide Genesis flood. God created the world with a perfect global climate that included a perfect hydrological cycle. Genesis 2:5-6 provides us with a reference to this perfect climate: “The LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.” This globally stable climate caused the entire earth to be covered with lush growth and provided a perfect living environment for man. Thus God created a world with a stable atmosphere and a stable crust—a world free of natural catastrophes.
The stability of the earth’s atmosphere and crust remained intact after the fall. All of this changed dramatically, however, as a result of God’s global judgment upon a humanity that became exceedingly wicked in a world of ideal living conditions—a world in which light, air, and water were completely benign. Peter refers to this dramatic change when he writes, “By the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:5-7). He clearly distinguishes between the heavens and earth that were “of old,” and the heavens and the earth as they are now.
Some of the abiding after-effects of the Genesis Flood are that we now have an unstable atmosphere and an unstable crust. Consequently, we now live in a world in which there is a regular occurrence of catastrophic weather phenomena (thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding) and catastrophic crust events (earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis). All of these events are continual reminders that we live in a world that has already been judged once (by water) and will be judged again (by fire).
However, our secular culture views all of these natural events as perfectly normal, presuming that they have always been part of earth’s history. Peter warns us that in the last days, there would be an ungodly generation that would scoff at the idea that there is a Christ in heaven who will return as the Judge of all the earth. He writes, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation (2 Peter 3:3-4).
He highlights that these scoffers believe that our current world has always been this way. Since our apostate culture has embraced the lie of evolution, it believes that all of the natural catastrophes that are occurring are part of the evolutionary process and that our fragile globe is in a continuous survival mode. They, therefore, view the perceived fluctuation of our climate and the perceived frequency of catastrophic weather events as part of the evolving reality of an evolving world.
Since there has been a dramatic increase in sophisticated record-keeping during the last century, we now have statistical records of all natural phenomenon that were never available before. Given that these statistics cannot be compared to what has happened in our world during the four thousand years following the Genesis Flood, it cannot be accurately determined whether current weather events and patterns are part of a recurring cycle, or whether our local and global climates are permanently changing. Those who view our world through the lens of evolution believe this to be so, and they have now concluded that man is contributing to these changes, thereby accelerating an evolutionary process that might ultimately lead to the extinction of the human race. The notion of climate change has, therefore, become one of the dominant narratives of our secular culture.
We know from Scripture, however, that current conditions on our planet are the result of the lasting effects of God’s global judgment, causing all of creation to groan under the curse and consequences of sin. Creation scientists have clearly proven that the Genesis Flood was followed by an ice age during which the polar ice caps extended far beyond their current boundaries, covering at least half of the North-American continent. Ever since then, these polar ice caps have been in retreat, and are still in retreat. The empirical evidence that these caps are melting and that glaciers are retreating ever so slowly is genuine, for this is a process that has been going on since the Genesis Flood—and will continue until the final judgment.
Therefore, it is noteworthy that immediately following the Genesis Flood, God establishes a covenant with Noah that guarantees His providential preservation of our broken world until Christ returns. He articulated this covenant remarkably by saying: “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Gen. 8:21-22).
God knew that humanity would quickly become as corrupt as the humanity that perished in the Genesis Flood. He, therefore, establishes the covenant of nature on the basis of shed blood (anticipating the sacrifice of Christ) and promises to Noah, and in him to all of humanity, that He will sustain the post-flood world so that “while the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” In short, God is saying that for the duration of the earth’s history, there will be a stable climate that will sustain the annual farming cycle.
Thus the world’s climate is in God’s hands rather than being contingent on man’s actions and emissions. To underscore the certainty of that promise, God established the rainbow as the visible sign and seal of the covenant of nature, saying to Noah, And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth (Gen. 9:14-17).
Does this mean that human actions and emission have no impact at all? Undoubtedly they do—but not enough to dramatically alter the global climate. After all, our world is not the result of an unstable and unpredictable evolutionary process. Instead, it was created by God for human habitation, and that continues to be true even in a fallen and post-flood world. Let us, therefore, examine the subject of climate change through the lens of Scripture rather than through the lens of our secular and God-denying culture.