Thursday, August 09, 2012

Not The Whole Earth, At Least Not By Flood

"I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the food and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."   (Genesis 9:11, ESV)

Conservative Christians would not deny that this biblical covenant is being kept.   And many insist that climate change (other than what may be routine or cyclical) cannot occur because God would never permit it.  Drought, in fact, is the major climactic story and manifestation of extreme weather in the U.S.A. this year as

The US Drought Monitor reported a nearly threefold increase in areas of extreme drought over the past week in the nine Midwestern states where three quarters of the country's corn and soybean crops are produced. "That expansion of D3 or extreme conditions intensified quite rapidly and we went from 11.9 percent to 28.9 percent in just one week," Brian Fuchs, a climatologist and Drought Monitor author, told AFP. "For myself, studying drought, that's rapid. We've seen a lot of things developing with this drought that were unprecedented, especially the speed." 

Almost two thirds of the continental United States are now suffering drought conditions, the largest area recorded since the Drought Monitor project started in 1999.

Climate change has been a significant factor also in bringing extreme rainfall to some regions.  The Brisbane, Australia Times earlier this year reported 

Abnormally high ocean temperatures off the coast of northern Australia contributed to the extreme rainfall that flooded three-quarters of Queensland over the summer of 2010-11, scientists report.

A Sydney researcher, Jason Evans, ran a series of climate models and found above average sea surface temperatures throughout December 2010 increased the amount of rainfall across the state by 25 per cent on average.

While the study did not look at the cause of ocean warming in the region, a physical oceanographer, Matthew England, said climate change could not be excluded as a possible driver of this extreme rainfall event.

Between December 23 and 28 many places experienced up to 400 millimetres of rain in a few days. "That [means] 100 millimetres of rain was attributable to sea surface temperatures," said Dr Evans, a future fellow at the University of NSW's Climate Change Research Centre....

Warmer sea surface temperatures increase the amount of moisture transferred from the ocean to the atmosphere.

"If you've got the right winds they carry this moisture to land, and [because] land is hotter than the ocean during the day it will cause convection and rain," Dr Evans said.

God did promise, according to the passage in Genesis, that earth would never be destroyed by flood.   However, according to what is arguably the most well-known commentary among laypersons and theologians alike

This promise does not hinder, 1. But that God may bring other wasting judgments upon mankind; for, though he has here bound himself not to use this arrow any more, yet he has other arrows in his quiver. 2. Nor but that he may destroy particular places and countries by the inundations of the sea or rivers. 3. Nor will the destruction of the world at the last day by fire be any breach of his promise. Sin which drowned the old world will burn this.

"Particular places and countries," Matthew Henry wrote in the 18th century may be destroyed "by the inundations of the sea or rivers."    Additionally, "other wasting judgments upon mankind" may be brought, which presumably would not exclude record-breaking heat and drought.   Nor would a dramatic increase in wildfires, probably prompted in part by global warming, spared

Heat records have dropped like flies in the U.S.A. in recent years while few cold records have been set.   Yet, radical climate change has not occurred uniformly.    In July of 2011, Oklahoma set a record for the hottest month ever recorded in the nation, with 88.9 the average daily temperature.    It was the hottest season in state history and the second hottest season ever in the U.S.A. and was, one climatologist remarked, "warmer than all those summers that they experienced during the Dust Bowl."    And it hasn't gotten much better for the state.   Its largest city (its temperature records, here) broke its record for consecutive days with a temperature in the triple digits as it experienced 100 degrees or more from from July 18 through August 1.

Oklahoma is distinguished from everywhere else in the United States of America.   It is the only state in which every county in 2008 was carried by the McCain-Palin ticket.   Further, Wikipedia notes in 2010, "for the first time in Oklahoma history the GOP won every statewide office up for election that year, and as a result currently holds all eleven statewide offices. The GOP increased its majorities in the House by six seats and in the Senate by five seats."     A state once Democratic, then somewhat Republican, suddenly has become solidly Republican, arguably the most so in the nation.

Texas, also, has become a thoroughly Republican state.   It opted overwhelmingly for McCain-Palin in 2008, has a GOP governor, two Repub U.S. Senators (with Republican Ted Cruz a solid favorite to win an open seat in November), two GOP-controlled legislative chambers (one with a supermajority), and all 25 statewide elected positions controlled by the Gas and Oil Party.   (Democrats hope to turn this around because the state has become majority-minority.)

And what was that state, still experiencing severe drought, which at 86.7 degrees in July, 2012 recorded the second hottest month ever in the U.S.A.?   That's right- Texas.   Texas still is experiencing severe drought, which worsened when Governor Rick Perry in 2011 publicly prayed for its end.

Texas and Oklahoma are Republican and getting more and more so, and are suffering more than perhaps any other state.  

Christians may be comforted by the assurance that God will never destroy the earth with flood.  But He never promised not to destroy entire nations with flood, nor the entire world with heat, drought, or any other manifestation of climate change.     It should be comforting to all of us that the extraordinary, accelerating change in climate, predictable from the growth in carbon emissions, probably is not of supernatural origin, a divine warning not to continue our self-destructive ways.   Probably not.

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