Notes from Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment by Paul Douglas and Mitch Hescox

Rev. Mitch Hescox has worked in the coal industry along with his whole family, for generations.  Here he and a meterologist, another person of faith, write about how conservatives can support action on climate change.  Indeed, Rev. Hescox and his partners got 50,000 fellow pro-life conservative evangelicals to join them in Texas, calling for 100% renewable energy by 2030.

Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment by Paul Douglas, Mitch Hescox

I inherited a sense of curiosity, a strong work ethic, and a belief that citizenship comes with rights and responsibilities—a belief that actions have consequences and nobody has a right to threaten the common good or twist the truth for perpetual profit. We should be open to facts, even when they make us squirm. Being open to data, facts, and science doesn’t make you liberal. It makes you literate. Scientifically literate. It means you favor data, facts, and evidence over conspiracy theories, manufactured misinformation, and cherry-picked industry spin. We live in God’s creation and—as stewards—have a holy obligation to treat it as the remarkable gift it is.  Kindle location 112

Like Paul, I (Mitch) also grew up in Pennsylvania. In my case, it was in a tiny western Pennsylvania town that before my birth was home to the largest firebrick manufacturing plant in the world.  Kindle location 118

What jobs remained came from coal mining. My dad was a coal miner, as were my grandfathers and many uncles, cousins, and other relatives. Coal was in my blood. My early playgrounds were un-reclaimed strip mines a hundred yards from my back door, chasing down tadpoles in water fouled with sulfuric streaks of bright red and orange. One vivid memory growing up was the volunteer fire department’s siren going off in the middle of the day. In our town, that siren typically wasn’t a warning of a fire but rather a coal mine accident. On more than one occasion, those accidents involved at least one of my family members. My dad used to take me to the small coal mine that my paternal grandfather owned in the late 1930s and 1940s. Even in the mid-1960s, the vestigial traces of the abandoned mine remained. Dad would point out the four-foot-high mine entrance and explain how after high school he worked on his hands and knees mining a twelve-inch seam of coal. The lesson learned was a powerful message in hard work that remains with me today. It is part of the Protestant work ethic that defines who I am. It is no wonder that I spent the first fourteen years of my professional life in the coal industry. After college, I began a career selling, installing, and eventually designing equipment for use in coal processing or in coal-fired utilities. My last coal-related position saw me designing grinding equipment for pulverized coal boilers in China, India, and South Africa. Coal is part of my legacy, but so is God. Growing up, a little white country church was the center of life. My family attended everything from church suppers to vacation Bible school. We frequented gospel music events  Kindle location 121

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:20  Kindle location 140  Pastoring a local church for eighteen years—before several nudges from God got my attention again. I knew he was leading me to a national ministry, but with gifts and graces centered on evangelism, telling the good news of Jesus’ love, and caring for the least of these, Kindle location 145

Little did I realize that my primary gifts would lead me to heading the Evangelical Environmental Network, the largest evangelical group dedicated to caring for creation. Our tag line is “Creation care is a matter of life.” Caring for people, overcoming challenges, and providing a tangible hope for the future with clean air, pure water, a solid economy, and good jobs—that’s what we and countless others are attempting to do. Kindle location 148

For Mitch and I, our interest in stewarding the earth was no overnight epiphany. Our conviction built gradually; a slow-motion realization that the threat was real and people of faith have a moral obligation to step up. Today we humans are changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere. We are fiddling with the planet’s natural thermostat—poking at the climate system with a long, sharp, carbon-tipped stick, and then acting surprised every time the weather bites back. And the weather is biting back with increasing frequency and ferocity. We are the volcano, conducting an experiment that’s never been done before—on a planetary scale, on the only home we have: God’s home.  Kindle location 152

Science is organized skepticism. Science isn’t a quest for ultimate truth, but a process of correcting your errors. There’s a place for science and a simultaneous faith in real absolutes, like a sovereign, all-powerful God. We believe in God. Science, we test. And careful observations in the real world confirm that our actions are having unintended and profound consequences.  Kindle location 158

Is there a pragmatic, commonsense, conservative response to climate change—one that doesn’t grow government but empowers the markets to create the clean energy alternatives, services, and products we’re going to need to not only survive but thrive no matter what nature hurls at us? The goal is to turn down the volume of rhetoric, antagonism, and name-calling and focus on finding common ground: faith-based solutions that elevate personal responsibility and conservative values to tackle problems that face us. Kindle location 164

“We just don’t have the winters we used to have.” That’s what Mitch’s ninety-year-old dad said recently at his kitchen table. “Snow used to stay around all winter, and we had a lot more of it. I think it’s time to do something about this climate change stuff before it’s too late.” The former coal miner gets it, and many of us feel it inside. Actions have consequences, and we are all accountable. We are caretakers of God’s creation. The Bible includes nearly a thousand references to creation care and stewardship. Conservatism isn’t à la carte. It can and should apply to the very thing that sustains us. Mitch and I agree, acting on climate change is not about polar bears—it’s about our kids. It’s not about political agendas—it’s about being a disciple of Jesus Christ. It’s not about killing jobs—it’s about making everything we do stormproof, resilient, and sustainable. That’s the purpose and hope contained in these chapters. The situation isn’t hopeless and we aren’t helpless.  Kindle location 168

Warming of the climate system now is unequivocal, according to many different kinds of evidence. Observations show increases in globally averaged air and ocean temperatures, as well as widespread melting of snow and ice and rising globally averaged sea level. . . . Climate is always changing. However, many of the observed changes noted above are beyond what can be explained by the natural variability of the climate. American Meteorological Society (2012) A man should look for what is, and not what he thinks should be. Albert Einstein  Kindle location 179

Whatever happened to normal weather? Earth has always experienced epic storms, droughts, and floods, but lately it seems the treadmill of daily disasters has been set to fast-forward. God’s grandiose symphony of the seasons—the magical, predictable ebb and flow of the atmosphere—is playing horribly out of tune, sounding like a fourth-grade orchestra, with shrill horns, violins screeching off-key, and cymbal crashes coming in at the wrong time. Something has changed. It wasn’t a slick documentary that got this meteorologist off the dime. It wasn’t even dire warnings from climate experts. It was the increasingly inexplicable weather showing up on my daily weather maps in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Imagine your favorite college football team running out onto the field, but all the players have the flu. They suited up, but they’re slow, groggy, and sluggish, running the wrong routes, more prone to confusion and injury. Our weather has the flu. It isn’t apparent every day, but many days I shake my head and think, Haven’t seen that before. A cosmic coincidence? A symptom of more people living in vulnerable locations? Or a liberal-leaning, hype-happy media publicizing extremes that have always been there since the creation? Doctors rely on science. They look at symptoms. And based on observations, evidence, and best practices built up over many centuries, they make their diagnosis and suggest specific treatments. Drug companies may push a specific medication, but your doctor is supposed to be objective and unbiased, looking out for your best interests. So it is with the scientists telling us that earth is heating up.

Some people ask, “What’s a few degrees? Who cares?” Fair enough. But remember the last time you were a few degrees warmer? Chances are you felt miserable. There were visible symptoms: cold sweats, a rash, nausea, sneezing, and sniffling. The atmosphere and oceans are running a low-grade fever, and the symptoms are showing up in the weather: rashes of record heat, drought and wildfires, sneezes of violent winds from a parade of severe storms, sniffles of rain falling with much greater intensity, often resulting in biblical flooding. A warming climate isn’t sparking new storms, but it is spiking existing storms and increasing the potential for jaw-dropping, headline-grabbing weather extremes.  Kindle location 184

Signs of a slow-motion warming trend: a longer growing season, new plants and flowers growing that weren’t there forty years ago, more poison ivy and allergens, and new pests and invasive species that your parents didn’t have to worry about. Patterns are shifting. Across much of the United States spring arrives ten to fourteen days earlier than it did just twenty years ago.1 The evidence is there, but it’s slow and subtle—until a megastorm comes along and clubs you over the head.  Kindle location 216

A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, increasing the potential for summer floods and extreme winter snows, especially along the East Coast. Wet areas are getting wetter—dry areas are trending drier. You’ve heard the expression “weather on steroids”? We’re turbocharging the storms that would have formed anyway—loading the dice in favor of more extreme weather events. “All storms are 5 to 10 percent stronger in terms of heavy rainfall,” explains Dr. Kevin Trenberth at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. Even a couple-degree rise in temperature increases the potential for convulsions of wild weather that threaten life and property. “It means what was a very rare event is now not quite so rare,” Trenberth adds. How many times do we have to be smacked over the head before we sit up and pay attention?  Kindle location 227

To this day people confuse weather and climate. Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get. Weather is, Do I need shorts or a jacket? Climate is the ratio of shorts to jackets in your closet. It’s a little like comparing CNN to The History Channel. Weather is chaotic, random, and hard to predict—short-term gyrations in a much bigger climate system that responds to inputs: solar radiation, subtle changes in earth’s orbit, volcanoes, and greenhouse gases, which are essential to trapping warmth and making life possible. But we’ve been fiddling with earth’s thermostat.  Kindle location 233

Every day, by burning fossil fuels, we pump 87 million tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere. That equates to approximately 32 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the sky every year, worldwide.2 The average American emits about fifteen tons of CO2 into the air every year just by driving a vehicle.3 This invisible, heat-trapping blanket of man-made chemicals is the rough equivalent of four Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs’ worth of extra heat every second. Put another way, that’s 400,000 atomic bomb blasts of additional heat energy every day. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, well over one trillion tons of greenhouse gases have been released in the last fifty years. That’s one trillion hot-air balloons’ worth of CO2 and methane. We are the volcano. Earth just passed 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon in the atmosphere in 2015, the highest level in the human record. These heat-trapping gases are building up at a historically unprecedented pace. We are changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere and the oceans.  Kindle location 237

Since the dawn of time there’s been a tight correlation between the level of greenhouse gases and global temperatures. When carbon and methane levels shoot up, so does the temperature.  Kindle location 247

Billion-dollar weather disasters are on the rise worldwide, fueled by an increasingly volatile climate.4 Major disaster declarations in the U.S. are steadily increasing due to hurricanes, snowstorms, droughts, and severe thunderstorms. (An eye-opening chart of climate-related disasters and related costs can be found at ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/time-series.) From 1990 to 1999, there was an average of six emergency declarations issued each year, and from 2000 to 2009, there was an average of fifteen issued every year.5 Insurance companies report that weather-related losses have tripled since the 1980s, from an average of $10 billion to nearly $50 billion every year.  Kindle location 261

Fourteen of the fifteen warmest years on record, worldwide, have occurred since 2000, according to NASA and NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). The odds of that being a random fluke are 650 million to 1, according to statisticians.7 The twentieth century was the warmest in one thousand years. The first decade of the twenty-first century was the warmest decade ever observed. And 2015 was the warmest year on record across the planet, followed by 2014. And 2016 should set a new global record for warmest year ever observed. Globally, the ten warmest years in the past 134 have all occurred since 2000, except for 1998, according to data from NASA.8 The first fifteen years of this century were among the top-twenty warmest years on record. Experts say the odds of that are 1.5 quadrillion to 1 (a quadrillion is a million billion).9 I’m all for coincidences and serendipity, but at some point you connect the dots, scratch your head, and acknowledge it may be a trend, not a fluke. Connecting the dots—tying extreme events to a rapidly changing climate—is known as attribution.  Kindle location 268

DETROIT—As the planet warms, more ocean water is evaporating into the atmosphere, and this increased atmospheric humidity is what storm systems use to generate precipitation. But it’s not just rain. Here in southeast Michigan, we are also seeing it in the form of . . . snow! Yes, a warmer world has translated into more snow for the metropolitan Detroit area. It shocks people when I tell them that five of our top ten all-time snowiest winters have occurred since 2004, and a sixth occurred in the early 1980s! Remember Boston’s record snow in the winter of 2014–2015? That was Detroit the previous winter. Precipitation records in Detroit date back to 1874, which is long enough to show a changing climate’s impact. Paul Gross, Meteorologist, WDIV-TV  Kindle location 281

Due to global warming, rare and extreme heat events impact a percentage of the globe ten times greater than they did from 1951 to 1980.10 In the past several years, the global area hit by extremely unusual hot summertime temperatures has increased fiftyfold.11 Over the contiguous United States, new record-high temperatures over the past decade have consistently outnumbered new record lows by a ratio of two to one.12  Kindle location 290

A recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change found that the 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit of global warming since the start of the Industrial Revolution had quadrupled the probability of moderate heat extremes.14 Put simply, if the earth really is warming we should see more record highs than record lows. Which is, in fact, what we’re observing. The warming in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere is increasing at a rate roughly equivalent to walking south thirty feet every day. This rate is about a hundred times faster than most climate change observed in geological records, according to Stanford University climate scientist Ken Caldeira.  Kindle location 297

Droughts are also becoming more prevalent, lasting longer, and impacting more people. Warming triggered by human emissions is thought to have intensified the grueling 2011 to 2014 California drought by 15 to 20 percent; by some estimates the worst dry spell in twelve hundred years.16 The number of large wildfires in the U.S. has nearly doubled since the 1980s, and the average length of wildfire season has grown by more than two months.17 Over the past twelve years, every state in the western U.S. has experienced an increase in the average number of large wildfires per year compared to the annual average from 1980 to 2000. Higher temperatures, increased evaporation, surging populations, and changes in fire suppression practices are all factors fueling an increase in fire, most pronounced over the western United States.  Kindle location 304

Paul’s home state of Minnesota has experienced five distinct 1-in-1,000-year floods since 2004.18 Eight of the ten wettest years for daily precipitation in the upper Midwest have happened since 1978.19 Nationwide, the U.S. has experienced at least six separate 1-in-1,000-year flood events since 2010.20  Kindle location 313

Rain seems to be falling harder than it did for your parents or grandparents.21 Recent years have brought historic flooding to Pensacola, Nashville, Detroit, Atlanta, Tampa, Boulder, and a vast stretch of South Carolina, Texas, and Louisiana. Observations confirm that heavy precipitation events are on the rise. New England and much of the Northeast has experienced a 71 percent increase in heavy precipitation since 1958.22  Kindle location 318

Every 2-degree Fahrenheit of warming means roughly 8 percent more water vapor floating overhead; more fuel to “juice” storms and squeeze out heavier summer rains and winter snows.  Kindle location 324

The biggest increase in damage from weather events over the past decade came from severe storms, which NOAA classifies as tornadoes, hailstorms, severe thunderstorms, derechos (storms with strong straight-line winds), and flash floods. There were forty such events with losses exceeding $1 billion from 2004 to 2013, compared with thirteen between 1994 and 2003.23 Blizzards are getting super-sized too. Data shows extreme regional snowstorms were twice as common from 1961 to 2010 than 1900 to 1960.24  Kindle location 326

The eight-inch average sea level rise that has already occurred worldwide since 1880 makes the impact of hurricane storm surge flooding worse.28 Even generic Nor’easters pack more of a coastal flooding punch than they did just a generation ago. A twelve- to fifteen-inch sea level rise in New York Harbor since the 1700s enabled Hurricane Sandy to reach an additional 80,000 homes in 2012.29 The insurer Lloyd’s of London estimated that higher sea levels increased Sandy-related losses by 30 percent, with an additional $8 billion in damage in New York City alone.  Kindle location 342

Nearly 150 million people around the world live within three feet of sea level, threatened with dislocation and subsequent civil unrest.  Kindle location 353

More than 3.5 trillion tons of water have melted off of Alaska’s glaciers since 1959, when Alaska first became a state. That’s enough to fill more than one billion Olympic-sized pools.32 As many as 90 percent of the world’s glaciers may be lost in the next few centuries if heat-trapping greenhouse gases continue to rise at current rates.33  Kindle location 356

We can’t move entire cities like New York or Shanghai because sea level rise will soon be inundating them. Miami, specifically, is the top-ranked city in the world in terms of assets at risk. It’s a city that’s indefensible against higher sea level because it sits on top of porous limestone. No dike can be built to stop seawater from penetrating far inland, contaminating drinking water supplies, and lifting the water table to the point of inundation along a very flat and low landscape. As I write this, there are dozens of new buildings in various phases of development along Miami’s coast. No one seems to be concerned about the long-term viability of these edifications, nor the infrastructure that supports living in them. Insurance rates are still low relative to the risk (greatly subsidized by the government). This won’t go on forever, probably not even into the late twenty-first century. Eventually, hundreds of thousands of people who thought their families could remain comfortably anchored in their Magic City homes will have to consider a Plan B, especially for their children and grandchildren, due to sea level rise caused by global warming. John Morales, Chief Meteorologist, NBC 6  Kindle location 367

The Pacific basin has seen a string of devastating Category-5 hurricanes in recent years, which may be, in part, attributed to warmer water. Typhoon Haiyan, which decimated the Philippines in November 2013, came ashore with sustained winds of 197 mph, roughly equivalent to a twenty-mile-wide EF-5 tornado. Studies suggest a possibility of fewer storms in the future, but the storms that do spin up may be more intense.34  Kindle location 379

The world’s oceans currently absorb about a third of human-created CO2 emissions, close to 9 billion tons every year. Surface water in the world’s oceans is 30 percent more acidic than it was two hundred years ago.36 The impact on sea life is still unclear, but more acidic oceans threaten coral reefs, biodiversity, and the food chain we all depend on.  Kindle location 387

More “Weather Whiplash”

The arctic region is warming twice as fast as the United States and other mid-latitudes, impacting north-south temperature gradients and, subsequently, the jet stream—the high-speed river of air in the upper atmosphere. Preliminary research suggests a 12 percent drop in jet stream winds, creating a wavier pattern, one in which weather systems slow, sometimes becoming stuck.37 When weather stalls, bad things can result: extended floods—and on the flip side, more prolonged and intense heat waves and droughts. All over we are seeing wilder swings in temperature and moisture. Dry areas are, in fact, getting drier and wet areas are trending even wetter. An almost surreal blocking pattern combined with a nearly stationary firehose of tropical moisture from Hurricane Joaquin to dump up to twenty-six inches of rain on South Carolina over three days in October 2015. That’s a year’s worth of precipitation for most northern cities.  Kindle location 391

New research from the University of Minnesota suggests a rapidly changing climate may be sparking fewer summer storms over the Northern Hemisphere.38 There are more days between rain events, but when it does rain, it comes down in a tropical deluge. The CEI, or Climate Extreme Index from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, shows a 30 percent increase in regions of the United States experiencing either extreme drought or extreme flood since 1910. (Another attention-getting chart is found at https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/extremes/cei/graph.) I’m no rocket scientist, but I detect a steady upward trend since the 1970s, and the trends are becoming more obvious each year.  Kindle location 399

Acknowledging a changing climate doesn’t rest on a slender thread of evidence. From shrinking summer ice at the top of the world impacting the jet stream, to an uptick in weather extremes, shrinking glaciers, more acidic oceans, a spike in debilitating heat waves, devastating droughts, and summer downpours, our climate is already changing. Like a doctor examining a feverish patient, we are witnessing symptoms of a warmer, more volatile climate system. So now what? All this feels too big, too depressing, too overwhelming. Most of us are trying to get through the week, pay our bills, and keep the wheels on the bus. Don’t give me one more thing to worry about!  Kindle location 409

Psychologists tell us that we avoid or deny a problem when there is no obvious, straightforward way out. But there are solutions. There is a path forward. One thing remains constant: We are stewards of God’s creation. We all have a vested interest in treating God’s gift with care, respect, and reverence. In this book, Mitch and I will share ideas and solutions both big and small for improving our world, helping our families and those around us. We all have a set number of sunrises and sunsets remaining. We’re here to glorify our heavenly Father and care for his kingdom, to be good stewards of what we’ve been given, to care for those we know and those we don’t know. That isn’t optional. Jesus made that abundantly clear. He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” Matthew 25:45 We’ll figure this out. Mitch and I are optimists. Climate change is more than an environmental problem or an economic challenge. It’s a moral and spiritual imperative.  Kindle location 414

For Christians, the issue is much deeper: We know that God created the world, and it belongs to Him, not us. Because of this, we are only stewards or trustees of God’s creation, and we aren’t to abuse or neglect it. The Bible says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). When we fail to see the world as God’s creation, we will end up abusing it. Selfishness and greed take over, and we end up not caring about the environment or the problems we’re creating for future generations. It’s not surprising that some of the world’s worst environmental damage was done by the old atheistic regimes of Eastern Europe. I hope you won’t lose your concern for these issues, for they are important. But don’t lose sight of something that is even more important: your relationship with God. Is Christ first in your life, and are you seeking to follow Him every day?2 Billy Graham (2008)  Kindle location 442

Rachel Gutter, heads up the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Apple Schools initiative. It’s the leading movement to protect our children from indoor air pollution, toxic chemicals, and other factors that impact our children’s health in the location that most kids spend a large portion of their lives: the classroom. She is much more colorful when addressing the same issue. Rachel, a petite young woman, stands as if an Ursus maritimus (the scientific name for a polar bear) herself and says, “It’s not about our [bleeping] polar bears; it’s about our children.” Understanding the need to defend our kids’ health, provide pure air and water, and provide for a good economic future challenges the integral struggle that may tip the seesaw for climate action.  Kindle location 460

As Focus on the Family put it recently, pro-life is not a political statement, it’s a way of life.3 In a recent National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) statement on end-of-life, the NAE states we are pro-life from womb to the tomb.4 That expresses my own theology as well as many evangelical Christians’. We are concerned about life from conception until natural death. The unborn child is very important to us, but so is each child of God at every stage of life.  Kindle location 471

American Academy of Pediatrics Letter to EPA Eating foods containing methylmercury can expose the brains of adults, children, and developing fetuses to harm. Critical periods are during pregnancy and in the early months after children are born. Mercury exposure can lead to developmental birth defects and interfere with neurological development. Pregnant women who consume fish and shellfish can transmit that methylmercury to their developing fetuses, and infants can ingest methylmercury in breast milk. Children can also become exposed by eating contaminated fish.5 A few years ago, I testified before the United States House of Representatives Energy and Power subcommittee on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants and the threats posed to our unborn children’s brains as a pro-life matter. Congressman John Shimkus (a Republican from Illinois) proceeded to lecture me with Scripture after Scripture. After several minutes of soliloquy, I attempted to interrupt the Congressman and asked to answer his questions. His reply: “I’m doing good enough by myself, thank you.” He went on to say, “The ‘life’ in ‘pro-life’ denotes not the quality of life, but life itself.”6 If we believe Jesus’ words in John 10:10 (“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,”7 or as other translations phrase it, “abundant life,” or “of life abundantly”), how can we not be concerned with the quality of life? I pray for my kids and grandchildren to have a quality of life. I have dreams of good health, following the career God is calling them to, and finding the wonderful fruit of life given by the Holy Spirit. That’s pro-life being more than a political statement.  Kindle location 477

Without doubt, pro-life should be about not ending a pregnancy, but also assuring the right for the opportunity to abundant life. We must have a whole or entire life theology that cares for the unborn and born child alike. As pro-life evangelicals, we want children to be born healthy, unhindered by the ravages of pollution even before they take their first breath. The medical community has long known the environmental impacts on our unborn children. The once-assumed chemical protection a mother gives her developing child is untrue. One of the body’s protective shields against brain damage, called “the blood-brain barrier,” is not fully developed until after the first three years of life. Thus, in the unborn child, toxins can cross this incomplete barrier and accumulate in the brain, causing developmental disabilities and brain damage, resulting in lowered intelligence and learning problems. One study found “the resulting loss of intelligence causes diminished economic productivity that persists over the entire lifetime of these children.”8 In economic terms, the poisoning of our unborn children’s brains costs between 60 and 106 billion dollars in the United States per year.9 As just one example, recent studies have shown that smog and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including hydrocarbons, benzene, formaldehyde, and air toxins have a disproportionate impact upon life in the womb. University of Pittsburgh researchers found evidence of low birthweight babies associated with proximity to unconventional natural gas wells in Butler County, Pennsylvania,10 and in a Colorado study, birth defects in a rural area were linked to methane production.11  Kindle location 492

Unfortunately, many in our pews have not yet accepted the connection. Until our communities understand and identify the problems using our values, our communities have no way to internalize and act on problems our children face. Often when speaking before a congregation, I start my presentations asking, “Will you please stand if you have a child or grandchild with asthma? Autism? ADHD? Allergies? Cancer?” By the time I get through asking those questions, it’s not uncommon for up to 90 percent of the congregation to be on their feet. I look around the room to see the number of lives and families that are impacted. Then I simply state, “If you’re not concerned about caring for God’s creation, you should be, because our failure to be good stewards touches every one of our family’s lives. Creation care is a matter of life.” According to the American Lung Association, more than 35 million kids in the United States live in areas with unhealthy air.12 The latest childhood epidemics with strong links to petrochemicals and fossil fuel energy—asthma, autism, ADHD, and allergies—impact as many as one in three children in the U.S.13, 14 Dr. Philippe Grandjean states, “We are facing massive prevalence of brain dysfunction, autism, and many other signs of ill health due to development insults. Because the exposures to toxic chemicals happen worldwide, the adverse effects are appearing now as a silent pandemic.”15  Kindle location 507

Back in the 1960s a woman had a one-in-twenty chance to develop breast cancer in her lifetime; now the frequency is one in eight. This rapid increase in cancer rates led my friend, Dr. Matthew Sleeth, to study the Bible, convert to Christianity, and then leave his career as an emergency room physician and start a ministry, Blessed Earth, teaching creation care and becoming a bestselling author. Unfortunately, the breast cancer news isn’t good. According to Dr. Philip Rosenberg of the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer rates are expected to increase by 30 percent by 2030.16 That means the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer will jump to 441,000 in 2030 from 283,000 in 2011.  Kindle location 522

Doctors know that breast cancer rates are higher in the developed world than the majority world. They also know that only 30 percent of women with breast cancer have known risk factors such as genetics, late menopause, or having children later in life. The cause of 70 percent of breast cancer diagnoses is, of yet, unclear. Nevertheless, a growing body of research points to the environment; especially suspect are chemicals and plastics that act like hormones in the human body. A large body of plastics such as bisphenol-A (BPA), high density polyethylene (HDPE), and a host of other resins used in packaging, plastic bags (including bottles labeled BPA-free), other plastics, and common fertilizers and pesticides all mimic estrogen.17 These same chemicals have also been linked to potential male reproduction issues including low sperm counts, malformed genitalia, and increased frequency of non-descending testicles.18  Kindle location 529

All of us care that a baby is born healthy. No one wants to see a child born with his or her opportunities limited due to brain damage or other developmental problems. Nor do we wish to see our wives, sisters, daughters, and granddaughters face the plague of breast cancer. Yet one of the serious national failures has been to update the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). This statute on the books, with no serious amendments since 1976, has in effect allowed over 85,000 chemicals to be marketed without serious testing; it also doesn’t require combinations of chemicals to be tested. As we write, there is legislation in Congress for TSCA reform known as the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, named for the late New Jersey senator who fought for years to update our chemical laws. Even if this compromised bill makes it through Congress, it fails to protect babies in the womb, the most vulnerable group. Unborn children—or the more popular politically correct term, developing fetuses—should be at the front of the line in efforts to update our chemical safety laws, but the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act leaves this most vulnerable group out altogether.  Kindle location 545

Strangely enough, in this era of rank partisanship, there seems to be bipartisan agreement to leave babies in the womb unprotected. But as a nation we cannot let political expediency and misplaced culture-war thinking leave babies in the womb unprotected from toxic chemicals that will damage them for the rest of their lives. Harvard professor Philippe Grandjean put it succinctly: “We only get one chance to develop a brain. The damage that occurs to the brain of a fetus or child will likely remain for the rest of his or her life.”20 The science is settled. The developing fetus and young child are particularly vulnerable to certain environmental toxins. Critical neurodevelopmental processes occur in the human central nervous system during fetal development and in the first three years of life.21 These issues should not be “politics as usual.” The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website lists over four thousand references to the “developing fetus,” including a fact sheet on bioaccumulation of toxic chemicals that states, “The populations at risk . . . are children and the developing fetus.”  Kindle location 554

Besides the critical neurodevelopment that occurs before birth, the other major reason babies in the womb are so vulnerable is bioaccumulation. Chemicals readily pass from the mother through the placenta; unfortunately, a developing baby, unlike the mother, cannot eliminate toxins through normal biological processes. In fact, one way chemicals are removed from a pregnant woman is by passing through her uterus. Without explicitly including “developing fetuses” as a class to be protected, our most vulnerable population will continue to be exposed to chemicals that will substantially impact their entire lives and hinder our nation. Yet Senate offices on both sides of the aisle refuse to consider adding the necessary language to protect our most at-risk population. Why? On one side, the chemical industry doesn’t wish to acknowledge the reality of the impact their products have on babies in the womb, fearing it could lead to increased litigation, awarded damages, and more stringent testing that would impact their bottom line.  Kindle location 564

Proponents on Capitol Hill have pointed out to us that the proposed legislation allows the EPA to name additional vulnerable populations. Such a provision is needed so that heretofore unknown vulnerable classes can be protected once science demonstrates their vulnerability. That does not apply here, given the settled science on the dangers toxic chemicals pose to babies in the womb. If the bill becomes law, it will exclude our most vulnerable and sadly reflect the state of our nation. So on top of a world where we already poison our kids, climate change is adding insult to injury. As our temperature rises, smog will get worse—impacting those with asthma and making life more difficult. Dengue fever (known as bone-break fever for its pain), a mosquito-borne disease never before native to the U.S., is now present in Florida, Texas, and Hawaii, due at least in part to our changing climate and warming temperatures.22 And in my home state of Pennsylvania, where we unfortunately lead the nation in Lyme disease infections, earlier springs and later autumn have made Lyme disease almost an epidemic.23 Just recently, the Centers for Disease Control stated that the number of counties with high rates of Lyme disease, including counties in Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, increased by more than 320 percent. Why? Climate change.24  Kindle location 576

Uganda, like much of Africa, is experiencing seasonal changes and decreased rainfall as climate change’s impact deepens. The rainy season doesn’t start on time, and rains come much more intermittently—and when they do, they come in much more rapid downpours than in the past. This exacerbates crop production, increases poverty, leads to starvation, and increases violence. It also leads to one of the most powerful stories I have ever heard.

Climate Change and One Developing Country

Like many other developing countries, Malawi has experienced a number of adverse climatic hazards. The most serious ones have been dry spells, seasonal droughts, intense rainfall, riverine floods, and flash floods. Some of these—especially droughts and floods—have increased in frequency, intensity, and magnitude over the same two decades, and have adversely impacted food and water security, water quality, energy, and sustainable livelihoods of the most rural communities. Currently, the majority of rural communities in Malawi are experiencing chronic food deficits on a year-round basis owing to the effects of floods and droughts. . . . Erratic rains have resulted in acute crop failure, despite concrete efforts to improve seasonal weather forecasting at the beginning of the rainy season. Floods have also resulted in the disruption of hydroelectric power generation, water pollution, and increased incidence of diseases such as malaria, cholera, and diarrhea.25  Kindle location 591

Dr. Shean recounted the story of a young woman who was tossed away from her home by her husband. The woman’s failure was that she couldn’t grow a garden. Climate change’s intermittent and altered rainfall pattern had led many in the area to have failed gardens. After several years of unsuccessful gardening, the young woman’s husband cast her aside, blaming her for the garden’s failure. She fled to a nearby village, seeking shelter and security with another man. After becoming pregnant, the young woman was again tossed aside and became seriously ill. She made her way back to Dr. Shean, who cared for the woman and helped her deliver. Shortly after the birth, the woman died and Dr. Shean became the foster mother of what she calls her “Climate Baby.” Stories like Dr. Shean’s are not uncommon—they happen every day as people struggle for food and water. We know that in Malawi, crops have decreased roughly a third from what had been produced in previous years. Our Malawian friends, the Assembly of God relief agency, tell us that for generations people would plant in late October or early November because they could predict the rainy season starting within a few days. While the total rainfall hasn’t varied on a yearly basis, the rains now come months later and usually in extreme downpours, washing away the crops and the fields. By 2020, rain-fed farming will harvest only 50 percent of what they did just a few years ago across all Africa.26  Kindle location 604

Water

Water remains the most precious life resource on earth. One billion people depend on melting glaciers for their water. The snows of Kilimanjaro have all but disappeared, the Andes (South America) glaciers are disappearing at an alarming rate, and the United States isn’t being spared from water scarcity. Paul discussed the California and other western U.S. droughts, but if we open our eyes it’s not hard to see the fouled water caused by our poor stewardship of creation. In the summer of 2014, we saw the city of Toledo’s drinking water turn to slime as Lake Erie was filled with a gigantic algae bloom, fed by an exorbitant amount of petrochemicals (primarily fertilizer) and further escalated by higher water temperatures. The ensuing condition caused a massive panic. In Charleston, West Virginia, the Kanawha River became undrinkable from a coal preparation plant spill. And North Carolina saw a coal ash leak foul the Dan River, resulting in a $102 million fine and residents around the state wondering about the safety of their wells.27  Kindle location 615

There are over four hundred dead zones worldwide and over 166 identified in the United States, including parts of the Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound.28 So, why should I care?  Kindle location 631

Much of the world’s food, especially much-needed protein, comes from the oceans. Combined with overfishing, coral destruction, and other pollution, dead zones exacerbate food scarcity. This directly leads to increased levels of poverty, forced migration, and armed conflict. Second, oceans produce approximately 70 percent of the world’s oxygen, and we all need to breathe. Expanding dead zones stress the created order and completely alter God’s design for our common home. We are easily fulfilling Isaiah’s prophetic visions when he stated: The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the heavens languish with the earth. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left. Isaiah 24:4–6  Kindle location 633

Water is a matter of life, and all of us are at risk. I invite everyone to take a look at their local water quality. Every state has water advisories such as fish-eating limits because of mercury or agricultural waste petrochemicals. Water is key to our survival and yet we’ve polluted it so terribly. In the summer of 2015, it was revealed that thousands of bass with cancerous lesions have been seen in the Susquehanna River in my home of Pennsylvania with no definite answers why. It is certainly linked to our overuse of chemicals, our improper stewardship, and our failure to understand that we have been called to be stewards, not destroyers, of God’s creation. Ensuring pure water for all people would be considered a basic right for us in the United States. However, on a global scale, water resources are quickly becoming privatized. Privatization refers to water for those with the financial resources—not encompassing the general public.  Kindle location 643

Most of us would do anything to defend our kids. Without food, water, and hope, millions of people throughout the world are on the move, creating a new population group: climate refugees. In north Mexico alone, since the mid-1990s, over one million people have fled their farms each year due to poor farming conditions and climate change.29  Kindle location 650

While various organizations and researchers have attempted to quantify this new exodus, there is not common agreement on the actual migration; it’s estimated to include somewhere between 50 and 200 million of God’s children in the next several decades. While the numbers remain suspect, the impacts are not. The United States and Europe already face social unrest with the current wave of refugees, and climate change simply makes it worse. Our military is concerned. They see climate change as a threat multiplier. I’ve sat in a room with retired generals and admirals from all branches of service and listened while, with moisture forming in their eyes, they shared their great fear of our nation committing our young men and women into conflict as more and more nations destabilize. I shared their tears as my eldest son served two tours in Afghanistan as a cavalry scout.  Kindle location 657

In the last two Quadrennial Defense Reviews by the U.S. Department of Defense, climate risks were identified as follows: Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating. These changes, coupled with other global dynamics, including growing, urbanizing, more affluent populations, and substantial economic growth in India, China, Brazil, and other nations, will devastate homes, land, and infrastructure. Climate change may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food costs. The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions—conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.31  Kindle location 663

Risks to Our National Security?

In many areas, the projected impacts of climate change will be more than threat multipliers; they will serve as catalysts for instability and conflict. In Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, we are already seeing how the impacts of extreme weather, such as prolonged drought and flooding—and resulting food shortages, desertification, population dislocation and mass migration, and sea level rise—are posing security challenges to these regions’ governments. We see these trends growing and accelerating. To protect our national security interests both at home and abroad, the United States must be more assertive and expand cooperation with our international allies to bring about change and build resilience. The rapidly changing Arctic region is a clear example of where such international cooperation and change is imperative.32 Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board  Kindle location 673

Climate change is resulting in war. I can almost hear the skeptical chuckles by some far-right political pundit on television—but have no doubt, while our changing of creation doesn’t make war happen, the impacts are literally the powder keg waiting for a spark. Stephen Faris, in The Atlantic magazine, tells the story of Alex de Waal, a graduate student who traveled in Sudan in the mid-1980s to assess the country’s prolonged drought.33 In de Waal’s journeys he came across an older Arab sheikh named Hilal Abdalla, who said, “The God-given order was broken,” and he feared the future. “The way the world was set up since time immemorial was being disturbed.” Once, the mostly Arab nomads from northern Sudan coexisted with the primarily Christian farmers from the south. But as water and resource scarcity exacerbated, a civil war erupted, costing hundreds of thousands of lives and creating millions of refugees. The fact that that war is still ongoing is, in part, a result of climate change. No one will ever know what percentage of the Darfur conflict can be linked to climate change, but its one real example of why our military and researchers are concerned. Studies predict that each additional 1 degree Celsius or 1.8 degree Fahrenheit will result in a 20 to 49 percent increase in conflict in Africa alone.34, 35 Conservatives like Paul and I, and probably most of you reading this book, care about our families, our children, and our grandchildren. We want a strong America with a good economy. Our hope is to see children and grandchildren grow and thrive, with good jobs and a solid future. Our goal is pure air, clean water, and an unspoiled earth for an abundant, healthy life that allows them to reach their God-given potential.  Kindle location 682

We don’t want the government to do it; we want to be able to accomplish something, and we want a sense of fairness where hard work is rewarded, where people are given equal opportunity to succeed in making that abundant life. In short, we desire America to bless God, and then God to bless America. Overcoming climate change and our poor stewardship will require hard work. But before we tackle the very real problems, we first must break from our folly of polarization  Kindle location 698

It’s time to stop dehumanizing each other from within our ideological bastions and allow grace to shine through each of us, working for hope for all God’s children and our common home. Pope Francis said, “We know by faith that the Creator does not abandon us; He never forsakes His loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity has the ability to work together in building our common home.” Pope Francis’s moral support for climate action stands together with the Orthodox Church, the Cape Commitment issued by the Lausanne Movement for World Evangelism, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Evangelical Climate Initiative, and most important, the Bible. May all of us search our hearts and look to see climate action in new ways with grace-filled eyes. For me, it’s the greatest moral challenge of our generation and the greatest opportunity for hope. Climate change is the critical problem to solve, and with the solution comes the opportunity to defend our kids and create a new, better economy. So let’s quit building walls around our ideological positions and allow grace a chance to find common ground and help us work together.  Kindle location 718

Christians must care about climate change because we love God the Creator and Jesus our Lord, through whom and for whom the creation was made. This is God’s world, and any damage that we do to God’s world is an offense against God Himself. National Association of Evangelicals I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. Galileo God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31  Kindle location 730

From the standpoint of a bewildered meteorologist, rather than “global warming,” I prefer the term “climate volatility” resulting in more “weather disruption.”  Kindle location 742

(Paul) As a meteorologist, I’m the equivalent of a dermatologist, tracking the symptoms in day-to-day weather above the earth’s skin. It’s the climate scientists who are conducting the full-body CT scans, confirming that the patient is, in fact, running a low-grade fever.  Kindle location 748

Beware of conspiracy theories. When the facts and evidence aren’t on their side, some people, institutes, special interests, and politicians addicted to a steady IV-drip of campaign donations find it easier to rely on conspiracy theories and manufactured misinformation. You’re welcome to your opinions and beliefs—just not the facts.  Kindle location 762

Thermometers and satellites don’t have a political agenda. The data is the data—the facts are the facts.  Kindle location 768

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln created the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a private, nonprofit organization charged with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology. This was the height of the Civil War, and Lincoln, a Republican, was concerned about the military being scammed by shoddy contractors making unsubstantiated claims about their new inventions. He wanted a bipartisan group of scientific experts to evaluate these claims and make recommendations. In 2014, the very same NAS wrote: Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time. It is now more certain than ever, based on many lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth’s climate. The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, accompanied by sea-level rise, a strong decline in Arctic sea ice, and other climate-related changes. The evidence is clear. However, due to the nature of science, not every single detail is ever totally settled or completely certain.1  Kindle location 774

We didn’t come out of the Stone Age because we ran out of stones. We came out of the Stone Age because we found a better way forward. “The New Testament talks about how faith is the evidence of things not seen,” says Katharine Hayhoe, a Texas Tech climate scientist and evangelical Christian. “By definition, science is the evidence of things that are seen, that can be observed, that are quantifiable. And so that’s why I see faith and science as two sides of the same coin.”2  Kindle location 784

PHILADELPHIA—Warmest year. Warmest spring. Hottest summer. Most days of 90+ degrees. Hottest June. Hottest July. Wettest year. Wettest summer. Wettest single day. Wettest March. Wettest June. Wettest July. Wettest August. Snowiest winter. Snowiest month. Snowiest December. Snowiest February. Second and third biggest snowstorms. Lowest barometric pressure (Sandy). Official records in Philadelphia go back to 1871. That’s 145 years. Yet all those above records happened in SIX! Ocean temperatures off the coast have been well above “normal” during Sandy and many of the other big, wet storms that led to these records. An enhanced greenhouse effect, caused mainly by an increase in CO2, is known to lead to more “precipitable water” (PW). More PW in any given storm will likely lead to more precipitation. And, if it happens to be just cold enough, that means a bigger snowstorm. So, evidence of a “global warming effect” is already being seen in this area. Similar stories are being told elsewhere. Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz, Chief Meteorologist, NBC 10  Kindle location 790

Despite the vast majority of studies, special interests are trying to convince the public that scientists are in disagreement. That’s simply not the case. You can have an opinion, but that doesn’t mean you’re an expert, you’re correct, or that the data supports your claims. We should listen to real experts and not look for conspiracy theories under every rock. “Science is not a democracy. It’s a dictatorship. Evidence does the dictating,” says John Reisman, director of the film Climate Change: Lines of Evidence. Skepticism is a good thing. Scientists are skeptical by nature, and extremely competitive. For thousands of PhD professionals to agree on anything confirms that confidence levels are very high, even if we don’t have every detail and the science isn’t totally settled.  Kindle location 816

How do we know recent climate change is man-made? By taking careful measurements of the chemical composition of the atmosphere over time, we know that concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have been increasing since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Since the mid-1800s, scientists have known that CO2 is one of the main greenhouse gases of importance to Earth’s energy balance. Direct measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere and in air trapped in ice show that atmospheric CO2 increased by about 40% from 1800 to 2012. Measurements of different forms of carbon isotopes reveal that this increase is due to human activities.3 Studies dating back to 1824 correctly identified the greenhouse gas effect. The steady rise in global surface temperature is consistent with the observed rise in CO2. These carbon dioxide “isotopes” are chemical fingerprints, proving man-made emissions and deforestation—not natural causes—are behind the spike in CO2.4 History shows a tight correlation between carbon levels and the average temperature of the atmosphere. Again, there’s nothing controversial about that statement. CO2 traps warmth and keeps temperatures in a tolerable range for life to exist, but too much CO2 turns up the thermostat. There is an ideal range of carbon in the atmosphere. Oxygen is also essential for life; too much oxygen and things begin to spontaneously combust. As mentioned earlier, the concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere are higher than they’ve been since humans first walked the earth. We are conducting an experiment that’s never been done before.  Kindle location 822

Changes observed in recent decades. Direct satellite measurements since the late 1970s show no net increase in the Sun’s output, while at the same time global surface temperatures have increased.6 It’s not the sun, and it’s not volcanoes either. The state of Florida emits more CO2 every year than all the world’s volcanoes.7 In fact, it’s estimated that volcanoes account for roughly 1 percent of the carbon released by burning fossil fuels every year to power our homes and vehicles.  Kindle location 850

CO2 has risen by 40% in just the past 200 years, contributing to human alteration of the planet’s energy budget that has so far warmed Earth by about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F). If the rise in CO2 continues unchecked, warming of the same magnitude as the increase out of the ice age can be expected by the end of this century or soon after.9 Earth’s lower atmosphere is becoming warmer and moister as a result of human-emitted greenhouse gases. This gives the potential for more energy for storms and certain severe weather events. Consistent with theoretical expectations, heavy rainfall and snowfall events (which increase the risk of flooding) and heat waves are generally becoming more frequent. Trends in extreme rainfall vary from region to region: the most pronounced changes are evident in North America and parts of Europe, especially in winter.10  Kindle location 862

Nearly 92 percent of the extra warming triggered by greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels goes into the world’s oceans (where it functions as stored warming, for decades — the carbonization of water is more persistent). Only 3 or 4 percent actually warms the atmosphere.  Kindle location 901

The combination of heat and humidity is beginning to affect crops dependent on pollen fertilization. Pollen’s effectiveness decreases beyond certain temperatures. For example, corn needs daytime temperatures to remain below 95°F while tomatoes need nighttime temperatures to drop below 75°F to be effective. As the weather changes, the climate does too, and the impacts begin to build over time. Jim Gandy, Chief Meteorologist, WLTX-TV  Kindle location 923

Burning fossil fuels has powered economies and lifted much of the world out of abject poverty, but it has some very unpleasant side effects. We’ve gone from secondhand smoke to secondhand CO2. Dirty fuels are compromising earth’s natural checks and balances. The future is uncertain, but there’s no time for doom and gloom. There is a way forward, one that cleans up our skies, improves our health, and leaves our kids a world we won’t have to apologize for—a sustainable economic path that honors God’s creation while creating new opportunities for renewal, rebirth, and reinvention. American exceptionalism? Let’s prove it—again. What if the vast majority of scientists, research papers, and predictions are right? We honor our Creator by keeping an open mind, by acknowledging that our actions have very real consequences on his creation. Anything less is the definition of apathy, indifference, and greed.  Kindle location 957

Here’s a forecast with a high degree of certainty. At some point your kids or grandkids will come to you and ask, “What did you know, when, and what did you do?” Did you sit on your hands, latch on to conspiracy theories, and kick the can down the road? Or were you part of the solution?  Kindle location 964

Chapter 4 We Are . . . Easter People

Dominion doesn’t mean doing what you want. It means caring for what’s been given to you in a healthy way. Eugene Peterson The majority of American evangelicals have experienced God in nature. Whether at Christian camp or on a hike in the wild, we’ve had a “mountaintop” encounter.  Kindle location 967

In over five hundred sermons or presentations in churches across America in the past six years, I received nearly 100 percent affirmation when I asked, “How many have encountered Jesus in nature?” It’s almost incredulous that we meet God in creation but haven’t made the connection that caring for creation nurtures our relationship with him. Creation care is a part of loving God.  Kindle location 975

As the Rev. Dr. Christopher Wright states in his seminal work, The Mission of God, we cannot have a relationship with God if we fail to care for what belongs to him. And if the greatest commandment is that we should love God, that surely implies that we should treat what belongs to God with honor, care and respect. This would be true in any human relationship. If you love someone, you care for what belongs to that person. To love God (even to know God at all, Jeremiah would add [Jer. 9:24]) means to value what God values. Conversely, therefore, to contribute to or collude in the abuse, pollution and destruction of the natural order is to trample on the goodness of God reflected in creation. It is to devalue what God values, to mute God’s praise and to diminish God’s glory.1  Kindle location 979

When speaking at a church or Christian college, one of my favorite methods to demonstrate the creation care (stewardship) and God relationship is to invite two folks seated together to join me. I ask one of them if I can borrow their smartphone or tablet. I give the device to the other enlistee and then ask them what the first person would think if the second one threw the phone on the ground and stomped on it. Do they think they would remain friends? Simultaneously, with a bit of sleight of hand, I pull an old cell phone out of my pocket, throw it on the ground, and jump on it. With a surprised face and the look of hope that it wasn’t my phone, I ask, “Could they be friends after something they owned was destroyed by the other?” There is always wide-eyed amazement, sometimes a nervous chuckle or even outright glares of hostility. I then repeat the question: Would you be friends with me or with anyone who destroyed something that belonged to you? Some attempt to provide a churchy answer like, “If you’re sorry or if you buy me a new phone . . .” But the relationship is broken. Without some type of reconciliation and forgiveness, the brokenness continues. So, in part, our relationship with God is influenced by how each of us cares for his creation.  Kindle location 986

Christianity, above all else, is a faith built on relationship. The relationship existing between the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is the ideal model.  Kindle location 1007

The Bible’s central message remains God’s love for us and God’s work to restore our relationship. It is simply impossible to follow Christ, be a disciple, and have a complete relationship with God without caring for his creation. Yet far too many Christians are not practicing care for what God values.  Kindle location 1010

Some time ago, I led a Harrisonburg community men’s morning Bible study in Virginia. The lesson was based on Colossians 1:16–20: For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. The morning’s key verse: “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” This Scripture, like so many others in the Bible, tells Christians that we are not the owners of the earth. The earth, God’s creation, was formed by and for God,  Kindle location 1012

Unfortunately, too many Christians, especially evangelicals, don’t understand the imperative to “tend the garden.”3 As a case in point, immediately after sharing, I sat down for a time of reflection and discussion. As soon as I was seated, one gentleman said, “I’ve read the Bible all my life, and I never saw this Scripture in the light of caring for the earth.” Christian earth stewardship or creation care, in my experience, is not a matter of willful disregard for the earth, but a matter of biblical ignorance. Much of evangelical Christianity, in the past, has been based in a platonic worldview.4 What I mean by this is we’ve been taught that the only real thing is heaven; earthly reality exists only as a shade of the ideal. Therefore our vision, dreams, and theology have been based in saving souls and escaping the earth instead of its reconciliation and restoration.  Kindle location 1020

bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. Ephesians 1:7–10 Both Ephesians and Colossians provide us with the image that Jesus is the reconciler of all things, not just humanity. The whole of creation is to be healed through and by Jesus the Christ. It’s not escaping the earth into heaven but heaven coming to earth6 and the return to the beauty of the created order: the old becoming new, being the fulfillment of the kingdom. Jesus calls us to restore his will—his kingdom—on earth as it is in heaven. It’s a return, quite honestly, to the beginning, to the garden of Eden in which we were called to live in harmonious relationship with the rest of creation, not destroy it.  Kindle location 1034

As an evangelical Christian, the scriptural understanding of reconciliation comes through and by the resurrection of Jesus. In the gospel of John, chapter 20:1–18, Mary Magdalene comes to the garden tomb. Mary is lost, grieving, and alone in her own thoughts.  Kindle location 1040 Mary, more than anything else, desired to cling to the Jesus that she knew. The Jesus who spent time with her, the Jesus who performed miracles, the Jesus who taught about love and forgiveness. In short, Mary wanted to cling to the past and not move into a new creation, the kingdom of God. So many of us are just like Mary. We don’t want to change; we want to live in the past, or at least live where we are comfortable. It’s probably a bit oversimplified, but in the majority of the Western world, Christians live more like Good Friday Christians than Easter people. What do I mean? We, those of us among the dwindling number who count ourselves as Christian, like the concept that Jesus’ death on the cross paid for our sins and wiped our slates clean. We love to have our mistakes taken care of so that we can get into heaven, but we really don’t want to change our ways. Accepting Jesus as Savior, for many, becomes the culmination of faith, instead of the beginning. We don’t want to be part of a new creation. We really don’t want to live our lives any differently. We are comfortable with who we are, and being something new is terribly disconcerting; it’s enough to believe and not act like Jesus. Those are my conclusions after almost twenty years as a local church pastor.  Kindle location 1056

Do we wish to remain Good Friday Christians, awaiting the escape of this world, or do we want to have a complete relationship with and follow our risen Lord Jesus? Are we willing to experience abundant life through Jesus, here and now, being part of the new creation, working with Jesus?  Kindle location 1074

Are we willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus until he returns? The church’s answer to the Resurrection, the Easter message, will determine the lives and future for literally hundreds of millions in our nation and throughout the world. Simply put, the future of American churches depends on our becoming Easter people.  Kindle location 1077

Churches are losing many from the current generation. Why? Because many younger people, including some of my children, see no relevance in the church. They’re not looking for heaven; they want a better world. But all they’re seeing is an institution trying to preserve itself through the current culture wars; pointing fingers, hating, and especially not being filled with love or mercy. Secular humanism appears much more loving than the church to so many today. There’s a huge difference in how the current North American church loves and how Jesus loves. The first evangelist wasn’t a perfect person but a woman who met Jesus at a well and, to say the least, had a complicated life. Or the Roman centurion’s servant, healed by faith, who didn’t have the correct form of baptism or even follow Jewish law. All of the disciples were flawed, ordinary people who, after experiencing the resurrection, finally started the transformation process. Christianity believes we can’t do it alone. It’s Jesus’ love, given through grace, provided by the Holy Spirit, that takes us beyond ourselves.  Kindle location 1080

Jesus’ greatest command is “Love each other as I have loved you.”9 His love means for us to stop worrying about who gets into heaven and start building the kingdom of God on earth. Heaven is the icing on the spiritual journey, not the first priority. People struggling to live and breathe today are the priority. Jesus talked about the kingdom more than any other subject; even the Lord’s Prayer’s first petition after acknowledging the Holy Otherness of God, requests, “Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.” Building the kingdom is primary to the love of Christ, and our first priority is caring for the poor and broken in the world. Climate change impacts every single person on earth,  Kindle location 1087 from a tick-bitten boy in Pennsylvania to a five-year-old girl in Malawi who walks twelve miles a day for water. Back in 2010, the EEN team helped me organize a three-hundred-plus-mile journey from Amsted, West Virginia, to Washington, D.C. Called the Creation Care Walk, we started at the home of a wonderful group called Christians for the Mountains. CFTM, led by Allen Johnson, works hard to limit the damage from mountaintop coal mining, including pollution in thousands of miles of streams. This team of primarily volunteers focuses on the health impacts caused by the destruction of the mountains, but I have never seen more Christian love as they work together for the future of West Virginia’s miners and those impacted by various environmental health threats.

The idea for our Creation Care Walk started after reading a story of a young Malawian girl. This rural child, just five years old at the time, walked two round trips, totaling around twelve miles each day, to fetch water for her family. In many places, including Malawi, due to the combination of forest loss and changing rainfall (caused by both climate change and poor stewardship factors), it’s more difficult to gather wood for fuel and to secure water. And in many rural cultures, women are responsible for water, fuel, farming, and child rearing. As women search farther and longer for fuel and water, violence potential increases, including rape, abduction, and even murder.10 The violence is perhaps why the family selected the young girl, as she was considered the “least valuable.”  Kindle location 1093

This real-life tale broke my heart, and God called me to walk in her shoes, to tell her story and the ways climate challenges are already impacting God’s kids. So we walked about fifteen miles each day, stopping at evangelical churches most nights to tell the story and sleep on their floor. When our team arrived in D.C., we prayed before our Capitol, calling our nation to quit using climate change as a political football and address it as the true matter of life and death that it is. Matthew 25 instructs us to “care for the least of these.” Micah tells us to walk humbly after our God. The Bible is clear and simple: We’re to love as God loves, and we must care and empower the poor. Our changing climate simply makes Jesus’ command harder. The Lancet, a leading medical journal, states that climate change “threatens to undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health.”11 So. Let’s roll up our sleeves and be Jesus’ disciples. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8–10  Kindle location 1105

For much of the church’s history, we stopped reading this passage after “so that no one can boast.” But we have been created to do good works, the work of God and his kingdom, as we await the return of Jesus and its completion. Church-based relief and development organizations like World Relief, Food for the Hungry, and World Vision have for decades worked in compassion ministries. However, we need more than compassion; we need a transformation of the church.  Kindle location 1116

Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t just immediately take us to heaven the moment we accept his grace? Why does he leave us in a fallen world? He leaves us here to fulfill his purposes.12 Rick Warren  Kindle location 1120

With a captive and curious individual, I share the Scriptures; tell how we have a responsibility to steward God’s creation and care for the least of these. I share Jesus’ biblical call to love and make a better world here and now. Many never knew that there are evangelicals who care for the same issues many young adults care about—or even that we go beyond getting people “saved.” But as people learn about Jesus and his love for all creation, they want to know more. The best part of the story: On several dozen occasions, they’ve made a commitment to follow Jesus. Following our Risen Lord to Galilee and beyond calls for trust, faith, and an idea of the way. Fortunately for us, the Bible is the best guide to understanding the Bible, and perhaps the easiest way is to return to Jesus’ resurrection as told in John’s gospel.  Kindle location 1132

“To Every Person Living on This Planet” “Praise be to you, my Lord.” In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.” This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom. 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen. 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.13 Pope Francis  Kindle location 1139

The majority of biblical scholars recognized long ago that John’s garden resurrection provides powerful images of Jesus and his mission, building a new creation. As with the first creation, Adam is formed from the dust of the earth, and Jesus becomes the new or second Adam arising from a tomb buried in the dirt. Mary sees Jesus as a gardener, one who tends and cares for the creation. The gardener was the role the first Adam was to play, and above all, Jesus’ resurrection takes place on the eighth day, or the first day of the new creation. The new creation has been symbolized for centuries with baptismal fonts constructed with eight sides. These biblical clues guide us directly back to the beginning, or more aptly, a new Genesis.  Kindle location 1150

Thanks be to Jesus, we have been given a do-over, a continuing opportunity for a second chance for all life and caring for creation. We have a choice to follow Jesus from the garden and assist building this, his new creation, or grasping on to the past. Let’s take a look at what was supposed to be, to live as disciples. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. We all know the opening verse of the Bible, but how many of us take to heart those words, “God created”? How long have we ignored God’s ownership? “The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it.”14  Kindle location 1155

Order existed. Life thrived, and all was good. Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. Genesis 1:29–30  Kindle location 1163  All the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. Genesis 9:1–3

Competition for food and other resources never occurred as God provided all means for abundant life, and clearly, the patristic church leaders understood the message of a good creation. Yet it was not because of its utility to him that he produced anything that exists, since being self-sufficient he is in need of nothing. It was rather out of his loving-kindness and goodness that he created everything; accordingly he created things in sequence and provided us with a clear instruction about created things through the tongue of the blessed author, so that we might learn about them precisely and not fall into the error of those led by purely human reasoning.15 God created the perfect place. Sometimes one catches brief glimpses of Eden in the world today.  Kindle location 1169

We have been given a precious gift, a planet that can provide for all our needs if we follow God and use it wisely. Just as we are called to love our neighbor, not subjugate him or her, the same applies to creation. We may not simply do as we please. How did we ever assume the earth was to be trashed or misused in any way? Genesis reports just the opposite. The earth supplies the necessities for biological life; God designed creation for exactly that purpose. God created and was the first gardener. For life to prosper, humans are to empower the garden to flourish. We have been clearly given the responsibility, as created in God’s image, to reflect his image, God’s presence, by caring for creation.  Kindle location 1193

Unfortunately, many read the Bible from our fallen condition instead of the new creation offered in and through Christ. For by reading in our brokenness, we misread the text and examine it through our eyes instead of God’s. One of the most widely misunderstood verses in the Bible comes in Genesis 1:28. Whether we use subdue, dominate, rule, or any of a host of English words, it conjures mental images of the right to do as we please without regard. Yes, the church has made a mistake in teaching some variation of this for much of its first two millennia. These are the same mistakes and rationalizations made regarding slavery or even the feudal system. Far too often we examine Holy Scripture looking up through our sin instead of down through God’s grace.  Kindle location 1198

The sad reality is that our stewardship reflects our relationship with God. Upon a close reading of Genesis 3, we understand that original sin was the temptation to be godlike, to be in control. Looking back at human history, our principal failing always seems to be the desire to be in charge, combined with the inability to live within God-given limits. The Genesis account describes a universal order with God as the loving and very good creator, humans cast in his image as partners in maintaining creation, and all creation living in a sustainable relationship. Our desire to be in control, however, breaks the order, attempts to bypass the limits, and injures our relationship with God, leading to a broken and unsustainable world. Each time we use more than we need or consume greater than our share, we perpetuate our brokenness, support our vanity, and continue disregarding God’s limits. This distorts the creation and impacts all.  Kindle location 1204

Throughout the Old Testament, God defines and provides deliberate instructions for tending the earth. Although most Christians haven’t made the connection, the Bible provides definitive mandates to love in relationship with the creation. In what I jokingly regard as the most-often read biblical books, Deuteronomy, Numbers, and Leviticus, God gives clear instruction for Sabbath rest, indications of crop rotation, and animal husbandry. There are strict ordinances regarding farming, livestock management, and land use in general.17 These conditions define the parameters for living in relationship with God, people, and the earth in an integrated approach to life. If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. Leviticus 26:3–4  Kindle location 1210

In his centuries’-old commentary of Isaiah 24, John Calvin stated it best: There is a kind of mutual bargain between the land and the husbandmen, that it gives back with usury what it has received: if it does not, it deceives those who cultivate it. But he assigns a reason, imputing blame to them, that they render it barren by their wickedness. It is owing to our fault that it does not nourish us or bring forth fruit, as God appointed to be done by the regular order of nature; for he wished that it should hold the place of a mother to us, to supply us with food; and if it change its nature and order, or lose its fertility, we ought to attribute it to our sins, since we ourselves have reversed the order which God had appointed; otherwise the earth would never deceive us, but would perform her duty.18  Kindle location 1218

Disregarding God’s instructions to tend and care for the earth results in the earth’s failure to provide the necessities for sustaining life. Poor stewardship and our over-consumption utterly disregard the natural order. This is not just a matter of creation care, but of people care. The interdependent relationship between the earth, God’s people, and all creation, bound together since the beginning, is failing because of humanity’s inability to follow God’s covenant. I have often quipped and tweeted that if God wasn’t a forgiving landlord, humanity would have been evicted long ago. Humanity has filled our common home with poison; we have given the earth a fever, in the words of my colleague Jim Ball.19  Kindle location 1225

Paul has shared extensively how carbon pollution has, is, and will continue to heat up the earth. Proclamations of “the hottest year” pile up, but the most alarming fact is that we have not lived a month below the twentieth-century average temperature since February 1985. Ronald Reagan was president and one of my sons had yet to be born. However, it’s not too late to change, thanks be to God. We simply have to remember: All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. Psalm 22:27–28  Kindle location 1231

Life is messy; there is a lot on our plates. But life for all creation can get better. It begins with acknowledging God is in charge. Without the hope of faith, I would be despondent. I couldn’t live life without knowing Jesus and accepting the abundant life given through grace. I am convinced that the biblical way to ensure life to the fullest requires a complete relationship with Jesus: by knowing him and following his lead into his kingdom by doing the good works that he set before us. A huge part of discipleship means caring for what belongs to God and cherishing what God cherishes. It’s the combination of knowing and doing that results in the peace, love, and joy promised as spiritual fruit by Paul in Galatians.  Kindle location 1238

Even if you question my theology about the end times, Jesus commands us not to be concerned about when, but do the work he has called each of us to now. Creation care is a matter of life for our kids and, most important, part of a whole life in Christ. My prayer is that each of us walks with Jesus and follows his lead into his kingdom and his new creation.  Kindle location 1243

We need to move past debating and focus on the poorest of the poor who are neither scientists nor politicians but are the most affected by how we care for God’s creation. Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals

I say the Earth belongs to each generation during its course, fully and in its own right, and no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence. Thomas Jefferson, 1789  Kindle location 1251

Albert Einstein said, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” Science is essential—but fundamentally incomplete. That doesn’t mean we don’t embrace the reality of today and see the world, not as we think it should be, but as it really is—the world we’ve influenced by releasing a trillion tons of carbon in the geological blink of an eye. Science is evidence-based. Look at the data. Test theories. Try to make sense of the world. To ignore science or question the integrity of scientists connecting the dots is to deny reality. When people ask me why more climate scientists don’t debate professional skeptics in the media, I tell them the truth. At this point, it’s the rough equivalent of debating gravity or the Apollo moon landings.  Kindle location 1265

Do I believe in climate change? This isn’t about belief or opinion. This is about acknowledging the data, taking time to understand the science, being mindful of what’s happening worldwide, connecting dots, and making decisions based on the best available evidence. That’s the thing about weather, science, and life: It never moves in a perfectly straight line. Science isn’t a collection of immutable facts. It’s a process. And right now some of the smartest minds on the planet are telling us to sit up and pay attention. As we have said, this isn’t about polar bears. This is about the health and welfare of our kids, and their kids, and their kids.  Kindle location 1271

Respect for the unborn must extend to future generations of the unborn. Climate change is a global pro-life issue. Consistency matters. “Discounting future welfare or lives means weighting the welfare of lives of future people lower than lives now, irrespective of consumption and income levels, purely because their lives lie in the future,” economist Nicholas Stern said. “This is discrimination by date of birth, and is unacceptable when viewed alongside notions of rights and justice.”1  Kindle location 1276

“There is a general mistrust of scientists because they brought evolution and therefore a ‘godless’ origin,” University of St. Thomas (Minnesota) climate scientist John Abraham tells me. “That mistrust was extended to climate change in many, but not all instances.” There’s something more at work here. If you don’t accept the disease, you don’t have to accept the cure, right? Abraham adds, “A major part of the reason climate science has become so ideological isn’t about the science, it is about the proposed solutions. In many people’s view, the solutions would be a burdensome and overreaching government intrusion into our lives and our liberties. Since we cannot have that, our minds force us to dismiss the science.”2  Kindle location 1281

(Paul) My father fled communist East Germany and was fortunate to attend college at Wabash, in Indiana. He taught me many things, including to never take my freedom for granted. He is to this day a Reagan Republican—he embodies the very best conservative attributes. Growing up he taught me to take personal responsibility for my actions—that all actions have consequences. You can’t dump sewage into a nearby lake or chemicals into a river, or pump hundreds of billions of tons of clear, odorless greenhouse gas into the atmosphere with impunity. There are consequences. But those costs, those “externalities,” haven’t been factored into a free market. Economist Nicholas Stern has called climate change the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen, a failure to recognize the true costs of climate change, and price the external costs appropriately.3 Clear, colorless, odorless exhaust gases from fossil fuels are vented directly into the atmosphere at a staggering rate, with no consequences. Out of sight, out of mind. We’ve privatized profits but spread the true costs of carbon pollution worldwide. And the price tag is now coming due.  Kindle location 1287

I ask my conservative friends to keep an open mind—that this issue is very much about freedom. The freedom to live where you want to live, without fear of rising seas, perpetual drought, running out of water, or toxic weather hitting home every other month. The freedom to have any desired career. If you’re a farmer, your job—already challenging—will become even more difficult in the future, as America’s heartland flip-flops between tropical deluges and wilting heat and drought with greater frequency. “When I think of true conservatives, I think of people who take responsibility for their actions, pay their own way, and don’t leave messes for others to clean up. They also care about being good stewards of God’s creation. They are hard-headed realists who are strong enough to confront reality, even if it makes them uncomfortable,” said Dr. Jonathan Koomey, Research Fellow at the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University.4  Kindle location 1296

What is a conservative after all but one who conserves, one who is committed to protecting and holding close the things by which we live. . . . And we want to protect and conserve the land on which we live—our countryside, our rivers and mountains, our plains and meadows and forests. This is our patrimony. This is what we leave to our children. And our great moral responsibility is to leave it to them either as we found it or better than we found it.5 President Ronald Reagan  Kindle location 1304

Conservatives conserve. I remember a time, not that long ago, when conservative and conservation went hand in hand, and there was deep respect for the scientific method. “There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country,” said Teddy Roosevelt in 1912. Roosevelt kicked off America’s National Park System, the envy of the world. Harry Truman launched the National Science Foundation. Richard Nixon launched the Environmental Protection Agency. Ronald Reagan consulted with scientists, supporting a ban on harmful chemicals eating away at the ozone layer. And George H. W. Bush signed the Clean Air Act into law and developed a market-based solution for acid rain. Amazingly, at one point there was almost unanimous, bipartisan support to protect the environment, to keep cleaning up our home. The votes for the 1970 Clean Air Act were 374 to 1 in the House and 73 to 0 in the Senate.6 What changed? The balance between protecting our home and protecting the financial interests of campaign donors got seriously out of whack. When in doubt, follow the money.  Kindle location 1309

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. Upton Sinclair

History shows a little manufactured misinformation can go a long way. The current strategy from special interests is similar to Big Tobacco congressional hearings held in the 1970s. “You can’t PROVE that smoking three packs a day of my client’s product killed Aunt Betty!” At the time we scratched our heads and those of us who smoked said, “Yes! The evidence simply isn’t there.” Today, is there anyone who seriously doubts that smoking increases the potential for lung cancer and heart disease? But tobacco companies trotted out a parade of (paid) scientists willing to cast doubt on sound science and delay a day of reckoning. Special interests and greed trumped the common good.  Kindle location 1318

A nagging dependence on fossil fuels is killing us. That’s not an exaggeration. Worldwide, an estimated 5.5 million people will die prematurely from breathing polluted air this year. In the United States, air pollution resulted in 79,000 premature deaths in 2013, more than twice as many as auto accidents.7, 8  Kindle location 1324

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy. 2 Timothy 3:2 This is tobacco—times a thousand. The amount of money in play with climate change runs into many trillions of dollars, and experts warn that most of the coal, oil, and gas will need to remain in the ground without risking dire, long-term consequences. Maybe God had the right idea burying carbon-based fuels deep underground. Staggering fossil fuel fortunes are on the line—and no industry wants to be disrupted. Fading industries have protected market share by questioning the science. Meanwhile, we’re treating our collective home like a dirty ATM card. No harm, no foul. When potential consequences get unpleasant, look away and change the subject. Better yet, question the so-called experts.  Kindle location 1329

The fossil fuel cartel is putting their short-term economic interests ahead of your interests and your kids’ and grandkids’ opportunity to live rich, full lives. Why? It’s difficult to put a meter on the sun or the wind. Their business model depends on a captive audience lining up for their next fossil fuel fix—in perpetuity.

STATE COLLEGE, PENNSYLVANIA—Climate change is not a belief system, but a matter of evidence. The evidence comes from all aspects of our natural world: temperatures on land and in the ocean; melting ice and rising seas; and the responses by animals and plants. Civilization was built on a foundation of climate stability. Although we do not know exactly how the future will unfold, we cannot wait for 100 percent certainty to take action. In the military if you wait for 100 percent certainty, you will be 100 percent dead. David W. Titley, Rear Admiral USN (retired); Director, Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, Penn State  Kindle location 1335

If you think the 2015 Syrian refugee crisis that engulfed Europe was traumatic, wait until widespread crop failures and water shortages force millions from their homes. Climate change impacts a wide range of fragile ecosystems, straining resources and igniting new conflicts. A new level of climate volatility flavors and stresses global challenges and conflicts. Instead of salt, we’re rubbing CO2 into the wounds. At least two-thirds of the global population, over 4 billion people, live with water scarcity for at least one month every year. Half a billion people live in places where water consumption is double the amount replenished by rain for the entire year, leaving them extremely vulnerable as underground aquifers run down, according to new research.9 Kindle location 1345

This comes down to risk management. We don’t think twice about insuring our homes, our cars, and our health. But the planet, our atmosphere and oceans, the very thing that sustains us? “Let’s take a chance—what can go wrong?” We are stewards. We all have a vested interest in treating God’s creation with care and respect. This is about resolve, tenacity, and doing more than paying lip service to Scripture, because those who have the least will be first to be impacted by an erratic, noxious climate. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10  Kindle location 1357

Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and evangelical Christian at the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, said, “Christian values demand we take action. Climate change disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable—the very people Christians are called to care for and love.”11 Chances are your kids and grandkids get it. They aren’t mocking the science or slandering scientists. They see what’s happening. Will we sleepwalk into history, blaming political gridlock, fears of big government, and a need for cheap, dirty fuel to keep the lights on? Or will we rise to the occasion and find new ways to make markets less polluting and our way of life sustainable? Future generations will judge the actions we take today, because what worked in the 1940s probably won’t work in the 2040s. [God] is altogether glorious—unequalled in splendor and unrivaled in power. He is beyond the grasp of human reason—far beyond the grasp of any scientific mind. Inexhaustible, immeasurable, and unfathomable—eternal, immortal and invisible. The highest mountain peaks and the deepest canyon depths are just tiny echoes of His proclaimed greatness. And the blazing stars above, the faintest emblems of the full measure of His glory.12 Matt Redman  Kindle location 1363

God is divine. His Son, Jesus, is divine. Would you say God’s creation, our home, is divinely inspired and created? Yes? Then why on earth would we do anything to mess that up? It’s important to keep an open mind, to respond to data and facts—both on the ground and in the air. One can have a deep faith in a Divine Creator and still respect scientists trying to make sense of our world—and our impact on God’s creation. Actions have consequences. The signs are there. We should be mindful of what’s happening everywhere. I don’t pretend to know the mind of God. No one can. But the Holy Bible tells us God made us in his self-image.13 He gave us big, beautiful brains and the ability to think, reason, solve problems, make smart decisions, and improve our lives. And the good sense not to foul our nest.  Kindle location 1377

Americans and people overseas daily face the impacts of our warming world. Ironically, those being the most tragically harmed now are the world’s poorest populations who have contributed the least to greenhouse gas pollution. We need to care for the least of these, as the Bible commands us, and stop fearing fear itself.  Kindle location 1406

Paul and I are evangelical Christians and lifelong Republicans, not terrorists, and certainly do not believe in grand conspiracy theories. We understand the realities of climate change, their current related health impacts, and the folly it would be to ignore conservative moral and economic values regarding our nation’s future. Jim Ball has been leading the charge in defense of God’s creation for almost two decades. When I first became leader of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), he pulled me aside and said, “We don’t need to make climate change any worse, it’s already bad enough.” Jim’s right, and one of his current tasks at EEN is to ensure we don’t make any over-the-top claims. Both EEN’s ministry and this book desire to provide a moral message that offers realistic assessments of how humanity’s use of fossil fuels is already changing the creation around us and harming our kids. We’re searching for a way to overcome climate change in harmony with our conservative values to create a better America.  Kindle location 1421

Fear has worked well for those who wish for inaction and keeping the status quo on fossil fuel uses. It’s much easier to tap into our basic fear of change, big government, and taking money from our pockets. Our role as evangelicals requires us to overcome our fears and the amplification of them by those wishing to ignore the realities for their benefit. Fear comes from trusting in ourselves instead of placing trust in the Creator. Some out in cyberspace have posted that fear not appears 365 times in the Bible, once for each day of the year. The reality is that fear not or some variation appears around a hundred times. Regardless, the frequency reflects our propensity to fear. And sadly, fear often gets in the way of hoping for a better life. Most people know the beginning of the Exodus narrative, thanks to Hollywood, Charlton Heston, and the more recent film Exodus with Christian Bale. Fewer people, however, know “the rest of the story.” Moses, through God, leads the Israelite refugees through Sinai to the edge of the Promised Land. He then sends twelve men, one from each tribe, to explore the “land of milk and honey.” After forty days they return, filled with outstanding opportunities of hope. And some challenges. Two men, Caleb and Joshua, see the opportunity and understand the hope for a better future. They cry out before Israel, “Do not be afraid.” The other ten, overcome with fear, forget what God has already accomplished. The Lord brought these sojourners through multiple trials, yet through fear, the ten fermented yet another revolt against God and Moses, crying out, “If only we had died in Egypt.” Returning to Egypt was an oft-repeated fear throughout the Exodus wanderings. And for many today, it’s much easier to accept the past than see the hope in a new future. As a pastor, I led a congregation through transition from a “caring for its members” church to a mission-driven church. The fear of change, growth, and biblical understanding made me the subject of many parking lot discussions, phone calls, and sadly, people leaving.  Kindle location 1435

We don’t like change. Change forces us to transform, think differently, and in some cases admit that our actions weren’t the best. One of my favorite tongue-in-cheek sayings, “I thought I made a mistake once, but I was wrong,” conveys much of our own internal reasoning. It’s no different when it comes to climate change and energy. Many want us to continue living in the past; there are many loud voices that want us to go back to Egypt.  Kindle location 1455

Genesis 8:22: As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease. No climate expert has ever decreed that the earth won’t endure or that seasons will cease. But our seasons are changing, as we’re seeing all over the world. My south central Pennsylvania home now has the climate Richmond, Virginia, did approximately twenty years ago. Earlier in this book we shared the changing rainfall patterns in Malawi. The oceans have warmed, glaciers are melting, and sea level is rising. What the folks who quote the above and similar Scriptures are saying is that God is in control and nothing happens without God’s command. This sovereignty of God theology, when taken to the utmost, believes that nothing happens without God’s permission. While I affirm God is in ultimate control, this ultra-orthodox Calvinist position doesn’t match John Calvin’s views on creation care, nor does it allow free will and the consequences of sin to be human choices. It’s not about saving the planet. . . . It’s about helping people, real people who are being affected by climate change today. Higher energy bills for air conditioning. Freak rainstorms and droughts wiping out their food supply. Rising sea level threatening their homes and fields. It’s the poor and disadvantaged who are being hardest hit: those very people the Bible tells us to care for.2 Dr. Katharine Hayhoe  Kindle location 1459

Once, as I was giving a climate presentation, an Iowa farmer started asking me question after question about God’s control. After several back and forths, I asked, “Do you believe God causes earthquakes?” After a few moments, the man replied, “I guess I do.” I then went on to say that we have a different understanding of God, and we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I respectfully moved on. After all the questions and discussion, a colleague attempted to reach out to the farmer. Upon approaching my questioner, my associate saw the man surrounded by his friends and neighbors. From the circle, directed to my disagreeing friend, my associate overheard, “Hey, Joe, the next time one of your hogs get sick, you’re not going to waste money calling the vet, are you?” It’s very interesting when our professed theology meets our real life. And in “real life,” our climate is changing. As mentioned in the introduction, my ninety-year-old dad, a former coal miner, made the connection just by looking at the world outside his window. My prayer is that you will be encouraged to spend time with God in creation. Simply observe the seasons in your neighborhood. In the continental United States, for example, autumn leaves are lasting an average of ten days longer and spring is starting about four days earlier.3 Birdwatchers tell us birds are nesting farther north than ever before, and planting season has significantly changed. Get connected to the wondrous creation and see for yourself what we are doing to our beautiful common home.  Kindle location 1473

Our eyes don’t see what they don’t wish to see; our chief blindness is change. Moving forward is hard. Even with hundreds of years of slavery, abuse, and ridicule, the Israelites cried out at least twelve separate times to return to Egypt. Seemingly every time they encountered an obstacle they wanted to return to the past. Slavery and almost certain death appeared more palatable than following God’s lead into a new future.  Kindle location 1485

It’s well past time to plant our standard and go toward a “promised land” of energy freedom, energy independence, the liberty for healthy unpolluted lives, and the right to build a solid economy. The reason I am so focused on solar now is because I believe that solar empowers the people. I believe that solar equals energy freedom. The average person cannot go out and construct a new power plant, they can’t put a nuclear reactor on their rooftop, they can’t go out and build a big windfarm. But they can install solar panels on their rooftop and become energy independent. Also, during my research I found out that there is nothing more centralized in our nation nor at risk of a terrorist attack than our power grid. The National Energy Regulatory Commission found that a terrorist would just have to take down nine key substations out of more than 54,000 and it would cause a blackout from coast to coast. So that made it even more important and even more vital for me to push for decentralized energy and, in particular, solar.4 Debbie Dooley, founding member of the Tea Party movement

Retreat is no longer an option. All across America energy freedom is springing up on household rooftops. But opponents of energy freedom have been attempting to hold back the future. Many utility monopolies are pushing hard to limit energy freedom, using their influence to restrict home solar installations or set exorbitant net metering fees on home solar panels without considering the benefits, and the guise they’re using is customer protection. That’s what David Owens, a senior official for the trade association for stockholder-owned electric utilities, said about efforts to thwart individuals from being able to produce their own clean electricity via rooftop solar panels. “It’s not about profits; it’s about protecting customers,” said Owens.5 It’s difficult to accept those words at face value. Since their beginning, the coal and utility industries’ reputation as good neighbors has lacked. I know firsthand real stories of company towns, poor working conditions, and maximizing profits at the sake of others.  Kindle location 1491

My dad’s favorite deer hunting location rests on the side of a Pennsylvania mountain whose top was removed by strip mining. The land was never reclaimed—it continues spewing acid mine drainage into the remaining forest. The washout, as it’s called, grows each year—destroying trees and habitats, and eventually the toxic runoff disappears into the water table. As a child and teenager, I thought this was just the cost of electricity and jobs—what a mistake! Some continue to falsely claim that coal produces the cheapest electricity, but at least one study states that when you factor in all the external costs from coal, including medical bills, lost lives, and property damage, coal electricity is triple what you pay at the meter.6 It may appear cheap, but each of us pays the price in our children’s health, insurance premiums, and polluted water and air. Confirming that coal isn’t cheap and is dying as an electric-generating fuel, Appalachian Power President Charles Patton said recently, “You just can’t go with new coal [plants] at this point in time. . . . It is just not economically feasible to do so.”7 By 2026, Appalachian Power expects its use of coal power to be down 26 percent. One leading utility, Xcel Energy, which serves mainly in the Midwest, is transitioning from coal energy to renewables and has announced a goal to reduce its carbon emissions by 60 percent by the year 2030.8  Kindle location 1513

We stand today on the precipice of a new future with amazing hope for new opportunities, yet some would want us to continue living in a past that is doomed to failure and literally death to many of God’s children. Those with vested interests want to continue the status quo, or at least delay the future for as long as possible. Living in the past offers no opportunity for a future blessed with pure air, clean water, and an economy filled with new jobs. As a father, I had one overarching lesson for my kids: You can’t change the past, but you can determine the future. We all make mistakes, and all of us at some point would have liked to change at least part of the past, but we can’t. So let’s take on the future, and with God’s help take on the challenges.  Kindle location 1529

As Wall Street columnist Michael Silverstein wrote a few years ago, many questioned the practicality of changing to the automobile from the horse. There were no roads, no gas stations, and horses were the third-largest industry in the United States at the end of the nineteenth century, only surpassed by railroads and farming.9 There were many who fought the change, and yet the automobile now drives America. For the past few hundred years we have relied on fossil fuels as our primary energy source. First it was wood, then coal, and for the past century oil and natural gas. There is no doubt about the economic benefit fossil fuels brought to our economy. Energy remains the absolute key to development in any society, and especially to the two billion people around the world with limited or no access to electricity. We, in the developed world, have benefited greatly from our past energy sources, but only in the past fifty years have we begun to understand the costs borne by our energy choices. These costs are mounting.  Kindle location 1535

In 2015, General Mills, one of the largest food corporations, announced new commitments to lower its carbon footprint. “We recognize that we must do our part to protect and conserve natural resources. Our business depends on it and so does the planet,” stated Ken Powell, chairman and CEO of General Mills.10 Months later, Unilever, Kellogg, and seven other corporations joined General Mills in an open letter to U.S. congressional leaders: The challenge presented by climate change will require all of us—government, civil society and business—to do more with less. For companies like ours, that means producing more food on less land using fewer natural resources. If we don’t take action now, we risk not only today’s livelihoods but also those of future generations.11 They’re not alone; ten of the world’s largest energy companies—including BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and Total—recently announced their shared ambition to limit the rise of global average temperature 2 degrees Celsius, which is the maximum manageable increase before catastrophic impacts: “[We] support the implementation of clear stable policy frameworks consistent with a 2°C future; these will help our companies to take informed decisions and make effective and sustainable contributions to addressing climate change.”12 Noticeably missing from this statement were big American energy firms ExxonMobil and Chevron. In fairness, though, they both recognize the reality of climate change, and ExxonMobil supports a revenue neutral carbon fee as a policy approach.13 And in what is seemingly a change in corporate direction, ExxonMobil recently issued the following: We recognize that our past participation in broad coalitions that opposed ineffective climate policies subjects us to criticism by climate activist groups. We will continue to advocate for policies that reduce emissions while enabling economic growth.14  Kindle location 1547

A Call to Action

We lament over the widespread abuse and destruction of the earth’s resources, including its bio-diversity. Probably the most serious and urgent challenge faced by the physical world now is the threat of climate change. This will disproportionately affect those in poorer countries, for it is there that climate extremes will be most severe and where there is little capability to adapt to them. World poverty and climate change need to be addressed together and with equal urgency.15 National Association of Evangelicals (2015)  Kindle location 1566

This shift mirrors the American public as well. A University of Texas poll indicated 75 percent of all Americans accept the scientific reality of climate change, with 59 percent of Republicans saying climate change is occurring, up ten percentage points from six months earlier.16 There are probably numerous factors for this large uptick in conservatives who accept the reality of climate change, but based on my travels across the United States, it’s a combination of the massive increase in renewable energy (and its lower cost), the severe weather—especially the western drought —and the faith/moral message championed by Pope Francis and then affirmed by the National Association of Evangelicals’ call to action. These forces, working together or separately, have spurred folks to reevaluate options and look beyond the rhetoric to the reality.  Kindle location 1573

Take the time to examine the facts for yourself. See what our National Academy of Science publishes, study the issues from different perspectives, look what Christians around the world are saying. Who has what at risk? Who are the business “winners” and “losers”?  Kindle location 1581

Impacts will likely grow materially over the next five to twenty-five years and affect the future performance of today’s business and investment decisions in the following areas: Coastal property and infrastructure. Within the next fifteen years, higher sea levels combined with storm surge will likely increase the average annual cost of coastal storms along the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico by $2 billion to $3.5 billion. Adding in potential changes in hurricane activity, the likely increase in average annual losses grows to up to $7.3 billion, bringing the total annual price tag for hurricanes and other coastal storms to $35 billion. Agriculture.  Kindle location 1588

Additional research from Sanford University predicts the global economy will contract by 23 percent if climate change goes unchecked.18  Kindle location 1606

Some evangelicals might even quote Jesus: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”19 If you are a recent college graduate working in fast food, with $50,000 in college loans, or a former thirty-dollar-per-hour skilled manufacturing employee now forced into three separate part-time jobs to pay your mortgage, climate change is far too distant to be relevant. It’s the same in rural towns or urban areas. Where once we had manufacturing jobs, now we have either no employment or under-employment. Lee Iacocca commented in his 1984 autobiography that the skilled, high-paid worker was key to America’s middle class and economy.20  Kindle location 1610

One in eighty new jobs in the United States since the financial crisis comes from renewable energy,21 and solar already employs approximately twice as many folks as coal mining. From 2008 to 2012, the coal industry lost 49,000 jobs, and renewable energy plus natural gas gained four times as many.22 It’s not just increased jobs; the energy market is changing as well.  Kindle location 1619

One of my favorite success stories is Pennsylvania’s Brookville Equipment Corporation. Making the transition away from being a coal equipment supplier, they recently earned an innovation award for their Liberty Modern Streetcar featuring an onboard energy storage system. The award recognizes new technology in a wireless streetcar design being implemented in Dallas, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. Companies like Brookville aren’t looking backward but recognizing their strengths—they’re moving forward.  Kindle location 1627

Business giant Bloomberg New Energy Finance says the clean energy transition is now self-sustaining and inevitable.24 Morgan Stanley, another business giant, says the “tipping point is near for going off the grid.”  Kindle location 1642

It’s clear that at a minimum, our federal government provides $4.9 billion each year to fossil fuels. Additional estimates stretch as high as $18.5 billion per year, according to the progressive advocacy organization Oil Change International. Others argue that if you include military costs in the Middle East, for example, the price could soar beyond $60 billion per year. Although older, a report funded by the nuclear industry states that U.S. subsidies totaled $584 billion dollars for fossil fuels (70 percent) and $74 billion for renewables (9 percent) from 1950 to 2010.28  Kindle location 1654

In the 2014 midterm elections, evangelical Christians represented 26 percent of actual voters. Seventy percent of evangelicals voted Republican in both the 2014 midterms and the 2012 presidential elections. In the same 2014 midterms, white Catholics represented 19 percent of the votes cast, and 60 percent of those voted Republican as well. So the conservative faith community represents almost 50 percent of America. If we unite, we will put us on the road to overcoming climate change, defending our kids and offering them a future. Let’s work together and force a framework to correct for true costs (correcting market failures) and then end all subsidies.

In several states, renewables are at or near parity with fossil fuels without counting the hidden costs.31 By adding the costs, we can rebuild America with a clean energy future based on market and conservative values instead of government regulations.  Kindle location 1680

About 1.2 billion people have no access to electricity, another 2 billion have only limited electric availability, and approximately 2.6 billion people still use traditional cooking methods, causing 1.5 million deaths per year from indoor air pollution. As mentioned earlier, energy is key to development and essential for the rest of the world.  Kindle location 1698

It’s time to turn energy poverty into energy prosperity. And market-based solutions, including entrepreneurship, are providing the foothold. One example is M-Kopa Solar, which operates in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Named by Forbes as one of the top fifty companies changing the world, M-Kopa Solar now provides solar power to over 250,000 previously off-grid homes, adding five hundred more each day.33 Their business model takes advantage of current conditions. In many African locales, families spend between 45 and 60 cents per day on kerosene or other dirty fuels. This represents 20 to 30 percent of their daily income. For a small down payment, M-Kopa installs a solar system and collects the daily fee, usually equal to or below what the family paid for kerosene or on cell phones or other mobile devices. After a year, a family can upgrade its system based on family need and successful payment history. As has happened with cell phones leap-frogging landlines in much of the world, “distributed” electricity, which uses no central generating system, is vaulting over the past. M-Kopa Solar and others are taking advantage of an existing market and improving the quality of life. The existing fuels market is estimated at $10 billion per year in Africa, and these energy entrepreneurs provide a cleaner, healthier, and lower-cost alternative while making a profit (unfortunately many of the development banks are still focused on building out fossil fuel infrastructure, industry support for a last gasp?).  Kindle location 1702

The majority world is deploying renewables over old-fashioned fossil-fuel power. Solar installations are doubling every two years, with developing countries installing renewable energy projects at nearly double the rate of developed nations.  Kindle location 1721

Numerous market conditions suggest many of the coal plants won’t be built. First, as discussed, renewable energy prices are falling. Second, the capital cost for renewables is considerably lower. Third, renewable deployment is easier and faster, and last, the health costs, not including climate change, are forcing coal plant closings.  Kindle location 1727

According to the international financial giant McKinsey and Company, the total projected investment to electrify sub-Saharan Africa by 2040 is $490 billion for new generating capacity, plus another $345 billion for transmission and distribution.35  Kindle location 1730

The Chinese modernization, including increased electric capacity without environmental controls, is literally killing its people. Every day an average of four thousand people die from air pollution, an amazing 1.6 million per year.36 The same coal that provides electric power is generating massive amounts of smog. At the same time, 20 percent of its farmland is polluted,37 and the Chinese state newspaper has admitted almost 60 percent of the water is unfit to drink.38 In addition, one study found that 66 percent of Chinese wealthy were thinking of leaving China.39 Pollution is destabilizing the Chinese populace, and China won’t permit internal turmoil. China has already taken serious action in reducing pollution. In 2014, they adopted new environmental protection laws, limited transportation, shuttered some coal-fired generating stations, and continued as the world’s number one producer and user of renewable energy.  Kindle location 1743

Today we stand on the precipice of a new-energy “promised land.” Within our grasp is a clean energy revolution. A revolution that could provide energy freedom for all, add to our economy, save our children’s health, bring billions into the twenty-first-century world, and reduce security threats to our nation. Ben Franklin is attributed as once saying, “Doing well by doing good.” It’s time to live this biblically inspired saying. Evangelicals, other people of faith, and all people of good must lead in creating a clean energy economy—it’s who God calls us to be. Within our grasp is clean air, pure water, healthier children, and well-paying jobs,40 all combining into a brighter American economy. We will have the power to choose energy freedom and assist in literally transforming the lives of billions around the world with energy prosperity. The clean energy transition is already under way and unstoppable; however, the revolution depends on our grabbing the opportunity and Caleb and Joshua’s hope. We can choose fear and continue living in the past—retreating back to “Egypt,” simply wandering in the wilderness, and waiting for this generation to disappear. Or we can choose life by seizing the hope and investing in a new, clean-energy future.

Chapter 7 Silver Buckshot

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else. Winston Churchill

I’m proud of having been one of the first to recognize that states and the federal government have a duty to protect our natural resources from the damaging effects of pollution that can accompany industrial development. Ronald Reagan

Man has been appointed as a steward for the management of God’s property, and ultimately he will give account for his stewardship. Paraphrase of Luke 16:2  Kindle location 1761

Photovoltaic device (solar panel) costs dropped an astonishing 75 percent between 2009 and 2014, about 10 percent each year. America’s clean energy sector grew by 14 percent in 2014, roughly five times as much as the rest of the economy.2 God had the wisdom to give us a reliable, safe, and free energy source: a massive fusion reactor 93 million miles overhead. As CNN’s Fareed Zakaria reported recently, “Every six hours, more solar energy reaches the world’s deserts than all of humanity uses in an entire year.”3 It’s there for the taking and we’ll never run out. Solar power is the definition of a no-brainer. People are already saving money; many sell excess electricity from their rooftops back to their local utilities. But once again, entrenched monopolies are pushing back against the unknown, trying to protect market share.  Kindle location 1793

Decentralization, self-reliance, competition, technological innovation, and a free market are all consistent with conservatism and a vision of true energy freedom. “Solar power is philosophically consistent with the Republican Party,” said Jason Rose, a Republican public relations consultant behind the Tea Party initiative in Arizona. “If you’re going to be for healthcare choice and school choice, how can you not be for energy choice? Conservatives, overwhelmingly, get that. If the Republican Party stops standing for the empowerment of the individual, what does it stand for?”4  Kindle location 1802

Blowing relentlessly and consistently across America is wind, another source of free, clean, sustainable energy. The United States generates more wind energy than any other country except China, and wind has accounted for more than a third of all newly installed U.S. electricity generation capacity since 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.5 Today, wind powers about 5 percent of this nation’s total electrical demand—more than 17 million U.S. homes annually, a twenty-five-fold increase since 2000.6

Engineers estimate the wind blowing above U.S. coastal waters is enough to provide more than 4,000 gigawatts of electricity. That’s four times the generating capacity of our current electric power system.  Kindle location 1807

What happens on days the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine? That’s where energy storage comes in. New generations of powerful batteries will store electrical charge for when it’s needed and provide a technological bridge to even out fluctuations in renewable energy, ensuring stable, reliable power even when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow. Tesla’s Gigafactory (highlighted in chapter 6) is set to mass produce lithium-ion batteries—the same ones in your computer, only supersized—to bring down costs so more Americans can benefit. Today, for a few thousand dollars, you can buy a Tesla Powerwall for your garage that will power your home the next time a wild storm turns out the lights—or store all the (free) energy created by the solar panels on your roof. Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, is opening up his company’s patents to all competitors to accelerate clean forms of battery storage for the rest of the world.7  Kindle location 1815

Climate change may not be the biggest threat we face, but it will impact many other situations around the world. Food shortages, water supplies, dislocation, mass migrations, and skirmishes over remaining fossil fuel reserves will ultimately blow back on the United States, testing our military, our infrastructure, and our resolve. Global economies are intertwined and codependent. We live in our bubbles from day to day, but the symptoms of climate volatility and weather disruption don’t respect international boundaries. Chances are your bubble will be popped with greater frequency and ferocity. We need to build greater resiliency into our homes, our farms, our cities, and our military.  Kindle location 1880

Reward Efficiency. I want energy freedom—the freedom to choose the cheapest, cleanest energy alternatives available to power my home, my business, and my transportation. Fossil fuels are subsidized worldwide to the tune of $10 million every minute. That’s $5.3 trillion every year. Renewable energy? A relatively paltry $120 billion every year.16 Again, one idea is to remove— across the board—all subsidies for renewables and fossil fuels. Let the markets work. Government can set a high bar—and ensure a level playing field—but  Kindle location 1885 Government should be a good cop, a referee, making sure the game is played fairly. Use the marketplace to encourage innovation, technological breakthroughs, and more visionary entrepreneurs—launching the new solutions we’re going to need to keep the lights on and the economy powered up, without harmful carbon pollution spiking the weather and threatening the health and welfare of your kids and their kids.  Kindle location 1890

“Climate change is the greatest wealth-generating opportunity of our lifetimes,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group.18

Disruption and reinvention is the nature of business, but entrenched monopolies will do anything to remain viable and maintain market share, delaying the inevitable. Political paralysis and orchestrated denial is slowing America’s inevitable clean energy revolution, but there are creative ways to solve this vexing challenge, given courage and political will, two attributes largely lacking in politics today.  Kindle location 1918

You fail until you succeed. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better,” wrote Samuel Beckett. Some of our greatest business leaders, artists, and sports stars failed repeatedly before finding success. Winston Churchill twice failed the entrance exam to military college. Henry Ford went broke five times before he succeeded. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas,” and then went bankrupt before building Disneyland. Michael Jordan didn’t make the varsity basketball team until his junior year. What made all these people great in the end? They never gave up.  Kindle location 1968

That same roll-up-the-sleeves, get-it-done attitude will propel America into a safer, more sustainable clean-energy economy, one that employs far more people than fading fossil fuels. Even today a booming solar renaissance employs nearly three times more people than the rapidly disrupted coal industry.  Kindle location 1973

Every industry gets disrupted as new technologies emerge and take their place. Cars replaced the horse and buggy, telephones trumped the telegraph, and airplanes leapfrogged the railroads. It’s the natural order of business. No company or individual (or politician) gets a free pass forever. The new replaces the old. Progress is painful but inevitable.  Kindle location 1976

We don’t think twice about taking out insurance on our homes, our cars, and our health. Why wouldn’t reasonable people take out an insurance policy on our kids and future generations? When enough people speak up, the tide will turn. The result will be true energy freedom and a sustainable economy that inspires and empowers the rest of the world. “We’ll need legions of risk-takers, big thinkers, innovators, engineers, entrepreneurs, and smart business people to create a low emissions society. We can’t do it without them. And at the end of the path will be a society with a stable climate, no dependence on foreign oil, no oil spills, no coal mining accidents, and far less air and water pollution. A better world is waiting for us to create it,” said Stanford University’s Jonathan Koomey.24  Kindle location 1983

Here is what I do know: We love our kids. We want to protect them. Keep them safe. Give them every opportunity to succeed. Life is tough enough. Why would we make it any harder on them? “This is too difficult.” “It’s too expensive.” “America can’t solve this problem.” “Oh, and good luck, kids! Sorry we looked the other way. Made excuses. Took the easy way out.” Is this our legacy? “No man was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave,” said Calvin Coolidge. What are we leaving our kids and all those who come next? We are here to worship our Creator and enjoy the fruits of his creation during our fleeting time on his earth. We are stewards of a very precious gift. Everything around us is on loan; we don’t really own anything—we’re just passing through, as Billy Graham preached: “My home  Kindle location 1992

“Did you protect my Father’s home? Did you defend his children?” What will we tell him?  Kindle location 2001

We Can Do It—With God’s Help

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 For eighteen years, I (Mitch) carried the Romans 15 verse on each calling card given to new folks attending worship or dropped off as neighbors were visited or hospital calls were made. This Scripture conveys my belief in who God is and the hope only Jesus provides. It’s why I’m hopeful about the future. By working together with God as our guide, we can rebuild our land with unpolluted air, pure water, healthy kids, and good jobs powered by new energies. All of which can also be shared with all of God’s children around the world.  Kindle location 2004

We can do it together. I know, easier said than done. Sadly, there’s too little common ground for the common good or compassion for our neighbors. Maybe we need to reread the Good Samaritan parable over and over again. Far too often, we act like the good “church” folk who walked by the injured man instead of the outcast who stopped to help. My greatest satisfaction as a local church pastor was seeing churches come together to build God’s kingdom. I use the word church hesitantly because the first thing a group of twelve or so pastors did several years ago in my hometown was stop using the word church to refer to a particular congregation or even a denomination. We agreed that there is only one Church, and we are but a part of God’s work as congregations.  Kindle location 2011

One of the most powerful witnesses happened on a Christmas Eve, as each congregation united to share the same message topic, “Jesus Beyond the Box,” in their own voice. The theme was simple: Jesus came to go beyond the institutional religion of the day and offer a living, relevant faith. We need to not only get out of the box but go beyond it. It is my hope that the church will be the leader, bringing people together to care for creation, defend our kids, and rekindle our can-do spirit. It’s happened before and it can happen again. We must accept the reality of our changing climate and simply work together. We need to mobilize a national effort to offer new hope and new opportunities, a common purpose to make our lives and our nation stronger. Fortunately, we have a model created in York County, Pennsylvania, as an example. As the realization of World War II hit America in February 1942, a group of York business and community leaders gathered and drafted the York Plan.1 The fifteen-point plan called for shared expertise; sought cooperation (not competitiveness) and joint resources; and campaigned for health, housing, and fair wages for all. The York Plan, adapted quickly for national use, provided the blueprint for our society coming together to find solutions, work in harmony, remain competitive, and value employees. We need to rekindle at least the concept of the York Plan to defend our kids and their future. Our suggestion might never gain the structure of the York Plan, but it involves all of us. It starts with us as individuals, moves to our local communities, and ends with national policies that can move our nation in the right direction.  Kindle location 2025

As discussed previously, renewable energy prices continue to fall, and many homeowners can take advantage of clean energy and lower prices, with the added benefit of having the freedom to choose their electricity. Of course, some utilities continue to fight this opportunity and preserve their monopolist business model. This is unfortunate and troubling. Every American should have the freedom and independence to choose electric suppliers. It’s simply unpatriotic to do otherwise. Renewables are not just for the affluent. Even lower-income folks can take advantage of various opportunities. In Pennsylvania, Texas, New England, and a handful of other states, individuals can choose their electric supplier. Pennsylvania has PA Switch, an online way to select different sources and suppliers of electricity. Currently, I purchase 100 percent wind-produced electricity at roughly the price of coal-generated power. And if one factors the hidden costs of coal buried in our kids’ brains and lungs, it’s an invaluable economic advantage for all of us.  Kindle location 2056

A growing and significant new market of renewables is known as community-based solar (CBS). Only 22 to 27 percent of U.S. homes are suitable for solar.2 The percentage is limited by the number of those who rent or lease, not because of sunlight availability. In reality, approximately 50 percent of American buildings are suitable for solar, but CBS offers an additional opportunity to take advantage and control of your energy. Community-based solar, using economies of scale (the bigger the system, the lower per-unit cost), can operate in a number of ways. Apartment or industrial complexes could operate their own systems. A housing development, town, or neighborhood may do the same. Even congregations or businesses might install larger systems than required for their needs and sell the excess to neighbors.

This mini-grid basis for supplying surrounding homes affords cost saving here and in the developing world. In Guatemala, for example, grid-supplied electricity already costs 18 to 20 cents per kilowatt, and solar power can provide much less expensive electricity at a guaranteed price for twenty years. Photovoltaic panels don’t degrade over time and the majority of manufacturers guarantee their output over twenty years, thus ensuring a constant price. As most of us know from our bills, utility-driven electricity has not remained constant for the last twenty years.  Kindle location 2066

in the moment we understand ourselves as not perfect, as not living in the image of God for which we were created, and if we ask for reconciliation with God and ultimately each other, we are forgiven. In the moment of forgiveness, grace acts to justify us (align us with God) or restore us to the right relationship, but our journey doesn’t end with forgiveness. Each of us is called to follow Jesus, to act more like him, and in fact be Jesus or at least the image of God for the world. We are not left alone in our walk. Jesus guides us each step of the way and is with us in what Wesley would call “sanctifying grace.” While theological disputes continue on whether our “holiness” happens immediately, over time, or not at all, there is common agreement that discipleship means growing more like Christ.  Kindle location 2085

No matter what your theology, we have a choice and a decision to make. More than a matter of dollars and cents, caring for God’s creation is a biblical imperative —it’s about living rightly with God and each other. So the question each of us must answer for ourselves is, “What is Jesus calling us to do in caring for our kids, their future, and what Pope Francis calls our ‘common home’?  Kindle location 2093

Congregations pass on part of their energy savings funds to mission organizations like New Vision Renewal Energy.3 New Vision supplies solar lights to orphanages and others in the majority world, teaches congregations how to build and install their own renewable energy, and works to retrain workers in the midst of Appalachia.  Kindle location 2112

“Teaching people how to fish is better than providing the fish.” Clean energy needs to be an investment, not a handout. Our recommendation: Use energy savings to fund investment in loan programs that can continually support market or cooperative clean energy programs around the world.  Kindle location 2121

The Joseph Pledge

The Joseph Pledge is based on the Genesis patriarch Joseph, who prepared Egypt for disasters. The pledge calls on each local evangelical community to take creation care seriously and prepare for local disasters and the ever-increasing threats from extreme weather. We encourage congregations to sign the pledge that follows and take action within their community. Public health professionals warn that extreme weather causes increased risks. Heart attacks, heat casualties, and respiratory illness, caused by heat waves or massive snowstorms, are exacerbated. Be proactive and have a plan to rescue those in need. Know members of your congregations as well as others in need and where they live. Have a volunteer team ready to rescue or to call emergency responders as needed to transport them to heating or cooling centers. Congregations can prepare their buildings as shelters or work together with other churches to ensure adequate emergency facilities with sound structure, supplies, energy, and staff.

Here’s just one story: After preaching at a local church on climate change and our biblical response, a good-sized man in a wheelchair approached me and shared how he almost died in his second-floor apartment. Existing on disability and with a number of health problems, the gentleman had limited income and no air conditioning. During a heat wave where daytime temperatures exceeded ninety degrees for over a week, the man became dehydrated, lost consciousness, and fell from his wheelchair. He laid there for over twenty-four hours until a concerned neighbor forced her way into his apartment and called 9-1-1, saving his life with only minutes to spare. The elderly, people with disabilities, and those with lower incomes are already more adversely impacted by disasters and severe weather. We only need to remember Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina as recent examples.  Kindle location 2126

Disasters have occurred since the beginning of recorded time: famine, floods, extreme weather, economic recessions, pandemics, and other natural and man-made crises. While disasters cause tragic suffering and loss of life, they also draw us into deeper dependence on God as we seek to protect our families and care for our neighbors. The Bible teaches us two things about dealing with crises. The first is to prepare for unexpected times ahead, having a plan of action to address both spiritual and physical needs. The second is to use our resources to help our neighbor, the poor, widows, the unborn, orphans, and the vulnerable. Churches and Christians should be leading the way in our communities when a crisis does occur, working alongside our neighbors and our government leaders. Joseph was not part of a church or religious community. He was part of the Egyptian government. God had placed him there. You never know who God may have placed in your local government to help your church get prepared and offer solutions when there is a need.  Kindle location 2140

The Joseph Pledge

With God’s help, we commit to preparing our congregation for extreme weather events so that we can protect our families and serve our community when disaster strikes, by doing the following: Affirming creation care as a matter of life, and accepting our biblical responsibility as a steward of all that God has entrusted to me/us Preparing our church building(s) for extreme weather and cooperating with other local congregations to offer shelter for the most vulnerable among us Establishing a congregational task force, if needed, to develop and implement plans and procedures to be followed when a natural disaster occurs Encouraging our members to maintain a supply of emergency food, water, and medical supplies Identifying, locating, and planning relocation transport for our most at-risk neighbors Coordinating efforts with local governments, emergency responders, and disaster relief services, and establishing a clear communications plan Training a team of volunteers to assist with spiritual and emotional stress during extreme weather events Implementing a regularly scheduled training session for the congregation for extreme weather Maintaining energy-efficient church buildings and operations, using the Energy Star Action Workbook for Congregations or other appropriate resources Encouraging our members to advocate for public policies that preserve and renew God’s creation, defend our children now, and provide hope for the future  Kindle location 2148

As evangelical Christians, we are called to live our lives in the hope provided as a direct result of Jesus’ resurrection—trusting and anticipating that the ultimate fulfillment of God’s kingdom is the ultimate reality for life on earth. My friend Tim Olson leads an outstanding ministry in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, called Ground Works-Midwest that lives into hope.5 Tim and his team specialize in community teaching gardens for elementary schools, churches, and other nonprofits. They demonstrate urban farming to children who have never seen lettuce grow or known where a carrot comes from. Their work provides healthy food that’s locally sourced, providing new possibilities in healthy living and caring for God’s creation. (The more local food we produce or purchase reduces carbon pollution associated with transportation.)  Kindle location 2165

We must use God’s grace and love to empower us to move forward and overcome climate change using our values and validating the beliefs of others.  Kindle location 2218

Once, during a United States Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on mercury pollution, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) stated words to the effect that the government needed to set the limits and allow the industry to figure out the way to meet the standards. Senator Alexander, who I regard as one of our great statesmen, was saying government (us) needed to set levels that ensure our rights as addressed by our early patriots, who wrote: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . . .  Kindle location 2223

The Declaration of Independence, 1776 We all have rights, but actions that tread on the rights of others stand against who we are as evangelicals and Americans. No industry or individual has the right to interfere with basic God-given rights, and polluting our kids with toxins and emitting gases that change our climate to the detriment of all interfere with our unalienable rights. Our government’s responsibility embedded in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution preserve our “rights” to breathe, have healthy brains, and pursue our dreams without a warming earth that steals our security and our ability to prosper.  Kindle location 2229

Businesses desire the same level playing field, notwithstanding their public rhetoric. Recently, I helped facilitate a discussion between EPA officials and the natural gas industry on upcoming methane leak standards. Despite the rhetoric often spoken by industry groups, not one firm in the room objected to the proposed rule. The gas industries’ desire is to be provided with a performance regulation and be given the freedom to utilize their technology, as only they have the knowledge to do, to effectively meet those criteria. Their comments make sense and closely align with Senator Alexander’s statements. The industry quietly supports the standard, and it makes everyone play by the same rules. Imagine a football game where the two teams and the referees have different expectations. It would be chaos. It would be wonderful if everyone agreed to play “nice,” but sin sooner or later distorts fairness.  Kindle location 2238

The natural gas industry, research states that approximately 80 percent of the natural gas leaks result from 30 percent of the facilities.6 That suggests that many producers already see the value in minimizing leaks and production losses. Escaping natural gas can’t make a profit, but it can be extremely toxic and of immeasurable harm to our children’s health. It also indicates that lower-cost operators without proper care or without sound capitalization operate on the margins. While being sympathetic to the small businessperson, the current threats to children’s health demand proper accountability. Supporting this new standard creates, in effect, a police force to ensure our kids’ health.  Kindle location 2244

Good policy acts like law enforcement and protects our “rights” to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness while poor policy hinders those same rights. Throughout this book, we have explained that fossil fuels have had the benefit of the greatest “corporate welfare” of all time. Beginning in 1916, the petroleum industry has been provided tax breaks, subsidies, and other benefits that certainly are not market based and don’t reflect conservative values. Just as important and discussed at length previously, the true costs of fossil fuels have been borne by our children’s health instead of the market. Basic economic principle states that if something costs more, it’s used less. In the case of fossil fuels, the costs are hidden and we have no way to judge value and therefore no way to choose alternatives. Hidden costs protect one market and hinder new market development, further shifting reality. Correcting market failure to ensure our basic rights is both conservative and just.  Kindle location 2250

The Environmental Protection Agency has recently finalized standards for both new and existing coal-fired power plants. Using the authority of the Clean Air Act renewed under President George H. W. Bush, the Clean Power Plan, as it’s called, sets limits for carbon pollution and requires each state to develop a State Implementation Plan (SIP) for reducing pollution (from electricity generation) that works best for each state. The Evangelical Environmental Network has strongly supported this effort.

We generated over 230,000 comments in support of the Clean Power Plan from pro-life Christians and organized a letter of support to President Obama with over 130 evangelical leaders’ signatures. Part of the letter reads: As evangelical leaders from across the country we write to commend you for your leadership on climate change. We see overcoming the climate challenge as one of the great moral opportunities of our time, a chance to fulfill the Great Commandments to love God, our neighbors, and ourselves. It is God’s love that calls all of us to take on this challenge. That is why we write to offer our support and encouragement for your efforts to overcome the climate challenge. Your leadership is laid out in your Climate Action Plan, which, when fully implemented, will (1) position America to lead the world in the coming clean energy revolution, (2) create good jobs here in America, (3) reduce pollution that fouls our air and makes our water impure, (4) protect the health of our children and the unborn, and (5) build resiliency to the consequences of climate change both here and in vulnerable poor nations.  Kindle location 2259

The most effective way of levying a carbon tax is by charging as far “upstream” as possible. For coal, that’s at the mine. For oil or natural gas, it’s either at the well, collection point, or refinery; if the fuel is imported, tax it at the port. Most experts suggest a starting point of $16 per ton of carbon, which translates into approximately 16 cents per gallon of gasoline and increasing approximately 5 percent per year. The fee would also be assessed as a border correction (tariff) on products produced outside the United States and not already assessed as a carbon correction factor in order to protect jobs and industry. There are plenty of solutions that will appeal to conservatives and make good sense. A deregulated electricity sector that allowed consumers everywhere to pick their own power companies and generate their own power seems like a winning issue. So does a redirection of corporate-welfare subsidies into true basic energy research on potential breakthroughs.10 Eli Lehrer, president of R Street Institute  Kindle location 2305

What appears to be the popular choice with economists is using the funds to reduce our corporate tax rate and the balance returned to consumers on a scale similar to current income tax. In other words, those in lower income brackets would receive close to a 100 percent rebate, while higher income brackets would see proportional reduced returns. If you wish to learn more on carbon taxes as a conservative opportunity, please read “The Conservative Case for a Carbon Tax”11 by Jerry Taylor from the respected Niskanen Center. (An excerpt from that report is in the sidebar story a few pages back.) Another worthy read is “How to Tax Carbon: Conservatives Can Fight Climate Change Without Growing Government” by Andrew Moylan in the October 2, 2013 issue of The American Conservative.12 There is no doubt that our current fuel policy is unfair and unjust. It’s quite honestly a travesty of both fiscal conservatism and evangelical values. We simply can’t continue to subsidize fossil fuels with the health and life of our children. It’s simply not caring for life. We have a choice. Is it right to save a few dollars at the gas pump or on our electric bill to poison our kids? I don’t believe so, especially when investing in clean energy will save lives, offer better opportunities, and in the end build a better economy for the same children we are currently denying abundant life. It’s time to be fair and invest in a kingdom-of-God future that values opportunities for all God’s children and supports a fair economic system. Investing in our nation and its future provides the best prospect for going forward. All of us must make the effort; it’s a faithful call to action. But just transforming the mistakes of the past won’t get us where we need to go. Overcoming climate change requires new thinking and going beyond the box, just like God did when he came to earth at Christmas. In his incarnation, Jesus invested in humanity. He modeled the right way for living; he sought new paradigms in relationships, and in his death and resurrection initiated something completely new: the kingdom of God. Jesus provided a new vision for his disciples to grasp, and he went before them to show them the new way.  Kindle location 2317

Investment in ourselves will change how the world uses energy, rekindle our economy, defeat climate change, and improve the lives of our children. We can rekindle the American spirit without costing us a dime by merely redirecting just a few of those hundred-year-old fossil fuel subsidies. The investment accelerates solving climate change, thereby reducing risks to our nation, our kids, and the poor around the world. This investment can and probably will provide the energy supply needed for development all around the world and the ability to preserve our common home for the next generation.  Kindle location 2354

Mitch and his team at EEN have been focused on the short-term impacts of fossil fuels on human health, with a growing awareness that climate change will pose an escalating risk for generations to come, especially among those with the least—the very people Jesus commanded us to love and protect.  Kindle location 2381

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