My interest in climate change (aka global warming) goes back to 2006 when I began studying the issue in the lead up to the release of the Fourth Assessment Report (4AR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), noting at the time various Christian organisations not least of all World Vision and TEAR Fund with their concerns for world poverty were voicing their concerns about climate change, including endorsing calls to reduce carbon emissions as a way to reduce world poverty.

I collected material: a) read the 4AR Synthesis Report and related material; b) read reviews of the 4AR, c) begun collecting and reading books on climate change and what to do about it; d) engaged in a somewhat acrimonious debate with  Byron Smith who runs a blog.

I produced a paper and summarising article in February 2007 and then followed up with a further much more thoroughly researched paper with an article summarising the paper 4 years later.

My position is broadly sceptical about findings purporting to  find very adverse climate conditions in the year 2100 on the basis of modelling weather for increasing greenhouse gas emissions, given that weather is an incredibly complex system still not well understood in all respects.

Between 2007 and 2011 my attention shifted away from climate science (which I don’t profess to have any great knowledge of) and concerning which I came to take a somewhat toned down though still mildly sceptical view of, to the examination, including assessment, of possible technologies to reduce greenhouse gas (principally carbon) emissions. This is a subject about which, by virtue of my training as an engineer and 25 years experience in industry, I’m much better qualified to understand and make informed comment.

I look forward to further commenting on climate change once the Fifth IPCC Assessment Report (5AR) is issued late 2013.

The four papers/articles are as follows (the link is in the article/paper title):

A Christian Response to Climate Change

Published: 14th February 2007

Abstract:

This paper (35 pages) sets out to develop a Christian response to the claims of climate change, in particular global warming with feared knock on effects for weather patterns, ice caps and ocean sea levels.

I conclude that a variety of Christian responses are feasible.

I acknowledged that climate change and possible responses to it, is more properly the domain of scientists, technologists, economists, corporations and governments. The Christian in my view cannot claim a privileged position though the Bible does assist in the assessment of the issue, including possible remedial actions.

Keep Cool

Published in March 2007 edition of Australian Presbyterian

Abstract:

The predictions of coming doom and climate-change calamity intoned almost nightly on our television news these days bears at least a superficial resemblance to the warnings of the prophets to errant Israel. Rarely has so much airtime been given to news that hasn’t actually happened yet.

The threat of climate changed seems to have given many people in the prosperous West a cause to live, or even crusade for, while other pressing problems such as poverty, disease, lack of sanitation and clean water, etc, often of much greater concern to the world’s poor, are ignored.  It is one way to attempt to meet the deep spiritual need for purpose and significance beyond the existential emptiness of life lived without God.

Many Christians are naturally and deeply sceptical of the current environmental “apocalypticism”, that bears the hallmarks of a religion that substitutes the creation for the creator, that seeks to make preservation of the environment in remembered form or at least in its current configuration as the single most important issue pressing upon humankind, that ignores other pressing issues like disease and poverty in the developing world, that takes enormous conceits to itself regarding humankind’s ability to change the environment for better or for worse.

Climate Change, Energy Security and the Future

Published: 8th January 2011

This paper is the follow up to the earlier paper, A Christian Response to Climate Change.

This time around I have undertaken considerably more reading and of course the past four years have witnessed a number of developments: the continued plateauing of global temperatures, the embarrassment of Climategate and errors in the IPCC fourth assessment report and the ongoing difficulties of  the UNFCCC conference of the parties encompassing 192 nations to agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.

I haven’t revisited the various Christian responses to the claims of climate change, covered in my earlier paper.

As with the earlier paper, it is freely acknowledged that climate change and possible responses to it, lies more properly in the domain of scientists, technologists, economists, corporations and governments. This is not to say that there are not ethical issues involved in the issue of possible worrisome global warming and what to do about it.

What has definitely changed in the past four years is that the appropriate technological responses to global warming have come under closer scrutiny and this aspect forms a major part of this paper. The other issue which is dealt with in some detail is the characterisation of climate science as a ‘wicked’ problem, raising the appreciation of the uncertainty associated with climate change.

The paper is extensively footnoted and a listing provided of the books I have read. In the course of the past 5 years I have collected 18 leverarch files of material and have included notes and details on papers that I have found particularly helpful. Also listed is a set of recommended websites. Whilst I remain something of a ‘doubting Thomas’ as to the basic outline of the IPCC storyline, I have read across contrary opinions on the topic. It is extremely unfortunate that there is so much vitriol around this topic, which is an indication that people take positions on climate change and what to do about it as much if not more so, for political and ideological purposes. In a way science is pressed into service in a context much broader than climate. The fact that just about any position can find at least some support in the Journals only complicates matters further. The position I take is summarised in the Introduction on page.

Climate Questions

Published in February 2011 edition of Australian Presbyterian

Abstract:

This article summarises the main points in the paper Climate Change, Energy Security and the Future.

It does not take a position on climate science other than to note the so called consensus view, explores the notion of uncertainty and leaves open the question of whether the predicted bad outcomes of increasing carbon emissions will eventuate, doing so in a somewhat questioning fashion.

The main contribution of the article is in exploring the energy question, including future sources of cheap low carbon energy required by all nations, certainly those in the developing world.

This article focuses principally on the scientific, technological and economic issues as necessary inputs into ethical and political judgments..