Climate Change and the End of Times

Climate Change and the End of Times

EDWIN SALTER’S op-ed piece appeared in the September, 2013, issue of the Freethinker


FAITH can embrace much that is evil both by active wrongdoing and by the prevention of good. The history of religious wars and persecutions speaks for itself. The greatest present threat is to humanity as a whole.

Climate change, with global warming originating from greenhouse gases, could precipitate an irreversible feedback process. British weather, for example, is affected by jet stream shift probably linked to the astonishing reduction of Arctic sea ice. The melting of ice anywhere readily triggers other events: reduced reflectivity increases solar heating; tundra is exposed so releasing methane; sea water characteristics are changed so currents alter and eventually the level rises; and the cycle repeats. Change does not translate as an agreeable degree warmer but as uncertainty and extremes. It is worth remembering that northern Europe is on a latitude with Kamchatka and Alaska.

Why write about this in an atheist journal? Because the resistance to essential measures is not only from ignorant politicians, the conservatism of privilege, and the greed of commerce based on carbon burning and the exploitation of the environment.

Helpfully, there are many religious who respect creation, including humankind, and adopt an attitude of stewardship. But others turn their faith into a prime obstacle to saving a world they denounce as flawed and transitory.

First there is the general incompatibility of religion with reason and evidence, especially with science. Second, the fatalist inertia of belief in a universe governed by gods. Third, and most virulent, is the active seeking of “the end of times” that opposes useful action. All change can be opportunistically attributed to some divine purpose and many believe, absurdly, that it is their unique faith that is true, that they in particular will rejoice in eternity while all others will be condemned.

Wretched attempts to enlist all religious in denying man-made climate change (god-made is fine) and so blocking action, include a feeble mockery that man claims control over something he can’t create. (A current example is one Rush Limbaugh who is entirely confused and presumably has never shaped a piece of wood or taught a dog).

Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh

Limbaugh recently said:

If you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in man-made global warming.

There is a seriously dreadful burgeoning of stuff, easily found on the Internet, that urges us to welcome the good news of the end, be “rapture ready”, and joyously greet the impending horrors. Be assured that you are among the few chosen, and donate now!

These views are very prominent in the USA, self’-righteously Christian and a nation evading its special responsibility for our present peril. The true pay-off matrix is that even if (astonishingly) climate fears are mistaken, action will merely result in an improved world with a less polluted and more sustainable environment. Conversely if the danger is real but not vigorously tackled, the outcome is likely to be catastrophic.

It actually doesn’t matter what the cause is, the climatological remedies available are unchanged. Our present world is also both overpopulated – on this too religion is a great opponent – and vastly over-exploited for our uncaring consumption, so there is no margin of safety.

As atheists we are bound to do our best for humanity and this world – it is what we and our children have. Climate change presents such a great and urgent risk to all that it is an issue on which the folly of faith must be most resolutely opposed.


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