Does the Bible say there will be climate change? This is an important question. If the Bible—our most reliable source of wisdom and guidance—says something about climate change, that could inform what’s an otherwise fairly murky discussion. Getting reliable guidance would have tremendous implications. However, before we look at what the Bible says, let’s specifically define the term climate change.
If you’ve been paying attention to the stream of scientific reports related to climate change, you know that the vast majority of scientists are expecting marked changes to the earth’s natural systems—our oceanic, atmospheric, fresh water, and soil (food production) systems. These changes are expected to have a profound impact on society. If the scientists are right, then what they predict is critical to understand because it’s one of the most profound threats the human race has ever faced.
At issue is what, if anything, human society will do about this apparent threat. The implications are massive; mobilizing to effectively deal with climate change will require rethinking global industrialization, which in turn will substantially alter the global economy and redirect the development of new technologies. All of this will likely alter the global power structure. So, yes, it really is a big deal.
What does climate change mean?
A series of studies over the past few years point, not to just some warming of the world’s atmosphere and oceans, but to fundamental changes in the operation of the earth’s natural systems.
For example, a study on climate change led by Rutgers University scientist Dr. Jennifer Francis reported that large northward bulges in the upper atmospheric jet stream are linked to “extreme weather events, such as the severe cold spells in the northern hemisphere this winter (2015), the enduring drought in the west, and major storms like Hurricane Sandy in 2012.” Overall there appears to be a slowing and meandering of the jet stream, which means a disruption of normal weather patterns.
We’re also seeing changes to the currents in the world’s oceans. A Washington Post article published in March 2015 reported that “according to a new study just out in Nature Climate Change, . . . we’re now seeing a slowdown of the great ocean circulation that, among other planetary roles, helps to partly drive the Gulf Stream off the US East Coast. The consequences could be dire—including significant extra sea level rise for coastal cities like New York and Boston.”
There’s also an astonishing loss of sea ice and land ice in the Arctic. This drives a whole series of changes, such as extended heat waves and droughts in the Northern Hemisphere and decreasing rain in the mid-latitude, which is where much of the farmland is located. And all these changes are accelerating. The results are powerful: increased drying and subsequent fires and significantly decreased food security, especially in the underdeveloped parts of the world.
So we can define climate change as the widespread and accelerating decay in the earth’s natural systems. But that’s not a complete definition because it fails to include impacts on human society. Fortunately, a great deal of highly credible analysis on this point has been done by threat analysis think tanks—quiet organizations that usually do all their work for various agencies of the United States government. One such organization is the large and influential Center for Naval Analysis Corporation (CNA), which has a military advisory board made up of a number of retired generals and admirals. This board regularly engages in threat analysis, including climate change threat analysis.
Thus far this board has released two nonclassified reports on the emerging and accelerating threat of climate change. These reports warn of a significant increase in global instability and conflict because of threats to food and water supplies for a fairly large portion of the world’s population. As to the seriousness of global problems that result from climate change, the board stated that “we have addressed many national security challenges, from containment and deterrence of the Soviet nuclear threat during the Cold War to political extremism and transnational terrorism in recent years. The national security risks of projected climate change are as serious as any challenges we have faced” (emphasis supplied).
Some think tanks, such as the New England Complex Studies Institute (NECSI), argue that we are well into the era of conflict that results from climate change because of food insecurity and the destabilizing effect of food price spikes on fragile, Third World societies.
There are also organizations that focus on the effect that climate change is having on the health of our human society. They tell us to expect the global incidence of disease to increase significantly. An article in Scientific American lists 12 diseases that climate change may worsen. Among these are cholera, Ebola, Lyme disease, sleeping sickness, tuberculosis, and yellow fever.
With all this in mind, our definition of climate change might read, the widespread and accelerating decay in the earth’s natural systems that profoundly threatens human society by causing conflict, hunger, disease, and increases in natural disasters.
What the Bible says
Now that we’re working with a specific definition of climate change, let’s go back to the question at hand: does the Bible say there will be climate change? The answer is No, because nowhere does the Bible use that term. But the answer is also Yes in the sense that the Bible does say that in the time just before the second coming of Christ the earth will be in upheaval and human society will be suffering from tremendous conflict, hunger, disease, and natural disasters. And, as we shall see, there’s a significant similarity between what the Bible says will come and what the threat analyses we’ve examined say will come.
Near the end of His ministry, Jesus met privately with His disciples, and they asked Him what the signs of His coming would be (Matthew 24:3). Jesus answered them in astonishing detail. In verses 6 and 7 He said, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” Jesus meant that just before His return we will see conflict between nations, tribes, regions, and ethnic groups. Indeed, we should expect a severe increase in conflict at all levels of human society.
This mirrors the conclusions of climate change impacts by the CNA mentioned earlier, that we can expect to see a significant increase in global instability, conflict because of “threats to food and water supplies for a fairly large portion of the world’s population.” Jesus said this will happen, so we should not be troubled when it does.
In the second half of Matthew 24:7 Jesus said that “there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” In other words, we should watch for significant increases in hunger and earthquakes. We’re seeing marked increases in both of these.
It’s worth going a little deeper into earthquakes. We’ve already seen that climate change is causing increased famine (hunger) and disease. Can earthquakes also be linked to climate change? The answer is Yes. Dr. Bill McGuire, in his book Waking The Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanos, explains that the earth is in a dynamic state where even small changes in force can bring it to a tipping point. We’re currently seeing transfers of water because of a drying climate in the earth’s temperate regions, along with rising sea levels and increased atmospheric moisture, which is enough to push the earth’s crust to a tipping point that results in dramatically higher seismic activity levels, namely, earthquakes.
While the language used by the Bible and climate-change scientists is quite different, there’s definitely a relationship between the conclusions that are drawn by the two sources.
Why these things will happen
But the Bible goes further than informing us what will happen. It also tells us why these things will happen.
In Genesis 3:1–7 we learn that Adam and Eve disobeyed an express command of God, choosing instead to believe Satan’s lies. Adam and Eve had been given dominion over the world, but when they yielded to Satan, their dominion passed to him. The Bible calls him the “god” or “prince” of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).
The problem with sin is that it separates human beings, and indeed all of creation, from God. In Romans 6:23 we learn that the result of sin is death, not just of human beings and animals but also of the earth itself. Romans 8:21 tells us that “the whole creation [world] has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” We know that this suffering is the result of sin and separation from God. And it’s from this suffering and death that God rescued us by paying the death penalty for us through His Son. This extraordinary act is an expression of the character of God—that even though we have rejected Him and completely ruined the spectacular earth He created, He’s still doing everything possible to restore us to everlasting life with Him.
The Bible doesn’t use the term climate change, but it does describe in some detail what happens when creation is separated from its Creator. This separation cannot endure much longer, for even now all creation groans under the burden of sin. On the horizon we see the fulfillment of some of the most critically important prophecies in the Bible. In His mercy, God provides a multitude of signs that the earth is reaching a termination point. You may agree or disagree with the idea that humans are accelerating climate change. The subject is a charged political issue with vocal adherents and detractors. But whatever your persuasaion, it’s safe to say that the Bible describes an escalation of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes as Christ’s second coming draws near. It’s a dire prediction, and without Jesus, it’s a future that would be cause for alarm.
Be that as it may, the importance of climate change pales to insignificance in comparison to the importance of Christ’s coming and the creation of a joyful and sustainable society that’s in perfect harmony with its Creator. The next time you read yet another study saying that climate change is accelerating beyond all expectation and that the impacts are coming faster than expected, remember that the Bible predicted these things two thousand years ago. And remember that, terrible as the results of climate change are on our world, they are also indicators that the coming of Jesus is very near.