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Can Christians Rely on the Resilience of Creation in Attitude to Climate Change?

Some Christians claim that we need not worry too much about climate change, because Creation is more resilient than environmentalists think or account for. This page contains an email exchange on that issue, in case it is helpful to others. It is written for Christians, but some open-minded non-Christians might find it useful too. Author of this page ("I") is Andrew Basden.

I was shocked to hear, in a BBC Radio 4 programme, The Briefing Room, Thursday 22 July 2021, that:

If all the nations that made promises to curb greenhouse gases at the Paris Conference of the Parties [COP] kept their promises, then the rise in average global temperatures would not be kept to 1.5 degrees C as was hoped, not even to 2 degrees C as really is necessary, but will be between 2.5 and 3 degrees. Even if everyone keeps their promises it will be insufficient - and most are not on track to doing so, including the UK that is hosting the COP26."

It is very very probable that a rise above 2 degrees C will cause many many problems, especially for the poor nations, and even 2 degrees will. I sent that text to a few dozen people, with the remark that "It sent us to prayer. ... Has God been sending warnings? ... I feel the need for a prophetic voice too, which goes beyond the Reith discussions. ..."

One responded,


Don't fret. I am sorry, but they are just stoking your fears before the big 2021 conference in Glasgow in November. I suspect you will get more of this as that event approaches.

The earth - God's magnificent creation- has more resilience than we like to assume. Indeed its corrective capacities are a critical assumption often left out of the 'models.' Their history, we now have some, has consistently overshot the actual mark by an unacceptable degree. In fact, the earnest projections made for the Paris Conference are now found to be inadequate?

What are we to believe now? Clearly, this is a far too unsettled arena.

I am not suggesting we dodge the issue of Man's role or responsibilities, merely that certain vested interests promote a fear-based agenda.

We should not worry that adequate time-and-coming innovations will allow a collective effort and provide a better pathway. Including the work we care about.

There are great lessons from Prof. Dietrich Dorner's work: The Logic of Failure - Recognizing and Avoiding Error In Complex Situations - 1997. Not the least of the errors he reveals is our tendency to over-correct - think Chernobyl - when dealing with complex systems. The earth's interrelated environment and climate issues certainly are complex systems. Despite our amazing computers and the corresponding 'big brain power', evidentially, we are still very much on the fringe of understanding these systems.

However, this is not to say we do not have serious pollution and political responsibility problems. I will not dwell on the illogic and questionable strategies of the developed world throttling down while China, India, and most of Asia spew more carbon than all the cows in the world! In this respect, I question the public agenda, the reporting, and the motives of certain vested interests.

I am giving you both barrels here because I don't' want you to worry needlessly on your holiday. This is all in God's hands, and I trust in his providence- come what may.


Take care, xxx"

That challenged me to think: What did I really believe about this. He makes some useful points - and is obviously not a climate skeptic, just skeptical about some of the alarmist writing. So I took the opportunity to think it out. Here is my reply, in case other Christians find it helpful.

My Response

Dear xxx,

Thank you so much for this. Thank you for your concern that worry might spoil my holiday. Actually, it would not have done so; I have had this concern for years, and since it is a concern from God rather than the world (see below), it harmonises even with enjoying life. But it is deep.

I have, for some time, been wanting, and even praying, to engage with you about this topic, so I am thankful for your email, and the opportunity to do so. In fact, it is more: it is an opportunity for me to think things out, especially about stoking up fears.

First, a question: You claim that "In fact, the earnest projections made for the Paris Conference are now found to be inadequate?" Please can you tell me the source of that information, please. I want to make sure I am operating to the correct data.

However, as will become plain below, data is not the deepest of my concerns. What follows is an explanation of how I think, sorted out over a few days. I apologise for its length, but am grateful for you stimulating me to work it out.

1. Trust

It depends on who one trusts. In the early days, *some* environmentalists were or seemed a little loose with their information, because they wanted to "wake up those who sleep". They were attacked on this basis by the climate deniers and anti-environmentalists. But then, by and large, they learned, changed and are now very careful with data and statements. For at least a decade, for example, few have claimed that specific events (e.g. New Orleans floods) were the result of climate change, just that climate change predictions make such events more likely. Sometimes I think they are too careful, so that politicians can easily ignore them. (You see: politics is a game of shocks.)

However, by and large, I do find that environmentalists who are scientists can be trusted. One whom I always trusted was the (evangelical) Christian Sir John Houghton, who had been head of the UK Meteorological Office and deeply understood the science of climate change. He was one of the early promoters of climate and environmental responsibility in the UK, and was one of the people who convinced some evangelicals in the USA to take this responsibility seriously.

By contrast, the climate skeptics I do not trust. This is because I find their use of data very selective and their arguments weak and often disingenuous. One example of this is Nigel Lawson in the UK, who was once Chancellor of Exchequer, and runs a climate-skeptic organanisation. He published in 2008 a book 'An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming'. I obtained and read that book. I was hoping that his opposite point of view to my own would give me challenges so I could learn something or discover weaknesses in my position. Sadly, I found very little useful material, but much weak argument, partiality, narrowed views, misunderstandings and emotional wording. It was anything but a "call to reason". You can see my critique on:


I maybe sound rather rude to, or dismissive of, him. That is because I was so deeply disappointed in his book.

Then I examined the Cornwall Alliance, which purports to be an evangelical Christian organisation dedicated to the "stewardship of Creation". It issued a Declaration that denies human responsibility for climate change. I found it almost as bad as Lawson's book, and made a detailed critique of that Declaration in


Then it issued 'A Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor' in 2009, and I found its arguments had not improved. You can find my critique on


Its claim to be concerned for the poor I find highly partial and disingenuous, because it overlooks the poverty resulting from the long decline in climate.

The guy at the top of Cornwall seems to be Calvin Beisner. Sir John Houghton gave him the benefit of the doubt, to treat him as a reasonable person, so went to meet him and discuss - but found him stubborn and refusing to listen.

For these and other reasons I trust Sir John Houghton and I distrust Calvin Beisner, Nigel Lawson, and their ilk. On both I spent a lot of time treating them as reasonable, and finding them not to be.

I was once struck by Jesus, in his parable, saying "If they won't believe Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe even if someone should rise from the dead." Though that was aimed at the Jewish leaders and pointed to himself, I recognised the underlying attitude is the same: the stubborn refusal to believe, whatever evidence is offered. That is what I have observed thus far, common in the climate skeptic community. So I don't spend my time on them any more, unless directed to do so.

2. My Attitude to Environmentalist Output

That does not mean I accept environmentalist output at face value. I look to see what assumptions they make. Usually nowadays they are transparent about this.

For example, for a document my son sent recently, which was alarming, I noticed that the writers up-front said they wanted to shock the reader. They wanted to draw to the reader's attention an important issue that is seldom talked about adequately (decline in ocean biodiversity). Yes, the article was shocking, and in fact induced something of panic, which I felt was unhelpful.

But they gave references, and were quite open about their assumptions (RPC8.5, the worst case scenario). So I modified their assumptions to ones I personally find reasonable, and the timescale of their predicted outcome lengthened. However, it did not negate the warning they gave. My longer timescale did not absolve us of responsibility to act urgently; it just gave us time to act with thought rather than panic.

I was grateful for the article, because I now know something more of the kinds of ocean decline that once was to me just a vague problem on the horizon, and I know something of the mechanisms. It will now be part of my knowledge of factors that could be considered, whereas before I had very little idea, except a vague idea it would be a problem sometime.

As a scientist, I know and would expect that environmentalist writing still has not got everything right. However, that does not mean that we can pick and choose which of their output to ignore. By looking at assumptions (declared or not) I listen to everything - whether written by those who advocate or oppose / resist climate and environmental responsibility - so I can understand better and have knowledge that informs what I say in the rest of my explanation below.

(Actually, I still have to check the figures in the Briefing Room, about Paris commitments leading to 2.5 to 3 degrees. But I did not detect any sense that they were exaggerating or making undue assumptions - and usually I do have a 'nose' for these.)

I find that the /trajectory/ of environmental scientific findings is all in the same direction, a direction that urges us to greater not lesser responsibility. And I do not see evidence that the trajectory is because they are all blinded.

3. On attitude

I believe that humankind was given responsibility at the Creation, and that mandate has never been rescinded. Our mandate was to 'shepherd' the rest of Creation for its own sake rather than ours (I prefer "shepherd" to "steward" for various reasons found in "") because that is the essence of God's self-giving love that we are supposed to "image".

In true environmentalists, by and large, I hear the call, "Responsibility". But from the climate skeptics I hear "Freedom for Me Me Me, Us, Us, Us." I am deeply concerned by the latter, but that is another story.

So I was glad that you had added that you are not denying responsibility. It means you are not one of them, and I'm glad.

My response to non-Christian environmentalists is not to belittle or condemn them (as Cornwall does) but, as Jesus did with the crowds, to have compassion on them as sheep without a shepherd. He would not soothe their worry by saying "There, there, the disaster you worry about won't happen" - indeed he warned that it would. Instead, he invited them to take his yoke on themselves, to give up all and follow him. That's what I want to do - if only I knew how.

4. On the Resilience of Creation

I largely agree with you, in principle. However, it is an argument that Cornwall uses in the Renewed Call, so I am afraid that I am attuned to distrust anyone who uses that argument. So you touched a raw nerve. However, that is no reason to resist what you say; it makes me step back and think.

I do agree that Creation is more robust than some suggest. But it is also more fragile than some might think. I remember hearing a businessman once remarking "I know that half my business is wasting money unnecessarily; the problem is, I don't know which half." We do not know in advance which parts of Creation are resilient and which are fragile. And I think that is for good reason: the Creator knows, and uses resilience and fragility of it in His plans.

So, instead of arguing about fragility and resilience, and trying to predict, I bring God into the picture, and think in terms of responsibility, repentance, etc. Throughout the history of Israel in the OT I find a repeated theme: when we are arrogant and unconcerned, and live for ourselves, then disasters come (natural, military, etc.). God lets the fragility of Creation reveal itself.

There are several times when the Lord warns, or sends drought etc. Hosea 4:2-3 is interesting because it explictly links human sin as the cause (note the words "because of this") of environmental problems.

The fragility of Creation is not just in the physical and biotic aspects but in others too. The people of Israel were "fragile" as a people, not only because their hilly terrain (apparently) gave them less fertile soils than the surrounding nations (c.f. Lot and Abraham), but also they did not have the military technology of the surrounding pagan nations. So they had to trust in the Lord to fight their battles and ensure good harvests. When they stopped trusting or obeying, they lost. Military and agricultural fragility are of course different aspects from climate, but I see the principle being the same: The Lord uses inherent fragility in to let the Creation itself warn us, hoping to lead us to repentance. God sends warnings, because He loves us and desires us to repent rather than be destroyed. Fragility of Creation should lead us to care, repentance and trust.

However, when we repent in heart, God averts the disasters that would have come. e.g. Nineveh (Jonah). God, if you like, brings the resilience of Creation into play. But that happened only on repentance, not on continuing to live as they did before.

I know that God /can/ avert climate disaster. That is when God brings the resilience of Creation into play. But, judging by the OT, that will happen only when we repent. If when we rest on things like the resilience of Creation without repentance, then God is likely use the fragility that He designed into Creation to bring us to repentance.

That is what I am seeing today - including in recent events in NWUSA and Germany. What was, a decade ago, happening in the poorer nations is now happening in the wealthier. And, might it be that the Covid-19 pandemic is also a warning about our lifestyle? (That is why I said about flying in our tenth discussion.)

Cornwall relied on resilience without repentance.

They also cited some promises of protection from flooding. Yet, surprisingly, might we find even some of God's promises are not kept - if we are arrogant or complacent? That happened with Israel. I can do no better than quote what I say in my critique of Cornwall's Renewed Call:

"Scripturally, they misunderstand the nature of God's promises, by treating them as absolute, unconditional. In fact, God's promises are usually conditional - as the prophet Jonah discovered to his chagrin. Consider, for example, Isa 52:1, which says categorically that Jerusalem will never again be entered by the unclean or uncircumcised. The Hebrew has the emphatic word "ever". Jews who were in Jerusalem before the exile might have claimed that Isaiah's prophecy meant that they were safe, so they could ignore the warnings given by Jeremiah and others about repenting lest Jerusalem be destroyed. Since that promise was made, the Babylonians, Greeks and Romans have all entered Jerusalem.

"What would have seemed an incontrovertible promise turned out not to be. Even if God's intention was that it was for far into the future; those who read it before the exile would not have known that. So it is foolish to argue arrogantly from what seem incontrovertible promises found in Scripture, but rather to adopt an attitude of humility, that we do not fully understand, and that those who warn us might be right. Especially when other Scriptures point to the saliency of such warnings. God's promises are conditional, meant for those who are contrite of heart, rather than those who are "overfed, arrogant and unconcerned" [Ezekiel 16:49]."

5. Lifestyle

That brings us to lifestyle. Might "overfed, arrogant and unconcerned" apply to Western culture? Is it no coincidence that those cultures which most responsible for climate change and environmental destruction? Though China is currently the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, if we take population into account, we find that per person, the USA is the worst, followed closely by Australia, Britain and many countries in Europe. Some years ago I heard that one Swiss has an ecological footprint 40 times that of one Somali. I don't know what the ratio is today, but if the ratio between USA and China is 20, then the ecological footprint of the USA is equivalent to 330m*20 = 6.6 billion Chinese.

Does not God judge individuals, and do so by our attitude of heart? What is God going to say to us?

This is why, in my view, we in the West have to set an example, so that China and other lands will have no excuse in increasing its ecological footprint ("to catch up").

This is where repentance of heart comes in, not just rectification. We in the West must say "We were wrong." Not just "We were OK, and we don't have to do much about it except rectify some of our mistakes and prevent the poorer nations making them." The latter does not wash. The human heart (as God created it) does, though, respond to the first. (I could bring up evidence from history for this.) Repentance is powerful, and it sets an example that others are more likely to follow. (In Dooyeweerdian terms, the juridical way of agreeing rules while maintaining self-protection and self-interest does not work; the ethical aspect, of self-giving, as shown in repentance, does work.)

That is the thing that motivates me. It is not environmentalist literature that drives me. Nor do figures on their own. Figures (once I have checked them) give me evidence and guidance, but it is the Lord that gives motivation. Occasionally, figures can also prompt me. Just like it was the figures of the population of China (of numbers of people headed for Hell) that prompted Hudson Taylor to go to Chine. The figures that shocked me in the article I gave the link for, were not what makes me concerned. Rather, they gave me a kick up the backside to stop messing around. I wrote to you all (and to others) because I would value prayer.

6. My Feeling of Call

You see, I have felt a burden for climate and environmental responsibility since the 1980s - and in fact since the 1970s when I experienced for the first time the reality of the Holy Spirit. It is not a burden such as the world without God has, characterized by fear or panic, nor even logic on its own, but a sense that this is what God intended, that it is God's call to me. It has remained with me, and become stronger and stronger. You can see some of it sketched out in my


I do not want to run ahead of God, driven by my own enthusiasms. I do not want to misrepresent Christ, e.g. by claiming that something is from God when it is only my own thoughts or feelings or passions. However, doing nothing for fear of doing these is equally a sin. It would be disobedience. (And, James tell us, the Holy Spirit conveys passion.)

I remember receiving a 'word' some years ago: to be bold. I don't myself get 'words', but this came out of the blue from a person who does receive 'words' from the Lord, and is humble. So I decided (tentatively) to treat her word to me as from God. And it seems to have 'worked'.

So I seek the Lord's opportunities for action. I take action and see if it 'works'. If it does, I take it to be the Lord's enabling me to go the direction He wants.

The first thing that 'worked' for me, back in the 1980s, was to stand for parliament for the Green Party - a party that holds many anti-Christian people in it, so that many Christians shy away from it. But the Lord led me, and protected me. And, being challenged to make sense of it all, helped develop my understanding and theology, etc. It is that which lies behind my conviction that Christians can indeed make a genuine contribution in economics - without taking sides. (I notice, for example, that Cornwall ties itself to free-market economics.)

(My view of free-market and planned economies is for another time; I can explain if you are interested.)

More recently, one of the things that 'worked' was to set up the Reith Discussion Group. I expected about three discussions, but they have been ten so far - and immensely fruitful; thank you, and everyone. May the Lord continue to prosper our activity for His own sake.

Another, is actually your email. I have for some time wanted and prayed to engage with you on the issue of the urgency of climate change, because I knew you had reservations. A couple of times I tried to think of what to write to you, but those didn't 'work'. So I didn't act. But then you wrote, and this helps me not only engage with you but also straighten out my thoughts and ideas on the topic.

So, thank you for this opportunity. I hope the above makes sense and does not put you off. Even if you don't find it helpful, it has given me an opportunity to think things out. Thank you.


Andrew 26-28 July 2021

This page, "", is an expression of part of a project to understand the links between climate change, global economy and other matters including society's beliefs and aspirations. It is designed to stimulate thinking and discourse. Comments, queries welcome.

This page is written on behalf of the CCGE Group by Andrew Basden, but the views expressed herein are his and not necessarily those of the other members of the Group. Written on the Amiga with Protext in the style of classic HTML. Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2008 - present, but you may use this material subject to certain conditions.

Created: 28 July 2021. Last updated: