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Discovery Magazine 3/1/2010

Global Warming

You may not watch as much news as your parents, but most likely you have heard of “global warming.” For several years, newscasters, politicians, and various scientists around the world have said that the Earth is warming. Since the late 1800s, the Earth’s average temperature reportedly has risen about 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Along with this alleged slight increase in temperature, we are told that many of the world’s glaciers and ice sheets are slowly melting, thereby causing a small rise in the sea level over the past 100 years.

Whether the Earth’s average temperature is warming, cooling, or remaining fairly steady is somewhat unclear. Have many glaciers receded during the past century? Yes. Has the worldwide average temperature risen slightly over the past 100 years? Many scientists believe so. Have temperatures risen over the past 15 years? Some say “yes,” while others say “no.”

Considering that much of America has just experienced one of the coldest (and in some places, the snowiest) winters in recent memory, a growing number of people have a difficult time believing “the Earth is warming.” Also, since more scientists are using the expression “climate change,” rather than “global warming,” we are left with the impression that many scientists still are uncertain about the matter.

What We Do Know

Although it is frustrating how many unknowns surround “climate change,” there are some things that we can know for sure. For example, we can know that the Earth has gone through warming and cooling periods in the past. There is no debating this issue. It is an established fact accepted by both creationists and evolutionists. Long before planes, trains, and automobiles (which allegedly have caused much of today’s “global warming”) the Earth’s climate changed drastically. Consider the coldest place on Earth today—Antarctica. At present, Antarctica is covered by roughly seven million cubic miles of ice (which represents 90% of all the ice on Earth). In addition, the average temperature at the South Pole is nearly minus 58 degrees.

So what does this have to do with “global warming?” Simply this: Antarctica has not always been the frigid, icy area it is today. Scientists know that the South Pole was once warm and green. Can you believe it? It’s true. Long ago, Antarctica’s climate was almost sub-tropical—more like that of the central part of the United States. The fossil record indicates that in the past Antarctica was lush with ferns, flowering plants, and conifer trees, and was even the home of several different kinds of dinosaurs.

What’s more, Antarctica was not alone: some of the coldest places on Earth today, including Greenland, Alaska, and the Arctic, were once far warmer. The fossil record shows that freshwater ferns once thrived in the Arctic Ocean, while breadfruit trees, which today flourish in warm places like Hawaii, once grew in Greenland. Even climate sensitive turtles once lived in the Arctic.

The fact is, our planet has gone through various stages of warming and cooling throughout its history. At one time, ice covered more of the Earth than at present. (Scientists refer to these periods as “ice ages.”) At other times, even the Earth’s Arctic and Antarctic regions were virtually ice-free.

No one knows for certain what all caused the Earth to be warmer or cooler in the past. What we do know is that our forefathers have been on the Earth “from the foundation of the world” (Luke 11:50-51; Genesis 1-2). They survived times when the Earth (as a whole) was cooler, as well as when the Earth was warmer. In cooler periods, our ancestors, no doubt, built more fires, wore more clothes, and stayed in their shelters longer periods of time. In warmer periods (when ice melted), our ancestors surely enjoyed the outdoors more and were smart enough to move to higher ground when sea levels rose.

When Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden, they had to learn to adapt to their new environment. When Noah stepped out of the ark onto dry ground for the first time in a year, he had to get used to a new world that had been completely flooded. During the seven years of famine in the days of Joseph, mankind had to adjust.

If Jesus delays His return for hundreds or thousands of years (which He may not), the Earth’s climate will likely change. Regardless of how much coal man burns, or how many gas-guzzling cars he drives, history has shown us that the Earth’s climate varies over time. When those climate changes occur, man must learn to adapt.



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