The September 28th edition of the Seattle Times carried the headline, “Arctic sea ice melting faster as temperatures climb”. Beginning in 2002, according to satellite data, the spring melt set in unusually early in areas north of Alaska and Siberia; now the early melt is affecting the entire region. In September, the ice cover reached the lowest level ever recorded at 20% less than normal for that time of year. At the same time, air temperatures were 5.4 degrees warmer than average. Ted Scambos, of the University of Colorado National Snow and Ice Data Center is quoted as saying that, “The melting and retreat trends are accelerating”. Now that's a worry! But it shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody who pays just a modicum of attention to the daily news.
The debate continues as to the causes of global warming — whether it's due to burning of fossil fuels or due to some natural cycle — but argument has come to an end about the fact of the matter. The earth is warming. We are already facing its disastrous consequences. Well before the end of this century, barring a turnaround, polar bears will be found only in zoos, to site a minor disaster. Hurricane Katrina gained her ferocity because the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are warm — warmer than normal. Hardly any maverick voices can be heard any more denying that serious and potentially catastrophic changes are afoot in the earth's oceans and atmosphere. In the light of the facts, one wonders about the wisdom of rebuilding New Orleans. Remember, sea levels are going to rise. How high can levees go?
Regardless of whether or not we can absolutely prove that we are reaping the consequences of our own folly already, simple logic tells us that one day we will. We are running out of trees for timber. We are running out of water for agriculture and the basic necessities. Deposits of oil are finite; they will run out, and cars will become a thing of the past. You can't tell me that any amount of alternative fuels will be able to supply the planet's massive number of cars indefinitely. And you can pump only so much poison into the environment before some threshold is reached and some mind-numbing chain reaction kicks into gear so
that “everyone who dwells there will waste away with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air; even the fish of the sea will be taken away” (Hos. 4:3).
Believers might find it all too easy to shout out, “Repent, the end is in sight”. Certainly, believers should never cease calling on the world to turn to God, but let it be on the grounds that a day of judgment against sin is coming. But do the self-inflicted catastrophes we are bringing on ourselves prove that the end is nigh? I'll stick my neck out and respond, “Not necessarily”. Biblical prophecy suggests otherwise! Sure, the fourth seal of the book of Revelation foretells the death of one quarter of all mankind due to the “sword and hunger and death” (Rev. 6:7). Just possibly the clouds of that disaster are building on the horizon, and just possibly our shared greed and cavalier attitude will be the cause. But you have three more seals after that before the end comes. Could human beings learn the lesson and build a more robust world as a result before the final Great Tribulation strikes?
A perusal of “end time” scenarios doesn't reveal a world on the brink of environmental collapse, but a world on the verge of ruin due to that age-old unmitigated evil — lust for power and wealth. Over and over prophecies depict powerful nations at odds with Israel, with one nation or block spreading terror far and wide (Hab. 1:5-11) and enjoying great wealth through conquest (vss. 15-17). Jesus' famous words that the latter days would be like those before the flood when “they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” (Matt. 24:38-39) imply prosperous conditions overall, not a world struggling to survive. Paul's assurance that in the perilous last days people would be lovers of pleasures (2 Tim. 3:4) presupposes a world where pleasures are free for the taking. End time disaster is to fall on the heads of the ungodly proud, not on the backs of miserable wretches.
I'm not suggesting we take a blasé attitude towards environmental problems. Far from it. God gave us a fabulous planet to live on, and He will “destroy those who destroy the earth” (Rev. 11:18). Destroyers of the earth repent; God is watching you.