Typhoon Haiyan and even Superstorm Sandy were not simply caused by global warming. They were the result of “moral evil,” according to one theologian.
“These ‘superstorms’ aren’t an ‘act of God,’ but an act of willful disregard for God’s creation, and the neglect of the human responsibility to care for the planet,” writes Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, professor of theology at the Chicago Theological Seminary and a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress.
“There is moral evil to be seen in these ‘superstorms,’ I believe, on two levels,” she added. “First, there is the moral evil of continuing to pump fossil fuels into the atmosphere, producing global warming. Second, however, is the moral evil of climate change denial, that is, those who would continue to deny, in the face of mounting evidence, that violent climate change is upon us and it is accelerating.”
Thistlethwaite is writing in the wake of the deadly Typhoon Haiyan which is reportedly responsible for the death of thousands in the Philippines. The storm has already been attributed to global warming by UN officials and has been used as a lightning rod for activism on global warming.
However, Thistlethwaite says there is a “theological prescription” for what humans need to do to stave off planetary destruction — “confession, repentance and change.”
“Admit human caused, violently destructive climate change is happening,” she writes. “The harm to God’s creation is real, it is happening and human beings bear enormous responsibility for it.”
“Repent for what we have already lost by inaction,” Thistlethwaite added. “Change personal practice and public policy … Individuals need to take responsibility as well, both to move toward less of a carbon footprint, and to vote for those who will make positive policy changes.”
Activists have blamed Typhoon Haiyan and Superstorm Sandy on global warming, despite evidence that the globe has not warmed in the last 15 years or so. Environmentalists and the Obama administration have argued that rising global temperatures have made weather more extreme.
However, climate scientists have downplayed the role of global warming in the typhoon that slammed the Philippines.
“While Haiyan was absolutely amazing, it’s not alone. It’s in an elite company of a handful of other tropical cyclones scattered across the decades and across the world,” Brian McNoldy, a a senior research associate at the University of Miami, told Climate Central.
“I expect that the contribution of global warming to Haiyan’s extreme intensity is likely to have been small, relative to other factors like weather fluctuations and climate variability,” echoed Gabe Vecchi, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Research has also shown that there has been no trend towards more extreme weather in recent decades.
“It is misleading and just plain incorrect to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally,” University of Colorado scientist Roger Pielke told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “It is further incorrect to associate the increasing costs of disasters with the emission of greenhouse gases.”
“Hurricanes have not increased in the U.S. in frequency, intensity or normalized damage since at least 1900,” Pielke added. “The same holds for tropical cyclones globally since at least 1970.”
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