The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Green Gasoline

The burning of petroleum (and other fossil fuels) is a primary contributor to the increase of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere. Burning of plant material, on the other hand, does not increase the concentration of CO2, because the carbon in the plant came from the atmosphere in the first place, through the process of photosynthesis. If we could use plants to fuel our cars and factories, we would greatly reduce the amount of CO2 that we produce. This has been the impetus for using biodiesel and corn- or soy-derived ethanol as fuels.

Ethanol production hasn’t proven to be as environmentally-friendly as proponents had hoped, and researchers are looking for other plant-derived gasoline alternatives.

From the National Science Foundation:

Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees, But Gasoline Might

Researchers make breakthrough in creating gasoline from plant matter, with almost no carbon footprint

Researchers have made a breakthrough in the development of “green gasoline,” a liquid identical to standard gasoline yet created from sustainable biomass sources like switchgrass and poplar trees.

While it may be five to 10 years before green gasoline arrives at the pump or finds its way into a fighter jet, these breakthroughs have bypassed significant hurdles to bringing green gasoline biofuels to market.

“It is likely that the future consumer will not even know that they are putting biofuels into their car,” said Huber. “Biofuels in the future will most likely be similar in chemical composition to gasoline and diesel fuel used today. The challenge for chemical engineers is to efficiently produce liquid fuels from biomass while fitting into the existing infrastructure today.”

“Green gasoline is an attractive alternative to bioethanol since it can be used in existing engines and does not incur the 30 percent gas mileage penalty of ethanol-based flex fuel,” said John Regalbuto, who directs the Catalysis and Biocatalysis Program at NSF and supported this research.

“In theory it requires much less energy to make than ethanol, giving it a smaller carbon footprint and making it cheaper to produce,” Regalbuto said. “Making it from cellulose sources such as switchgrass or poplar trees grown as energy crops, or forest or agricultural residues such as wood chips or corn stover, solves the lifecycle greenhouse gas problem that has recently surfaced with corn ethanol and soy biodiesel.”

Beyond academic laboratories, both small businesses and Fortune 500 petroleum refiners are pursuing green gasoline. Companies are designing ways to hybridize their existing refineries to enable petroleum products including fuels, textiles, and plastics to be made from either crude oil or biomass and the military community has shown strong interest in making jet fuel and diesel from the same sources.

Grace and Peace

Thanks to: News

April 9, 2008 Posted by | Climate Change, Energy, Environment, Geology | Leave a comment

Southern Baptists and global warming

Don, at The Evangelical Ecologist, has a couple posts on a new statement written by some Southern Baptist leaders who feel their denomination’s stance on anthropogenic climate change and other environmental issues is too weak:

A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change

An Open Letter to Southern Baptists

One thing I appreciate that Don points out is that rather than being a hinderance to evangelism and missions, environmental issues provide a vast opportunity for gospel-based outreach.

The statement, which is not an official SBC document, can be found at the Southern Baptist Environment & Climate Change Initiative site. There is nothing radical in the statement that should cause division. There are four main points:

  1. Humans Must Care for Creation and Take Responsibility for Our Contributions to Environmental Degradation.
  2. It Is Prudent to Address Global Climate Change.
  3. Christian Moral Convictions and Our Southern Baptist Doctrines Demand Our Environmental Stewardship.
  4. It Is Time for Individuals, Churches, Communities and Governments to Act.

Here are a few quotes from the statement:

We believe our current denominational engagement with these issues have often been too timid, failing to produce a unified moral voice. Our cautious response to these issues in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed. We can do better. To abandon these issues to the secular world is to shirk from our responsibility to be salt and light. The time for timidity regarding God’s creation is no more.

There is undeniable evidence that the earth—wildlife, water, land and air—can be damaged by human activity, and that people suffer as a result. When this happens, it is especially egregious because creation serves as revelation of God’s presence, majesty and provision. Though not every person will physically hear God’s revelation found in Scripture, all people have access to God’s cosmic revelation: the heavens, the waters, natural order, the beauty of nature (Psalm 19; Romans 1). We believe that human activity is mixed in its impact on creation—sometimes productive and caring, but often reckless, preventable and sinful.

God’s command to tend and keep the earth (Genesis 2) did not pass away with the fall of man; we are still responsible. Lack of concern and failure to act prudently on the part of Christ-followers reflects poorly to the rest of the world. Therefore, we humbly take responsibility for the damage that we have done to God’s cosmic revelation and pledge to take an unwavering stand to preserve and protect the creation over which we have been given responsibility by Almighty God Himself.

We recognize that Christians are not united around either the scientific explanations for global warming or policies designed to slow it down. Unlike abortion and respect for the biblical definition of marriage, this is an issue where Christians may find themselves in justified disagreement about both the problem and its solutions.

Yet, even in the absence of perfect knowledge or unanimity, we have to make informed decisions about the future. This will mean we have to take a position of prudence based partly on science that is inevitably changing. We do not believe unanimity is necessary for prudent action. We can make wise decisions even in the absence of infallible evidence.

This is not our world, it is God’s. Therefore, any damage we do to this world is an offense against God Himself

Our motivation for facing failures to exercise proper stewardship is not primarily political, social or economic—it is primarily biblical.

We must care about environmental and climate issues because we are called to love our neighbors, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us and to protect and care for the “least of these”

We realize that we cannot support some environmental issues as we offer a distinctively Christian voice in these arenas. For instance, we realize that what some call population control leads to evils like abortion. We now call on these environmentalists to reject these evils and accept the sanctity of every human person, both born and unborn.

We realize that simply affirming our God-given responsibility to care for the earth will likely produce no tangible or effective results. Therefore, we pledge to find ways to curb ecological degradation through promoting biblical stewardship habits and increasing awareness in our homes, businesses where we find influence, relationships with others and in our local churches. Many of our churches do not actively preach, promote or practice biblical creation care. We urge churches to begin doing so.

Grace and Peace

March 14, 2008 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment

The Christian global warming guy

The former head of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) scientific assessment team is John Houghton, a physicist who has been studying carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for forty years. He has a better understanding of the science of atmospheric CO2 than just about anyone, so we should pay attention to what he says.

John Houghton is also a Christian.

Christianity Today has an interview with him: Looking after creation: Acclaimed physicist Sir John Houghton discusses his motives and passion for a cooler world climate. The article was posted nine months ago, but I just saw the link on the CT web site today. Here are some excerpts:

We have a strong Christian responsibility to care for the earth and every part of creation. We also have a very strong Christian responsibility to care for each other in the world, our neighbors in other countries, especially those who are poor and who need a lot of help in order to get them out of poverty.

Some parts of the industrialized world may actually be better off because of global warming, because carbon dioxide is a fertilizer, and if the rainfall and other things are right, it will help us to grow crops with a little more yield. So there will be a tendency for global warming to create an even bigger disparity between the rich world and the poor world. That’s really not a good situation from a Christian point of view or from any point of view.

Parallel to knowing God as Creator is knowing him also as Redeemer, as the one who sent his Son into the world to die for us and to rise again from the dead and to become our living Lord. And one day he will come back to earth to renew creation. There’s a future for creation clearly taught in Scripture—a transformed creation. In the meantime, we’re meant to look after creation on his behalf, as stewards for the Lord who is at present away.

I think the scientific debate is essentially over, but there has been a big misinformation campaign, particularly in the United States, to persuade people that what scientists are saying is not true or exaggerated.

I’m still a fence rider on human-caused global warming, but I’m leaning toward the “human-caused” side of the fence.

Grace and Peace

January 17, 2008 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment

Al Gore — Nobel Peace Prize (part 2)

The Evangelical Ecologist (not normally a pro-Al Gore site) also approves of the choice of Al Gore and the IPCC for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Read it here: Credit where it’s due.

Grace and Peace

October 13, 2007 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | 1 Comment

Al Gore — Nobel Peace Prize

Unlike many in the conservative blogosphere, I am not upset that Al Gore shared in this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

  • I believe that the evidence is fairly strong that some degree of global warming is occurring, and that part of this is not natural; i.e. that it is due to human emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • By raising awareness of global warming, Gore has raised awareness about environmental issues in general. This is a good thing.
  • Gore is not a perfect spokesman for environmental issues; he makes mistakes in his presentation. Ronald Reagan got facts wrong all the time, but conservatives who criticize Gore when he mis-states facts seem to forget this.
  • Some have said that this was inappropriate because this is a “peace prize” not an “environmental prize.” I fail to see the reasoning here. Peace (or the Hebrew shalom) is more than the absence of conflict; it is an overall state of well-being. Environmental problems are a threat to the shalom of people all over the world, so it is appropriate to award the Nobel Peace Prize for work done for an environmental cause.

Gore shares the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

No, in writing this I am in no way endorsing Al Gore for President!

Grace and Peace

October 12, 2007 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment

It’s All a Matter of Perspective

News headline: France’s washout summer fails to deter tourists

PARIS (AFP) – It’s official: France’s rainy, grey and generally cold summer has been the worst for the past 30 years, the weather service said Friday, but tourist arrivals were the highest in five years.

July and August were wet across two-thirds of the country while the Mediterranean region was too dry, said Frederic Nathan, meteorologist at Meteo France.

“Yes we can say that it was a rotten summer,” said Nathan. But the summers of 1954 and 1977 were worse, he added.

Temperatures on the Atlantic coast have been on average two or three degrees Celsius below seasonal averages, said Jean-Marc Le Gallic from Meteo France.

French chat shows have featured experts who are predicting a spike in the number of cases of depression due to a lack of sun exposure.

The gloom and drizzle have been a boon for tanning salons which are reporting brisk business.

“The bad weather has left people feeling low. They want to be beautiful and tanned and are turning to us,” said Dominique Baumier, director of the Point Soleil chain of tanning salons.

We were in France, and we thought the weather was absolutely wonderful. Here in Bucharest, Romania, the highs have been in the 95-105 F range (or even hotter) since the middle of June, so we delighted in having highs in the 60s the entire time we were there.

Which brings up the topic of global warming. When a region has a heatwave, there is a good amount of talk about those high temperatures being a sure sign of catastrophic climate change. And when an area has an unusually cold season, like France this summer, the global warming skeptics come out to mock. But the important thing isn’t whether the weather in a particular place is warmer or colder than normal for a few weeks, but long-term regional and global climate. I’m not going to jump on the global warming bandwagon just because it has been hot in eastern Europe; I’m not going to call it junk science just because I was wearing a jacket in Paris in August.

Grace and Peace

August 25, 2007 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment

Creation Care Skeptics

From Christianity Today: Dobson, Others Seek Ouster of NAE Vice President. Subtitle: Interim president Leith Anderson says he supports Richard Cizik’s work on creation care.

More than two dozen evangelical leaders are seeking the ouster of the Rev. Richard Cizik from the National Association of Evangelicals because of his “relentless campaign” against global warming.

In a March 1 letter to L. Roy Taylor, chairman of the NAE Board, Focus on the Family Chairman James Dobson and others said the NAE vice president’s activism on global warming is “a threat to the unity and integrity” of the organization.

“The issue that is dividing and demoralizing the NAE and its leaders is related to global warming,” wrote the leaders, none of whom are members of the association. “If he cannot be trusted to articulate the views of American evangelicals on environmental issues, then we respectfully suggest that he be encouraged to resign his position with the NAE.”

Perhaps the NAE needs to move cautiously, as there is obviously not great unity among Evangelicals on the issue of climate change. On the other hand, I applaud the fact that leaders such as Cizik are placing a much greater emphasis on “creation care” than has been the case up until now. How we care for the environment is an important issue, and many conservative leaders (religious or political) give lip service to “conservation” or “stewardship,” but support policies that lead to continued degradation of nature.

I liked the observation of Don at The Evangelical Ecologist:

Really, guys – there are lots of us Evangelicals out here, and we serve the God that created the whole universe with a word. I think we can handle more than one “great moral issue” at a time.

Grace and Peace

March 6, 2007 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment

U.S. Hardiness Zones and Climate Change

The National Arbor Day Foundation has released maps with revised “hardiness zones.” These zones can be used for determining which plants can be grown in certain parts of the United States. For example, a Norway spruce grows well in zones 3 through 7, but would not grow well in much of the South. These maps reflect the realities of changing climate: most of the nation is warmer now than at the time the previous map was published by the USDA, which was in 1990.

USA 2006 Hardiness Zones:

USA 1990 Hardiness Zones:

USA Hardiness Zone Changes:
The pink and red areas are in warmer zones than in 1990.

Here’s what the Arbor Day site has to say about the benefits of trees:

Trees counteract global warming in multiple ways. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is the leading contributor to global warming, and as trees grow they remove CO2 from the atmosphere, storing the carbon and releasing oxygen. A single tree can remove more than a ton of CO2 over its lifetime. Also, shade provided by trees reduces summer air conditioning needs. According to the USDA, the cooling effect of a healthy tree is equal to 10 room-size air-conditioners operating 20 hours a day. Trees reduce the “heat-island” effect in urban areas, where summer temperatures are generally warmer than the surrounding countryside. According to the U.S. Forest Service, 50 million strategically placed shade trees could eliminate the need for seven 100-megawatt power plants. Additionally, trees around homes and in cities slow cold winter winds, reducing the need for winter heating. This relief on fuel consumption for heating and cooling helps reduce CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Grace and Peace

February 22, 2007 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment

Sea Level Rising

Sea level is rising! Coastal areas are going to be inundated! Billions of eco-refugees are going to be knocking on your door!

Or maybe not. Here’s some perspective on sea level rise:

The recently-released IPCC Report (Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis Summary for Policymakers) does not portray catastrophic sea level increases. Their projection for 21st-century sea level rise is in the 0.18 to 0.59 meter range. This is primarily due to the thermal expansion of the oceans as they warm, and excludes any sea level rise due to substantial melting of polar ice caps. A 0.59 meter sea level rise could cause serious problems for coastal communities or low-elevation countries like the Maldives and the Netherlands, but this is not the catastrophic sea level rise that the more extreme elements of the environmental movement want us to fear.

Rising of sea level has been going on for many thousands of years, though at a slowing pace. In the past 18,000 years, sea level has increased a whopping 120 meters (that’s almost 400 feet). During periods of glacial maximum (i.e. “the ice ages”), a large quantity of water was stored on the continents in the form of ice caps. As this melted between 18,000 and 8,000 years ago, sea level rose dramatically. Whatever sea level increases occur due to global warming will be rather small in comparison.

Image from Wikipedia article on Sea Level Rise

Grace and Peace

Disclaimer: I am at present neither a global-warming skeptic nor a global-warming advocate. I’ll let you know when I figure it all out.

February 22, 2007 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment

A Lot of Gas

A commonly expressed argument against human-induced global warming is that

A single eruption the size of the Mt. St. Helens eruption released more of these [greenhouse] gases, dust and ash into the atmosphere than all such emissions by human activity since the beginning of recorded human history. And there are numerous volcanic eruptions yearly.

I got that from an article called Man-Made Global Warming Hoax. I could have gotten it from many places, and have seen it used a number of times by people commenting on other blogs when the topic of climate change comes up.

But it isn’t true.

According to the US Geological Survey:

  • annual volcanic production of CO2: 130-230 million metric tons
  • annual human production of CO2: 22 billion metric tons
  • therefore human production of CO2 is at least 100 times greater than volcanic production
  • It would take “17,000 additional volcanoes like Kilauea” to emit the amount of CO2 produced by human activities.

The USGS article is called Volcanic Hazards and their Effects.

No matter what side of the argument we are on, we need to be careful of our facts. My advice is to document every source, and to not say anything without knowing where it comes from.

Grace and Peace

October 2, 2006 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment

Global Warming & Wayne Grudem

Last week, I linked to a Christianity Today article on global warming. I’ve been thinking about a quote by theologian Wayne Grudem in the CT article:

Activities that produce carbon dioxide—such as “breathing, building a fire to cook or keep warm, driving a car or tractor, or burning coal to produce electricity … [are] morally good and necessary activities that God intended for us,” said Wayne Grudem, research professor of Bible and theology at Phoenix Seminary. “It seems very unlikely to me that God would have set up the earth to work in such a way that these good and necessary activities would actually destroy the earth.”

I agree with his first point—that many carbon dioxide-producing activities are both good and necessary. But I’m not sure about his second point:

“It seems very unlikely to me that God would have set up the earth to work in such a way that these good and necessary activities would actually destroy the earth.”

Isn’t this an “If God had meant humans to fly He would have given them wings” kind of argument?

Note: I deeply respect Wayne Grudem. His Systematic Theology is not a dry exposition of Biblical doctrines, but a rich, devotional, worshipful work that I highly recommend.Grace and Peace

October 2, 2006 Posted by | Christianity, Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment

More Climate Change

More on climate change:

Christianity Today has posted an article on climate change: Cool on Climate Change. The article highlights the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance. The opening paragraphs of the article read:

A new coalition argues Christians need not heed warnings that millions will die from human-induced global warming and says we should seek more practical ways to help the world’s poor.

Human emissions of carbon dioxide are not the main cause of global warming, the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance (ISA) said in a document released in July. The ISA, a loosely affiliated group of more than 130 theologians, scientists, policy analysts, and others, said the consequences of global warming for the poor have been exaggerated.

Activities that produce carbon dioxide—such as “breathing, building a fire to cook or keep warm, driving a car or tractor, or burning coal to produce electricity … [are] morally good and necessary activities that God intended for us,” said Wayne Grudem, research professor of Bible and theology at Phoenix Seminary. “It seems very unlikely to me that God would have set up the earth to work in such a way that these good and necessary activities would actually destroy the earth.”

The ISA is responding to the Evangelical Climate Initiative’s February statement “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action,” signed by 97 evangelical leaders. The statement claimed that “[m]illions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.”

This is from the other side of the global warming debate from yesterday’s post. I skimmed the longer report called A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming, and was pleased to see that it seems to avoid the distortions of science that plague much of the Evangelical/Conservative discussion of global warming and climate change.

I’m still riding on the fence on this one, but again I’ll say that I’m pleased to see Evangelicals thinking about environmental issues.

Grace and Peace

September 28, 2006 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment

Global Warming Report (Part 2)

My friend Glenn Brooke has written further thoughts regarding my post “Global Warming Report.” Read it here.

Grace and Peace

September 27, 2006 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment

Global Warming Report

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has published an article on global temperature change. Here is the abstract:

Global surface temperature has increased ~0.2°C per decade in the past 30 years, similar to the warming rate predicted in the 1980s in initial global climate model simulations with transient greenhouse gas changes. Warming is larger in the Western Equatorial Pacific than in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific over the past century, and we suggest that the increased West-East temperature gradient may have increased the likelihood of strong El Niños, such as those of 1983 and 1998. Comparison of measured sea surface temperatures in the Western Pacific with paleoclimate data suggests that this critical ocean region, and probably the planet as a whole, is approximately as warm now as at the Holocene maximum and within ~1°C of the maximum temperature of the past million years. We conclude that global warming of more than ~1°C, relative to 2000, will constitute “dangerous” climate change as judged from likely effects on sea level and extermination of species.

To summarize this even further:

  • The Earth’s temperature has increased by 0.6°C (about 1°F) in 30 years.
  • Warming of the Pacific is occurring in such a way to make strong El Niños more frequent.
  • The Earth’s temperature is as warm as it has been any time in the past 1,000,000 years.
  • Continued warming will bring the Earth’s temperature up to levels that existed in the Pliocene (prior to the Pleistocene, in which the Earth has experienced periodic extensive glaciations).
  • Global warming of 2-3°C would bring temperatures to Pliocene levels, when sea level was on the order of 25 m (80 feet) higher than they are today. [note: the report does not suggest this order of sea level rise in the coming century].

Many conservatives dismiss this as a bunch of baloney. I haven’t made a decision yet, but the seriousness of the topic mandates an intense effort of study by Christians in a variety of scientific disciplines.

Yahoo news article

Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences article

Grace and Peace

September 26, 2006 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment

Arctic sea ice

According to NASA, Arctic sea ice is melting at an accelerating rate.

NASA image. Yellowish areas of the ocean were covered
with winter ice a few years ago, but are now open water

Global warming is certainly occuring. Is it human-induced? Is it part of a natural cycle? I don’t know, but the questions are not to be lightly dismissed.

I’ll let you know when I have it all figured out.

NASA story

Yahoo!News story

Grace and Peace

September 14, 2006 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment | Leave a comment