But isn’t the planet too big and timeframes too long for us to make an impact?

Many religious people argue in one way or another that God is too powerful, the Earth is too big, and timescales are too long, for tiny us to make any significant impact on global resources, the environment, climate or temperature.

Let’s examine this, first from the Bible, then from empirical evidence and reality.

The Bible says that God “will destroy those who destroy the earth.” (Revelation 11:18)

According to the Bible, individuals will be held individually accountable for having a destructive impact on the earth. Individuals, then, can have a significantly destructive impact in their lifetimes, let alone all of humanity combined over the timescale of multiple generations!

Now let’s see if that squares with the empirical evidence of observed reality.

Let’s put aside slowly accumulating and relatively imperceptible environmental impacts, for a moment, and look at the drastic impacts of nuclear weapons.

Hiroshima was wiped out with a 15 kiloton nuclear warhead in World War II. The US alone currently has over 5,000 nuclear warheads, ranging in size from the Hiroshima bomb to thousands of times bigger. Extrapolating for countries with unknown nuclear capability, simple maths suggests there currently exists more than enough destructive power to completely destroy humanity multiple times over.

If such destructive impact is possible using available nuclear energy, it is irrational to think that there could be a biblical, philosophical or ideological reason why similar destruction isn’t possible with conventional forms of energy. Of course there could be a scientific reason, however.

So let’s go to science to answer that question. The best available science says that human caused CO2 emissions are causing global warming, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and a range of other related adverse impacts.

NASA climate scientist and head of the Goddard Institute of Space Studies, James Hansen, says that the current energy imbalance caused by human greenhouse gas emissions is 0.6 watts/square meter. This does not include the energy already used to cause the current warming of 0.8°C. This energy imbalance sounds small, but the total imbalance across the whole earth is equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs every day!

I believe that God will intervene before humanity succeeds in destroying the planet and ourselves. So my outlook is not one of alarmism, but actually optimism. My optimism, however, is not placed in some inherent capacity of nature to always come up trumps against the onslaught of human activities, or in human ingenuity to always result in progress and improvement. (The Bible indicates the opposite.) My optimism is in God’s ultimate power and plan to recycle the earth.