Hot, Dry, Windy, Wet …
Never before has there been so much talk about the weather. For the last year, catastrophic “natural” weather calamities have impacted lives around the world. Since the beginning of 1997, weather-related disasters have killed 16,000 people and caused $50 billion worth of damage.
It seems we simply pass from one disaster to another. “In the U.S. it started early last year when the Truckee River invaded Reno, Nev., silencing Harrah’s slots. A few months later, more than 30 people died as rivers in the Ohio Valley burst their banks. The Red River swallowed Grand Forks, N. Dak., displacing 50,000. Not long after that, the rogue Pacific current known as El Niño began wreaking havoc around the world. Indonesia’s jungles burned while Chile’s Atacama Desert got a foot of rain. Snow fell in Guadalajara for the first time since 1881. Canada suffered its worst-ever ice storm. Floods killed thousands in Africa. In Peru, endless downpours created a 2,300-square-mile lake on which President Alberto Fujimori jet skied to promote tourism” (Life, Aug. 1998). But that’s not all. Unseasonably warm temperatures in the northern U.S. caused flowers and fruit trees to blossom three months early. Meanwhile, the deadliest tornado season since 1974 tore across the lower tier of the States.
What next? “Thunderstorms with hurricane-force winds trashed Moscow. The rain-swollen Yangtze River killed more than 400 [now over 2,000] as it cut a swath through central China. One weekend, six rafters were killed on California rivers that were running at least 50 percent higher and faster than normal…” (ibid.). The tale goes on. Over a half-million acres were scorched in Florida, consuming nearly to $250 million. Soon after, a high-pressure cell stationed itself over the breadbasket, cutting off the water supplies to Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Over $5 billion later, there is still no relief for the drought-stricken land. “The crops have been lost, the livestock has been liquidated, and there’s really no relief in sight,” said the state agriculture commissioner, Rick Perry. “I am starting to hear reports that this is the worst ever.”
In mid-August, NASA announced they were commissioning a new fleet of aircraft specifically designed to better study hurricanes. Why now? Because many forecasters predict the La Niña-influenced hurricane season of 1998 to be one of the worst ever.
The environment is changing radically. Records are falling everywhere. July 1998 was officially declared the hottest July on record! No living person has ever experienced such heat.
What can we expect for the future? Are we simply living through a weather anomaly, or is there more to this than a simple deviation from the norm?
Expect No Let-Up
The ’80s and early ’90s marked a time of heightened environmental awareness. New expressions such as “greenhouse gas” and “global warming” became part of our working vocabulary. Experts say escalating global mean temperature (caused by an increase of “greenhouse” atmospheric gases) could end life as we know it unless the trend is reversed.
The earth’s atmosphere is a delicate balance of various gases, primarily nitrogen (78 percent) and oxygen (21 percent). The remaining 1 percent would seem insignificant, but it’s not. Less than one tenth of 1 percent are mostly greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and water vapor. The increase in these gases is causing concern because it is man causing the increase!
Fossil-fuel consumption and deforestation have dramatically changed our environment. The natural cycle has been upset by our lifestyle. Our actions are changing the environment at a radical pace.
The effects of climate change are still debated because we don’t have sufficient history to draw from to see where we’re headed. Some predict a shift in regional rainfall patterns which will cause drought and flooding. Others forecast a northward migration of agricultural zones from the mid-latitudes closer to the poles (meaning the U.S. “breadbasket” could advance into Canada). The once-bountiful farmland of the U.S. would then suffer prolonged drought and severe heat. Still others expect a rise in sea level due to runoff from melting polar ice caps and thermal expansion of the already existent ocean waters. This would flood the coasts and pollute fresh water supplies inland.
Drastic? Doomsday predictions? Perhaps, but all experts agree on one thing—something must be done, and done quickly!
The sweltering heat in the southwestern U.S. has led to numerous deaths. “It’s not religion that’s packing them in at the Catholic Charities center near downtown, it’s the air-conditioning,” reported the Macon Telegraph about conditions in Dallas. A typical Dallas July averages 96 degrees. This year, it was nearly 102! In Georgia, cotton-farmers predicted their worst year ever. Damage to the cotton industry will total near $2 billion and most likely affect clothing costs. In Oklahoma, Governor Frank Keating called on churchgoers to pray for rain—as his state expected to suffer over $2 billion in crop losses.
Heat advisories have become commonplace in U.S. urban centers. Hundreds have died from heat-related causes. “The sweltering heat that has proved deadly elsewhere in the country descended on the Washington [D.C.] area yesterday, with temperatures nearing 100 degrees straining the resources of local governments and creating a health emergency as thousands of residents spend most of the day without electricity” (Washington Post, July 23, 1998). Electrical power was knocked out to the Washington, D.C. area by a severe storm the preceding day. But in other states, power failures were caused by enormous drains on the electrical grid by air conditioning.
The heat is not the only problem. El Niño is now blamed for the explosion in bug and other pest populations. In mid-July, Texan cities of Fort Worth, Arlington, Bedford and Azel all reported grasshoppers descending upon their communities in biblical proportions. “Like tourists hitting some of Fort Worth’s must-see attractions, the yellow-and-black-spotted insects huddled along sidewalks in Sundance Square, roamed around the Cultural District and dropped in on the Botanic Garden” (Star-Telegram, July 13). The grasshoppers devoured vegetation as they moved northward. Entomologists were consulted on methods to kill the grasshoppers, but they warned, “Several insecticides…can be used, but the results will be limited…. It’s true they don’t kill grasshoppers fast enough to do any damage. The problem with grasshoppers is they keep moving.”
El Niño killed thousands. But dominant weather patterns since El Niño’s dissipation have killed even more.
Unusually heavy summer rains have killed over 2,000 Chinese along the flood-swollen Yangtze River. The tropical storms which move inland have relentlessly dumped flooding rains in the upper regions which rush downhill. Difficult decisions were made daily about which villages to purposely flood by breaking artificial levees in an attempt to preserve more densely populated cities. The flood has affected the lives of over 250 million Chinese. The International Herald Tribune called them “fierce floods fed by the heaviest rain in a century.”
Eastern Europe also sweltered under an intense heat wave which lasted several weeks, the worst in at least 50 years. Hospitals reported they were incapable of treating all the patients with heat-related illnesses. On August 3, Belgrade broke a record with the hottest day in 111 years (102 degrees in the shade). The summers are typically mild in Ukraine; but this summer, they are setting new records with temperatures sustained over 104 degrees. In Turkey, 26 people drowned in rivers and the Mediterranean Sea while attempting to cool off. forty-five others died in the heat.
Are the climatologists’ predictions proving to be true? Some say this is just a drastic peak along an extensive cycle of “normal” climate activity. But is it normal to have such widespread disaster? The records being broken were previously held for hundreds of years; in many cases these disasters are the worst ever.
What Can We Do?
This is a problem that won’t go away if we ignore it. “Scientists said the first seven months of 1998 are the hottest ever recorded worldwide—dating back 120 years. It’s a trend that has many scientists concerned and politicians calling for action” (NBC News, July 15). “The general warming trend is making the effects of El Niño worse. Unless we act, we can expect more extreme weather in the years ahead,” according to U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
But what action can we take? As scientists and politicians search for answers, conditions get worse. More people are dying and more property is lost. Even with increased understanding about the environment, better early-warning systems and improved planning, as a whole, when the climate changes, humans are at nature’s mercy.
God Behind the Weather?
Is it possible that the Creator of the vast universe is behind the disasters? The governors of Texas and Oklahoma recently pleaded for prayers beseeching God to end the drought. Victims, farmers, relief workers and other officials need hope as they move from one disaster to the next.
The Bible records 6,000 years of man’s history. It yields insight into the cause of our problems. And did you know that it is full of stories of dramatic environmental calamities? There is a God in heaven who not only created the weather (Gen. 1), but actively controls it (Job 38). God caused a flood which wiped out all but a handful of people from the face of the earth (Gen. 6:17). God used Joseph to prepare the Middle East for seven years of drought and famine which followed seven years of bounty. It was through this knowledge that God preserved Abraham’s lineage. In the days of Egypt’s glory under the pharaohs, when the Israelites were held as slaves, God used weather to prove His superiority (Ex. 7-14). The prophet Elijah proved he represented God by prophesying rain, and God sent rain.
God controls the weather precisely: “And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered” (Amos 4:7). This sounds all too familiar. Heavy rainfall in the upper Midwest caused flooding, while at the same time, severe drought gripped the southern states. Rainfall flooded Moscow as the Ukraine baked in the heat.
God promises to bless us with rain and favorable weather conditions if we are obedient. “If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely” (Lev. 26:3-5).
But we will experience curses for disobedience. Notice, “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (Deut. 28:15).
God goes on to list the curses: “The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land…. And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed…. Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it” (vv. 17, 21, 23-24, 38).
Why? “Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee: And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever. Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things” (vv. 45-47).
The choice is ours, as God says: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them” (Deut. 30:19-20). God promised our ancestors a land flowing with milk and honey—a land richly blessed and protected from disaster. But it was conditional upon obedience.
Turn Away From Self
Why such extremes in our present-day climate? Quite simply, because God said He would plague us with weather and other “natural” disasters to punish our disobedience. Around 520 b.c., after a difficult captivity, the Israelites were taught this same vital lesson. Haggai, a prophet of God, was sent to a small remnant of Israelites who were permitted to return to Jerusalem to rebuild God’s temple. God wanted them to understand that they must put Him first in their lives. When they returned to Jerusalem, their focus was upon themselves. They rebuilt their lives and community, but neglected God and the temple—His house.
Two times in the first chapter, God used Haggai to present the following statement: “Consider your ways” (vv. 5, 7). In other words, God was calling into question their motivation and priorities. God commands us not to have other gods (desires, objects or pursuits) before Him (Ex. 20:3). But this remnant group did, so God sent drought and heat waves upon them. He also sent His prophet to explain why they were being punished. “Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands” (Hag. 1:9-11). God caused the severe conditions to remind His people who provided their sustenance.
History is repeating itself.
Our societies are caught up in getting as much for the self as possible. The environmental causes of the ’80s and ’90s were noble efforts to eradicate greed and destruction among industrialized nations, but futile.
God gets our attention through weather disasters. But He has also promised, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). God is warning this world through the Philadelphia Church of God.
We must turn to God if we desire relief from environmental disaster. That is our only source of assistance. The answer is simple—and purposely overlooked by many because they reject God. But God will get the attention of all mankind through horrendous plagues yet to come.
The book of Revelation describes the methods God will use. Chapters 6, 8 and 15 prophesy indescribable suffering. Most of the punishment is dealt in the form of environmental destruction. Life will be lost as never before until mankind finally comes to understand that he has been fighting against God.
Jesus Christ rebuked the leaders of His day for their lack of spiritual perception. “The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Matt. 16:1-3). What about us today? We have mastered incredible technology to better understand the storms that thrash our lives—yet at the same time we have done nothing to prevent them. The secret lies not in science or emergency preparedness but in spiritual discernment and obedience to God.
We have suffered through a record-setting year of destruction. Never before have we suffered as we are today—but it is all going to get worse until mankind wakes up. We have two choices: believe our Bibles and repent, thus enjoying protection from God, or choose man’s way, refusing to believe. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12).
From the beginning of human life, God has followed a deliberate plan. We have been recording history proving that “it is not in man to guide his steps.” Only when we surrender to the loving administration of God’s government will we live in harmony with the environment and prosper. The time has just about expired for man to solve his problems his way—which has never worked. Environmental degradation is yet one more in a vast list of reasons why this world is in desperate need of the return of Jesus Christ. The good news is, that time is now just ahead of us.
God expects us to do our part and change our lifestyles to come in line with His law. We must start on the individual level. God wants to see us make the choice to live His way. By choosing that way of life now, God promises to protect us from the devastation which must precede the return of Christ.
You can’t afford not to act upon this invitation from God to escape. If you think the weather problems this world has recently suffered through are extreme, bear in mind that Jesus Christ said “these are the beginning of sorrows.” These words, and other prophetic warnings about climatic disaster, are recorded in Matthew 24. Read it yourself. There is an awful time just ahead of us. But once it passes, we will begin to enjoy the blessings God has always desired to pour upon obedient mankind.
Soon the only talk about the weather will be focused on how it compliments our efforts and yields tremendous blessings. No longer will we recount stories of devastation and suffering. God promises to give rain in due season and bounty for an eternity—only if we are willing to submit to His laws!