If global temperature change is a primary parameter, then climate change is a reality; the mean global surface temperature (GST) increased about 0.8C over the 20th century. The main debate is between those who attribute this rise to man i.e. anthropological warming and those who attribute it to natural causes, such as solar irradiance change. In fact, natural causes may well be cooling the planet over recent years and long-term change may not be so drastic. Those who agree with the latter viewpoint might also point out the Biblical promise:
'While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease' (Gen 8.22).
In other words, the natural cycle of things was promised to continue, and nothing special was meant to happen to the climate whilst man is around. Of course, man may well be upsetting what God had planned.
We should also distinguish between weather and climate. The difference between weather and climate is the timescale. 'Weather' refers to the atmospheric conditions over short periods of time (days), and 'climate' refers to atmospheric behaviour over relatively long periods of time (decades or centuries). In other words, 'weather' refers to short-term changes in the atmosphere.
Long-term climate change is not readily apparent in the Bible (although some point to scientific evidence supporting the view that long-term climate change is simply due to the earth emerging from an ice-age some 4000 years ago). On the other hand, there are good examples of God using relatively short weather events as a way of arresting man's attention. Moreover, Bible prophecy says that He will do it again!
God's Weather Control in the Past
Let's consider some historical events:
According to Genesis, when God saw the violence and wickedness of man He was grieved in heart and vowed to destroy all but Noah and his family through a flood:
"I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights" (Gen 6.4)
As the Israelites wandered in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land, God gave them the Ten Commandments, together with many sundry laws. He warned Israel to obey them and if they did not then one of the consequences would be drought;
'The heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you iron. And the Lord will make the rain of your land powder and dust ...' (Deut 28.23,24)
'If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain ...' (2 Chron 7.13)
But if they sought God and turned away from their rebellious ways, then God promised to 'heal their land' (2 Chron 7.14).
And when some Israelites returned from exile in Babylon, they were more interested in making nice houses than in the restoration of God's house - the desolate temple. As a result, God caused drought, resulting in a lack of produce (Hag 1.11).
The seventh plague of Egypt was severe hail. Because Pharaoh would not let the Israelites go, God said to Pharaoh:
'I will send a very heavy hail ... and the hail shattered every tree of the field' (Exod 9.18,25)
When the kings of the Amorites attacked friends of Israel, Joshua's army went up to defend them. It is recorded that God helped Israel by throwing large hailstones at the enemy:
'... more died from the hailstones than those killed by the sons of Israel...' (Joshua 10.11)
Later, the prophet Ezekiel challenged the false prophets of Israel, saying that God would judge them. The Lord spoke to these false prophets through Ezekiel, saying:
'I will make a violent wind break out in My wrath ... flooding rain and hailstones ...' (Ezek 13.13)
When Jonah tried to ignore God's instructions by taking a boat trip, God sent 'a great wind and storm' (Jonah 1.4) that threatened to destroy the ship. Then, in New Testament times, God reversed the situation and calmed the wind and sea in order to save the disciples:
'Jesus rebuked the wind and sea ... and the wind died down and it became perfectly calm' (Mk 4.39)
The ninth plague of Eqypt: when Pharaoh still refused to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt, God said to Moses:
'stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land ... a darkness which may be felt ... and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days.' (Exod 10.21,22)
Again, when Ezekiel was in exile in Babylon he challenged Israel to turn from their wicked ways, but he also spoke to the surrounding nations like Assyria and Egypt. He warned Egypt of God's coming judgement, when clouds and darkness would be used as a way of arresting their attention. We read:
'It will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nation ... all the shining lights in heaven I will darken over you and will set darkness on your land' (Ezek 30.3, 32.8)
From these few examples we are left in little doubt that, in the past, God has used abrupt weather changes (not long-term climate changes) to arrest man's attention.
The Bible makes it quite clear that there will be a definite end to life as we know it. Earth's governmental systems, economic and trading systems, animal kingdom, and even geology will all be changed at the Second Coming of Christ. Our current age is coming to a dramatic end as God deals with rebellious nations. And just before these changes, at the very end of this age, it seems God will intervene in Earth's weather! Consider:
Israel: According to Bible prophecy it will be a time of blessing for Israel. As God brings back His people from the nations and establishes them in their own land, He will also bless their land with the required rains. The wilderness turns green and becomes fruitful with the blessing of the required 'early' and 'latter' rains (Joel 2.21-27). In Israel the 'first' rains usually fall in early November, the 'latter' rains in April, corresponding to Autumn and Spring respectively.
Britain: Unfortunately, it seems that Britain is less favoured. Many now see Britain as a rebellious, post-Christian nation in danger of judgement, and, as discussed, extreme weather is one form of judgement. Consider the following prophecy over Britain:
" ... now the whole nation ... has turned from Me. They paganise their land, state and institutions ... false religion, the work of world rulers of darkness, covers your Isles ... My being is seared with pain, for judgement is determined against your land ... I will destroy the vestiges of her greatness ... I will wreck her economy ... I will change her climate, even her weather. I will prove to her that the way of the transgressor is hard and terrible." [Lance Lambert, 6th August 2011]
In 2010 the UK had the coldest December for 100 years. In 2012 England had the wettest year since records began, with extreme flooding in the South. Torrential rain in July and December saw extreme flooding and repeated property damage across the UK. Flood damage for 2012 cost UK insurers about £1bn. In January 2014 southern Britain saw its wettest winter month on record, and saw its largest wave ever (75 feet)!
But Britain could be just one example of how God will use extreme weather events to exact a series of judgements on the Gentile nations! Recall:
'For when the earth experiences Your judgements the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.' (Isa 26.9)
These are more likely to be severe 'weather events' rather than long-term 'climate changes' simply because of the relatively short prophetic timescale involved. An idea of these changes is described in Isaiah. Chapters 24-27 of Isaiah are sometimes called 'Isaiah's Apocalypse' since they describe God's judgement upon the entire world for its sin. They also correlate well with judgements on the earth described in Revelation. Consider:
Public domain image: wpclipart
One of the judgements predicted by Isaiah appears to be drought:
'The earth will be completely laid waste ... the earth mourns and withers, the world fades and withers...'(Isa 24.3,4)
Drought is one of the consequences of disobedience (Deut 28.23,24)(Zech 14.17). Another form of judgement prophesied by Isaiah appears to be extreme heat - heat severe enough to kill people:
'Therefore ... the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left' (Isa 24.6)
The book of Revelation appears to speak of the same end time events and predicts extreme weather as part of God's judgement upon the nations. There will be fierce, scorching heat:
'The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire. Men were scorched with fierce heat ...' (Rev 16.8,9)
When questioned about the end of the age, Jesus hints at wild weather:
'There will be ... dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves' (Lk 21.25)
The root meaning of the Greek in this verse can mean nothing else but literal sea and literal waves. The word 'roaring' comes from the Greek 'echeo' meaning 'to make a loud noise'. Hurricanes and coastal flooding spring to mind. Torrential rain is also prophesied:
'For the windows above (the floodgates of the heavens, NIV) are opened ...' (Isa 24.18)
The word 'windows' here is the same as in Genesis 7.11, and denotes an opening, like a sluice or floodgate. It seems that torrential rain, as experienced at the Flood, will also feature at the end of this age as part of God's judgements on the rebellious nations.
Damaging 2-inch diameter hail.
Credit NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL)
Then there's the future Gog-Magog War. At some point in the future (biblical timing here is uncertain), it seems Iran, together with other Islamic nations, will invade Israel from the north (Ezek 38). But just as God intervened to release Israel from the grips of Pharaoh, so He will intervene to protect Israel from the invading armies. As with Joshua (see above), the weather plays an important part in their defeat:
'... I will rain on him (Gog) and on his troops ... a torrential rain, with hailstones ...' (Ezek 38.22)
Hail features high on the weather ingredients list at the end of the age. It is part of God's judgement upon the nations. Besides fierce heat there will be extreme hail and snow storms:
'Or have you entered the storehouses of the snow ... which I have reserved for the time of distress ...' (Job 38.22,23)
'... and huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men ...' (Rev 16.8,9,21)
Clearly, God intends to use short-term weather events to influence world affairs in the future. Since there is clear Biblical support for God's control of past and future weather, it is logical to ask 'Is God beginning to speak through the severe weather events seen today?' How close are we to these future events?
Examples of Recent Severe Weather Events
Global reinsurer Munich RE claimed that natural disaster losses for the first 9 months of 2011 totalled $310 billion, and according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2011 made new weather records. NOAA announced that there were 12 different weather disasters (see time series chart) that each cost more than $1 billion at the time of the event. The previous record was nine in 2008. Such events included blizzards, wildfires and tornadoes. NOAA claim that the US has sustained 134 weather or climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages reached or exceeded $1 billion (including CPI adjustment to 2012). Scientists blame 'an unlucky combination of global warming and freak chance'! Using NOAA data some note that during the 1980's the US averaged just 1 billion dollar disaster per year, increasing to 3.8 per year in the 1990's, increasing to 4.6 per year in the next decade.
November 2013 will be remembered for apocalyptic weather across the globe. Super typhoon Haiyan hit the eastern Philippines with maximum sustained winds of 195 mph and gusts to 235 mph - one of the most powerful storms ever recorded. Powerful tornadoes carved a path of destruction across the US Midwest, with Washington being hit by winds of up to 200 mph. In the Italian island of Sardinia, cyclone Cleopatra dumped nearly 50 cm of rain in just 24 hours - half the amount it normally receives in a year.
It is interesting to note that global weather catastrophes appear to track global warming, and, despite recent disasters, there is an indication that such events reached a peak in the 1990's - see chart. The first decade of the 21st century appears to have fewer catastrophes, possibly because the world climate is showing a cooling trend.
Is God Speaking via Climate Change or via Severe Weather Events?
Climate change is hotly debated. Certainly some effects associated with climate change have been observed over the last century:
Given the uncertainty as to the cause of climate change, and the possibility that anthropological warming may even be a conspiracy, we might consider climate change as part of God's end-time scenario - it is God who is controlling the climate! In fact, according to Bible prophecy it may be more logical to watch for severe 'weather events' rather than long-term 'climate change' since end-time events seem short-term. From the Bible we can say with certainty that:
If we are indeed close to the end of this age, then dramatic weather events seem imminent. God will soon use severe weather events to speak to, and judge, the nations. Clearly, it is a very effective tool to arrest the world's attention!
There is no need to worry! Those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ are eternally safe in the hands of the living God (Jn 3.16). You do not have to go through the extremes of these end time judgements (the 'wrath' of God). The Bible promises all those who put their trust in Jesus Christ will be exempt from 'the hour of trial that is coming upon the whole world' (Rev 3.10). Many believe that those who trust in Christ will be rescued from what is coming, just like Noah before the flood. Jesus said that at the end of this age:
'... there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left ...' (Mat 24.40).
Don't delay, put your trust in Jesus and receive His peace, forgiveness and security in an insecure world. See Steps You Must Take.
Bible quotations are from the New American Standard Bible