Ten years ago I wrote a book called The End of Nature, which was the first book for a general audience about the question of global warming. At the time, climate change was a hypothesis. By burning fossil fuels and thereby emitting great quantities of carbon dioxide, human beings would trap heat near the planet's surface, changing its weather.
Bells pealed as a warning on climate change after the archbishop of Canter bury told a church service in Copen hagen, attended by people from major faiths and Christian denominations, that humanity can show love to all only by making the earth safe from the ravages of an altered atmosphere.
President Obama goes to the Copenhagen conference on climate change this month in a weak position, unable to point to any significant U.S. plan for cutting carbon emissions. Though the U.S. has the highest per capita emissions in the world, it has yet to commit itself to cutting the volume of heat-trapping gases that cause global warming. The issue remains on the political back burner.
In the last year or so, the data about climate change has grown steadily darker. The scale and the pace of global warming seem larger and faster than we realized even a few years ago. Perhaps the most powerful proof was the rapid melt of Arctic sea ice last summer.
A theological engagement with the current global environmental crisis needs to do four things. It needs to show a thorough grasp of the scientific and historical context in which these questions are being discussed.