Unusual weather patterns have brought the question of Climate change to the attention of the world. As Christians, we know that it is God who controls our climate, but at the same time we should search out the truth about changing climate.
We believe that the climate has grown much warmer during the last part of the 20th Century, but now there is evidence that the climate may be cooling off. The reason comes from the science of sunspots, which are areas of intense magnetic activity on the face of the sun.
For many years scientists have known that there was a relationship between sunspots and climate. There is an 11 year sunspot cycle during which it is warmer in the high sunspot portion of the cycle and cooler in the low support portion. This is because an increase in numbers of sunspots is evidence of increased energy output by the sun. In addition, during times of higher energy output the solar wind blocks more cosmic rays, which play a role in cloud formation and have a cooling effect.
Not only are there variations in sunspot numbers during the 11 year cycle, there are also variations in sunspot numbers between cycles. Scientists observed that during the coldest time of the “Little Ice Age”, from 1645 to 1715, there were virtually no sunspots. This period is known as the Maunder Minimum, and was named after the scientist who discovered the lack of sunspots. Beginning with the 1712-22 sunspot cycle the sunspot numbers began rising and the temperature also began rising. Temperatures and sunspot numbers reached almost to the modern levels by the two cycles of 1767-88 only to fall again as sunspot numbers went down from 1799 to 1832.
From the end of the Maunder Minimum until 1997 there have been alternating periods of warming and cooling which are tied to increases or decreases in daily mean sunspot numbers:
Numbers % Change Change
1712-1788 (7 Cycles) Warming 51.92 +167% Increase
1789-1832 (4 Cycles) Cooling 31.21 -40% Decrease
1833-1898 (6 Cycles) Warming 51.15 +64% +0.4F
1899-1932 (3 Cycles) Cooling 37.46 -27% -0.2F
1933-1997 (6 Cycles) Warming 70.81 +89% +1.3F
The period from 1933-97 shows a dramatic increase in sunspot numbers and global temperatures, and has produced a global warming concern among scientists who blame the increased temperatures on man made causes, and expect the increase in temperature to continue. However, it appears that a new cooling cycle has begun, with the sunspot number for 1998-2008 dropping to 59.18 and the projected number for 2009-2020 being half that number, 29.59, about equal to the sunspot number at the beginning of the 1899-1932 cycle. If this trend continues global temperatures could return to levels seen in 1899-1932, resulting in a reduction in temperature of 1.3F by the end of the third cooling cycle in 2030.
However, in 2017 evidence began appearing which may suggest much more severe cooling cycles. For the first two months there were four weeks with no sunspots, and astronomers began talking about a return of the Maunder Minimum. Unfortunately we do not have reliable sunspot data back that far, but temperature data gleaned from secondary sources shows what happens when a warmer period gives way to a much colder period. This happened at the beginning of the Little Ice Age, in 1315, when much cooler temperatures came with 7 years of floods, leading to famine, plague and war.
The floods come because a cooler atmosphere holds less water vapor and the diminished solar wind of a sunspot minimum allows more cosmic rays into our atmosphere to cause cooling clouds and rain. The massive hurricanes of 2005, 2008, and 2017, all occurring at or near minimums in the 11 year sunspot cycle, may be harbingers of a severe period of global cooling.
In the end only God knows what the future climate will be, and our understanding of climate and solar cycles is very limited. For example, when we saw a brief drop in sunspot numbers and temperatures in the mid-1960s scientists began worrying about a return of the Ice Age. This during the middle of the greatest temperature increases in modern times. Similar exaggerated fears about global warming should be viewed with a grain of salt.
One area of concern is public policy prescriptions based on extreme predictions of future climate. Government actions to limit carbon emissions will cause economic hardship in the developed world and keep billions in poverty in the third world, all admittedly without making a real change in global warming projections. The only beneficiaries are big government which expands its power and crony capitalists who profit from government programs. The world was in fact this warm in the Middle Ages with only beneficial results, and it was the cooling of the Little Ice Age, not global warming, which brought harm.
As people of prayer, we have access to the real master of the climate. We understand that climate change and the actions of foolish men who think they can control it may be judgments allowed by God. But we also understand that God sends judgment to bring repentance (Isaiah 26:9), so we should humble ourselves, seek His face, and repent. We can then ask God to relent from sending calamity (Joel 2:13), whether it be by global warming or global cooling.
As we wait for His answer to be revealed, do not let fear steal your peace. Remember that God knows how to protect His people in times of judgment (2 Peter 2:5-9).
God gave Isaiah a vision of God’s people gathering in unison in Zion (Isaiah 4:5-6). They experienced God’s leading through a cloud by day and fire by night, and entered into His glory. But above it all was Canopy which sheltered them from the heat and the storm. Let us come into a Canopy of Prayer, entering into the intimacy with God in His glory and experiencing His protection.
The climate in God’s presence is always good.