Why the UN’s Dire Climate Change Report Is Dedicated to an Evangelical Christian

Welsh Nobel Prize-winner John Houghton saw sin at the heart of this ecological crisis.

The sixth report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is alarming—but not surprising.

The panel’s first assessment of scientific research on climate change in 1990 found that burning fossil fuels substantially increases the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases—including carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons, and nitrous oxide—causing a rise in the global mean temperature and warming up the world’s oceans.

“Consequent changes,” the first report said, “may have a significant impact on society.”

The second, third, fourth, and fifth IPCC assessments found more evidence and growing consensus that human activity is causing climate change and that its impact will hurt a lot of people.

The sixth assessment, released in August, is more urgent and emphatic, but it reaches the same conclusion. The IPCC now says climate change not only may have a significant impact on society, it will.

Policy makers, scientists, and concerned citizens who pick up the final version of the report might be surprised by one thing, though: It is dedicated to an evangelical Christian who said the root problem of climate change is sin.

“Looking after the Earth is a God-given responsibility,” John Houghton once wrote. “Not to look after the Earth is a sin.”

Houghton, who died of complications related to COVID-19 in 2020 at the age of 88, was the chief editor of the first three IPCC reports and an early, influential leader calling for action on climate change.

His concerns about greenhouse gases, rising temperature averages, dying coral reefs, blistering heat waves, and increasingly extreme weather were informed by his training at as atmospheric …

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