One argument sometimes put forward by Christians is that the promise made to Noah after the flood means that global warming is nothing to worry about. A recent example by a US politician is referenced here.
It’s argued as follows: in the book of Genesis, God sees considerable evil on the earth and decides to destroy all of it, save for one righteous man, Noah, his family, and enough animals and birds to restock the planet afterwards. Once the waters subside, God makes the following promise:
Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. (Gen 9:14-15)
… and so, it is reasoned, whatever we do, life on the planet will continue, contra the worst predictions of the global warming alarmists.
There are plenty of interpretative difficulties to overcome here, such whether the flood was world-wide or just local, whether God’s promise can legitimately be extended from just floods to other potential forms of extermination, and indeed whether he is promising protection from such extermination, or just saying that he won’t bring it – but that we might bring it on ourselves.
Even if we concede these points for the sake of argument, this view still has a couple of issues, one from inside Biblical theology, one more pragmatic.
Those arguing for it want to use it in support of “business as usual”, that we can continue on without fear of the punishment of God. But God has promised only not to wipe out the entire human race. Individual civilisations and societies are not immune from destruction, or at least major collapse. This is not just a pedantic distinction: the latter part of the Old Testament tells of how God’s chosen people, Israel, turned away from him, and he permitted their enemies to overthrow the two Jewish nations and take their land. They did get it back, but had to essentially rebuild from scratch, and without ten of the twelve constituent tribes who disappear from history at this point.
The same clearly applies throughout history: for instance, the Roman Empire is no more, and the short-term consequences of that were severe in many places. While the term “the Dark Ages” has been shown to be a misnomer, there was certainly a loss of many of the technological and other luxuries experienced in Roman Britain compared to what followed.
What many environmentalists and others fear – a collapse of modern Western civilisation as we understand it together with the deaths of hundreds of millions, and having to start again at a lower technological base – is thus not in any way ruled out by God’s promise.
The pragmatic issue is simply this: if we are ruling out climate change as a punishment from God for our environmental and other sins (which seems not unreasonable in any case) then why it is happening? It seems only to increase the likelihood that we are responsible!
So the Genesis 9 argument seems to be a total non-starter – on any reading it doesn’t preclude any but the most extreme doom-laden predictions (which nobody is seriously making anyway) – and if it says anything about human action at all, it supports our need to do something, rather than lessens it.