Freakish Weather—Can Something Be Done About It?
TODAY the weather is actually a life-or-death matter for hundreds of millions of persons world wide. It can mean the difference between having at least some food and facing death by starvation or disease.
On the other hand, if you have plenty to eat you may feel that you are not seriously affected by the weather. But actually, freakish weather in recent years has seriously affected all of us. And many feel that we face even greater consequences in the years ahead. An international group studying weather problems says:
“The studies of many scholars of climatic change attest that a new climatic pattern is now emerging. . . .
“We believe that this climatic change poses a threat to the people of the world.”
Why do they say this? And what good does it do anyway to talk about the weather when no one can do anything about it?
Of course, there are those who feel that something can be done about it. Many people facing hunger offer prayers and sacrifices to their religious divinities in hope of rain. But is God responsible for the freakish weather conditions that certain areas today experience? If not, why does the situation exist? And what real security from bad weather is there?
Why You Are Affected
Weather changes have played a large part in the price you pay for food. How? Adverse weather means poorer crops. Whenever this happens, sooner or later food prices rise.
During 1972 there was bad weather for crops in many parts of the world. The Soviet Union was hit by severe drought. To make up for huge crop losses the Soviets purchased massive amounts of food from other countries. Because of this increased demand, food prices rose. As an example, in late 1971 the price of American wheat was $1.05 a bushel. But in September 1974 the price was $4.40.
Regarding 1974, government economist Don Paarlberg stated: “Nineteen-seventy-four was the year the weatherman pulled all the wrong levers.” The United States was hit with some of the worst weather in modern times. First there were disastrous floods in the spring. Then in summer came the worst drought in decades. Finally, in September, frosts came too early. One result was that the hoped-for corn crop of 6.7 billion bushels dwindled to some 2 billion bushels less!
The Soviet Union also experienced unfavorable weather in 1974 and once more turned to the world market to buy food. India had severe drought in its main food-producing provinces. Bangladesh was inundated by floods, more than half the nation being affected.
Thus, in 1974 unfavorable weather hit hard at world food supplies. As a result, the world’s grain crop fell below the previous year’s. In “normal” times this would not be such a calamity. But it is now, because world food reserves have dropped to less than a month’s supply, the lowest point since World War II. Yet, during the year, the world’s population increased by nearly 80,000,000 people! Such a tight food situation means higher prices for your groceries.
How Big Is the Problem?
Many weather scientists believe that the earth is undergoing one of its historic long-range weather changes. One change has to do with temperatures. Records show that the first half of the twentieth century was a period of relatively mild weather, resulting in better crops.
However, many weather scientists say that the trend has reversed. Hubert Lamb, head of a European climate research organization, says: “Global temperatures since 1945 constitute, we believe, the longest unbroken trend downward in hundreds of years.”
The cooling trend is thought by some to be related to the unprecedented African drought of the past six years. The affected area south of the Sahara was more than 3,000 miles long and about 1,000 miles wide, one fifth of the African continent. It was suggested that the cooling trend pushed the polar air cap farther south, forcing the monsoon rains farther south too. Thus the rains fell in places that already had enough rainfall, or fell into the ocean. Also, monsoon rains, much needed in northern India, were affected in the same way.
The key point being made by weather experts is that the weather has become more freakish, that is, more variable and extreme, with more frequent floods, droughts, cold and hot spells. All that is bad for growing crops.
Joseph Fletcher, of the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C., states that there is “clear evidence that generally unfavorable changes are in progress.” Similarly, a group of weather experts concluded:
“The direction of climate change indicates major crop failures almost certainly within the decade. This, coinciding with a period of almost non-existent grain reserves, can be ignored only at the risk of great suffering and mass starvation.”
Can Human Systems Solve the Problem?
Can today’s political and economic systems cope with this growing problem? Or have they, instead, become part of the problem?
Some believe that things can be handled as before—in time of trouble in one area, another part of the world can produce a surplus to assist the affected areas. For example, in the past, crop losses due to droughts in lands such as India were, to a degree, made up by purchases or gifts from food surpluses in the United States. One reason for such surpluses was that, until a few years ago, weather conditions were very favorable there. But now government weather scientist James McQuigg says: “The probability of getting another 15 consecutive years that good is about one in 10,000.”
Since the United States has been the world’s leading food exporter, any trouble with its crops would be disastrous to the nations that depend on its surplus. And in recent years it has had trouble. Also, with the world’s population increasing so fast, it is conceded that the arrangement of depending upon American surpluses could not work much longer.
Not only are today’s systems of human organization already having great difficulty with changing weather patterns, but many scientists feel that these human systems may be at least partly responsible for the unfavorable weather! For one thing, man is upsetting the natural balance in many areas by stripping forests and fields of their vegetation, exposing the soil to sun, wind and cold. And where that happens, rainfall often decreases.
The book The Challenge of Climate notes the views of French archaeologist Henri Lhote regarding the Sahara region: “Man himself has played a part in bringing about this unfavorable modification of climate. ‘We are well aware,’ he writes, ‘that any changes made by man in the balance of nature may have disastrous consequences. And, in the case of the Sahara, the ancient pastoralists themselves may have been, at least partly, responsible for the spread of desert conditions, just as in our own times the Tuareg, the Mauritanian, the Arab and Tippu pastoralists by cutting down the few remaining trees—either for fuel or to feed the higher branches to their beasts—unceasingly help the desert’s expansion.’”
But there is another part of human activity that is under suspicion now. The industrial countries especially have been spewing hundreds of millions of tons of dust and gases into the atmosphere every year. Some scientists feel that this mass polluting of the atmosphere has played a part in the turn that the weather has taken lately.
Nor is it likely that any of the many schemes proposed by scientists to alter the weather will prove practical. One such scheme is to eliminate the Arctic Ocean ice pack. How would that be done? Some suggest building a dam across the Bering Strait separating the Soviet Union and Alaska, then pumping the Arctic water into the Pacific Ocean, thereby raising the level of that ocean. In turn, this would push warmer water from the Atlantic Ocean up to the Arctic and melt the ice cap. Other ideas involve using nuclear bombs to break up the ice cap, or covering the ice with a layer of soot to absorb more of the sun’s rays to help melt the ice.
Such schemes are in the realm of science fiction, mostly fiction. They are neither practical nor within the scope of today’s technology. Even if they were, there is no assurance that such tampering would help matters. It could just as easily make the situation even more difficult.
What About the Future?
What will the weather be like in the future? Will there always be droughts, floods and other bad weather extremes to plague humankind?
True, some say there can never be security from adverse weather. But such gloomy forecasts leave out the most important consideration of all regarding the future. They leave out the purpose of the Creator, Jehovah God. His own Word tells us clearly that it is not his purpose to let the earth go on indefinitely from one bad situation to another. He will not let natural forces continue haphazardly to man’s detriment.
True, God’s Word shows that Jehovah God put into operation the forces of weather. (Matt. 5:45) But does this mean that God is now directly controlling the weather, making him responsible for the floods, droughts and similar calamities?
No, that is not the case. By man’s rebellion against God in Eden, the human family lost God’s favor and so does not experience his direct intervention to avert calamity from natural forces. The nations have rejected his guidance and are doing things in their own way. God has permitted this for a specific length of time. Even those humans who seek to do the will of God are not exempt from the effects of this, though God does bless their efforts to obtain at least the necessities of life and he certainly safeguards them spiritually.
But guidance from God, enabling man to work along with the natural creation in the proper way, is needed in order to avoid the calamities of adverse weather. Centuries ago, as a pattern of what he would do for all mankind in the future, God told the nation of Israel that obedience to his laws would bring blessings:
“It must occur that if you will without fail obey my commandments that I am commanding you today so as to love Jehovah your God and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul, I also shall certainly give rain for your land at its appointed time, autumn rain and spring rain, and you will indeed gather your grain and your sweet wine and your oil. And I shall certainly give vegetation in your field for your domestic animals, and you will indeed eat and be satisfied.”—Deut. 11:13-15.
But what if the people did not respond? What if they took to breaking God’s laws? In that case God said:
“Watch out for yourselves for fear your heart may be enticed, and you do turn aside and worship other gods and bow down to them, and Jehovah’s anger does blaze against you, and he does shut up the heavens so that no rain will occur and the ground will not give its produce and you have to perish speedily from off the good land that Jehovah is giving you.”—Deut. 11:16, 17.
The latter is what happened. That is why much of the land that used to be known as Palestine has been barren for centuries.
Today, none of the political nations are doing God’s will as recorded in his Word, the Bible. Hence, his blessing and guidance are not with them.
However, Bible prophecy reveals that very shortly God will intervene in man’s affairs and will rip power away from all of today’s human systems. (Dan. 2:44) Under God’s rule to follow, the Creator will teach his obedient people the proper way to use the natural creation so that they are blessed with weather that works to their good. In that new order, the Bible promises, even “the wilderness and the waterless region” will blossom.—Isa. 35:1 6, 7.
So while weather experts today predict bad things for the future in regard to weather, God’s Word tells us that soon a change for the good will come. But in the meantime, shifting weather patterns will continue to play a part in exposing the inability of humans to govern their affairs successfully without God.
[Map on page 5]
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Normal limit of monsoon rains is indicated by broken line, and shaded arrows show normal wind patterns. But in recent years this limit has been pushed farther south (solid line and solid arrows). Much of area in between lines now not getting enough rain. Why? Normal cooler winds from north (dark wide band) have drifted farther south (lighter band), causing much of monsoon rains to fall into ocean areas instead of over land
NORTHERN LIMIT OF THE MONSOONS