Ecological Catastrophes

By James M. Rochford

The Bible predicts that ecological catastrophes will increase as the end of human history approaches. Jesus said, “In various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Mt. 24:7-8). Likewise, Paul wrote, “While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape” (1 Thess. 5:3). Labor pains begin as less painful and less frequent, and they intensify as the baby is ready to be born. This means that we can expect ecological catastrophes to worsen, as human history rushes to a close.

According to a recent Yale study, “Since 1970 there have been more than 9,800 natural disasters worldwide, killing more than 3.7 million people, affecting more than 5.8 billion people, and causing more than $1.7 trillion in estimated damages, and the numbers are steadily increasing (Figure 1).”[1] This study argues that there has been a fivefold increase in natural disasters since 1970. According to the International Disaster Database, natural disasters have been creating more and more costs in damages over the last 30 to 40 years, as their chart demonstrates:

Experts in the field of climate studies are not optimistic about the next four decades either. Jorgen Randers (a policy analyst and President Emeritus of the Norwegian School of Management) writes,

The negative impacts will be significant—but not disastrous, at least not before 2052. There will be more droughts, floods, extreme weather, and insect infestations. The sea level will be 0.3 meters higher, the Arctic summer ice will be gone, and the new weather will bother agriculturalists and vacationers alike. Ecosystems will have moved some hundred kilometers toward the poles, or some hundred meters up the hillside. Acidic ocean water will bother shell-forming animals. Many species will have died out. And in 2052 the world will be looking with angst toward further change in the second half of the century. Self-reinforcing climate change will be worry number one—with methane gas emissions from the melting tundra leading to further temperature increase, which in turn will melt even more tundra. The world will still be operational, but with higher operating costs and scary prospects for the rest of the twenty-first century.[2]

As a consequence of the increase in the average global temperature of plus 2 degrees C by 2052, humanity will experience an increasing number of bothersome climate effects over the decades to come. These will be extreme weather events like untypical floods, recurring droughts, landslides in new places, and uncommon trajectories for tornadoes, hurricanes, and cyclones. And there will be coral bleaching, forest death, and new insect infestations. Each event will lead to public outrage and create fear for the future. But in most cases the short-term costs of action will be seen as unacceptably high and lead to a ‘well-considered’ decision to postpone significant action. Only very slowly will the unending sequence of extreme weather events create a political majority in favor of real action. Only after decades will society vote in favor of the extra voluntary investment that is necessary to cut emissions significantly.[3]

Is this ecological evidence incontrovertible?

Some thinkers retort that there are merely more people today—not more disasters. Thus when an earthquake or tsunami strikes, it affects more people and has a worse effect than in previous years. Richard Heinberg writes,

Consider, for example, the magnitude 8.7 to 9.2 earthquake that took place on January 26 of the year 1700 in the Cascadia region of the American northwest. This was one of the most powerful seismic events in recent centuries, but the number of human fatalities, though unrecorded, was probably quite low. If a similar quake were to strike today in the same region… the cost of damage to homes and commercial buildings, highways, and other infrastructure could reach into the hundreds of billions of dollars, and the human toll might be horrific.[4]

Additionally, others argue that our documentation of global catastrophes has increased—not the events themselves. We feel that these observations carry weight and certainly a certain amount of truth, and they need to be taken into account. However, we believe that the data still correlates with biblical prophecy in an interesting way, and it is worth noting. Moreover, this ecological evidence certainly doesn’t show us that ecological disasters are getting any better.

Go back to article: “Predictions of the End of Human History”


[1] Emphasis mine. Derek Kellenberg and A. Mushfiq Mobarak. “The Economics of Natural Disasters Annual Review of Resource Economics.” Vol. 3: 298. (Volume publication date October 2011)

[2] Randers, Jorgen. 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2012. 47.

[3] Randers, Jorgen. 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2012. 120.

[4] Heinberg, Richard. The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality. Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society, 2011. 145.