Global Warming Alarmism and Religion – Together at Last?

From Peyton Knight:

This is a summary report from last Thursday’s Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing titled, “An Examination of the Views of Religious Organizations Regarding Global Warming.”

In her opening statement, committee chairman Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said that “Evangelical Christians, Catholics, African Methodist Episcopals, Jews, mainline Protestant Christians, and many other people of faith see the need for action on global warming as a moral, ethical, and scriptural mandate.” The clear implication being that the religious community, by and large, was of one mind on the issue.

She then laid out her “vision” of “lush forests teeming with wildlife,” clean air, clean water, and various other illustrative descriptions of nature at its best, as well as the United States taking the lead in promoting a “new green economy.”

She invoked her own grandson and future grandson for the cause, saying that we all need to save nature for them and other children.

She concluded by quoting “ancient religious writings,” saying: “See to it that you do not destroy my world, for there is no one to repair it after you.” (Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13)

In his opening statement before the committee, ranking minority member Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) pointed out that Sen. Boxer’s committee had conducted “hearing after hearing after hearing on global warming. But we have yet to have legislative hearings on the climate bills that are supposedly the reason for this endless parade of hearings.”

Sen. Inhofe also noted that the Congressional Budget Office had recently released a report titled “Trade-Offs in Allocating Allowances for CO2 Emissions” that found a carbon dioxide allocation scheme would disproportionately harm the poor. The Senator referred such a scheme as “Robin Hood” in reverse.

Inhofe cited a quote from Barrett Duke, Vice President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, who cautioned that we should avoid global warming policies that “make the delivery of electricity to [undeveloped countries] more difficult, millions of people will be condemned to more hardship, more disease, shorter lives and more poverty.”

Inhofe also took on one of the chief evangelical global warming alarmists, Rev. Richard Cizik, noting that Cizik also “shares the beliefs of liberals on the issue of population control.” According to Inhofe, Cizik told the World Bank in May 2006: “I’d like to take on the population issue… We need to confront population control and we can – we’re not Roman Catholics after all – but it’s too hot to handle now.”

The Senator then offered his own Biblical perspective regarding global warming, saying that we “should respect creation and be wise stewards, but we must be careful not to fall into the trap of secular environmentalists who believe man is an afterthought on this Earth.”

For good measure, he quoted Romans 1:25: “They gave up the truth about God for a lie, and they worshiped God’s creation instead of God who will be praised forever. Amen.”

Below are the summary views of the panelists who testified at the hearing.

*The Most Reverend Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, The Episcopal Church

According to Dr. Schori: “The crisis of climate change presents an unprecedented challenge to the goodness, interconnectedness, and sanctity of the world God created and loves.”

She implored the committee to make cutting carbon emissions by 15 to 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050 a “national priority.”

Dr. Schori testified that poverty kills 30,000 people in the world each day, and, according to her: “We cannot triumph over global poverty, however, unless we also address climate change, as the two phenomena are intimately related. Climate change exacerbates global poverty, and global poverty propels climate change.”

As for mitigating the detrimental effects of global warming policies (i.e., skyrocketing energy prices) on the poorest among us, Dr. Schori recommends adjusting tax policies “to encourage middle and low income taxpayers to take advantage of new technologies or to adjust to potentially higher energy costs.” She also suggests throwing more money at the “Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program” (LIHEAP) and expanding the program to pull more households under its umbrella.

*John L. Carr, Secretary of the Department of Social Development and World Peace, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Channeling his inner Al Gore, Mr. Carr stated that “our response to climate change will be a measure of our moral leadership as a nation.”

He said that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops accepts the United Nations’ IPCC report on climate change, but pointed out that “for us, this began with Genesis, not Earth Day.” He also boldly declared: “If we harm the atmosphere we harm God’s creation.”

In his testimony, Carr also stated that: “We do not have to know everything to know that human activity is contributing to significant changes in the climate with serious consequences for both the planet and for people, especially those who are poor and vulnerable.” To this, he added, “prudence tells us that we know that when a problem is serious and worsening, it is better to act now.” (So much for looking before you leap.)

Borrowing more from Al Gore, Mr. Carr told the committee that the real “inconvenient truth” is that those who contribute least to global warming will be hurt the most.

*Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D, Evangelical Climate Initiative

Dr. Ball confidently declared that “human induced climate change is real,” and the “science is settled.” Sparing no hyperbole, he called global warming the “major relief and development problem of the 21st Century,” and claimed that because of it, “millions are threatened with death.”

He stated that “Christian moral convictions demand our response” to global warming, and the response that he supports is a “cap-and-trade” approach.

For good measure, Dr. Ball invoked “the great lawgiver” Moses’ call to “choose life” as reason for Christians to embrace the global warming regulatory agenda. The agenda his organization embraces is reducing U.S. CO2 emissions 80 percent below year 2000 levels by the year 2050. He said that this target must not be voluntary, but mandatory.

He also implored “all churches” to teach their members about the threat of global warming.

*Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

According to Rabbi Saperstein: “The urgency of climate change mixed with our strong scriptural mandates have connected our faiths and compelled us to act in unison to forge an answer to our climate crisis.” (Consensus, anyone?)

He cited the “Evangelical ‘What Would Jesus Drive?’ campaign aimed at raising the moral concerns about fuel economy” and the “Jewish community’s ‘How Many Jews Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?'” campaign that “mobilized synagogues to install over 50,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs during this past Hanukkah.”

Rabbi Saperstein says “we must transform ourselves from nature’s children to nature’s guardians by learning to say ‘dai,’ ‘enough,’ to ourselves.” He claims that this includes challenging the “fever of consumption that drives unsustainable economic growth,” as well as challenging “public officials who deify property and wealth.”

*Dr. Russel D. Moore, Dean of the School of Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Breaking from his global warming alarmist co-panelists, and perhaps taking umbrage with their not-so-subtle implications that the religious community speaks with one voice on the matter of global warming, Dr. Moore stated that not all evangelicals are united in using the Bible to promote the policies of the “secular environmentalist movement.” (Apparently, the art of crafting the perception of consensus where consensus doesn’t exist has made its way from alarmists in the scientific community to those in the religious realm.)

Dr. Moore stated that “tying Bible verses to any specific legislation on global warming” was harmful to the public interest. Additionally, he was troubled by the “apocalyptic scenarios” conjured by some evangelicals with regard to global warming and the future of the planet.

According to Dr. Moore, “The theological impetus for environmental concern on the part of Southern Baptists and like-minded evangelicals is, however, the very reason Christians are opposed to the use of religion employed by some environmental activists on the global warming issue. The first area of concern is that the Biblical text not be used as a vehicle for a political agenda.”

He denounced the “hyper-politicization of the gospel,” and noted, “Southern Baptists and other evangelicals must question the effect of any global warming legislation on the world’s poor.”

Dr. Moore closed his testimony, stating: “The SBC and other like-minded evangelical groups are not opposed to environmental protection. We have no pronouncements on what Jesus would drive… We are, however, concerned about the ways in which religious arguments are used in this debate, possibly with harmful consequences both for public policy and for the mission of the church.”

*Rev. Dr. Jim Tonkowich, President, Institute on Religion and Democracy

Dr. Tonkowich declared: “Thank God for the skeptics.”

His testimony addressed two primary concerns: “The first is the positive valuation of human population and human development. The second is the importance on not foreclosing prudential debates that should remain open.”

Dr. Tonkowich cited a recent quote by National Association of Evangelicals Vice President Richard Cizik in Newsweek, in which Cizik said that he felt God is saying “with my help, you can restore Eden.”

According to Tonkowich, “The thought is tempting, the sound-bite attractive, but Biblically and theologically, it’s pure nonsense.”

He also lamented that “population control” is beginning to creep into the thinking of some Christians. “For example,” Tonkowich observes, “the foundational document of the Evangelical Environmental Network states that environmental ‘degradations are signs that we are pressing against the finite limits God has set for creation. With continued population growth, these degradations will become more severe.'”

Tonkowich noted: “Population control, which nearly always includes abortion on demand, is abhorrent to most Evangelical and Catholic Christians.”

“And if the truth be told,” he testified, “Population growth slows in more technologically advanced societies. So even if we wanted to slow population growth, the most humane way to do that would be to seek the greatest economic benefit for the poor. And in order to do that we must make sufficient quantities of inexpensive energy available to the global poor – something believers in catastrophic global warming are unwilling to do.”

Included in his testimony is “an appendix listing scientists with relevant expertise who do not see the evidence that the current warming is primarily caused by humans and catastrophic.”

*Mr. David Barton, Author and Historian

Mr. Barton, named by Time Magazine as one of the “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America,” stated that “a very accurate rendering of [Evangelicals’] general theological position is presented in the Cornwall Declaration.”

He noted that “while more than 100 religious leaders signed onto the Evangelical Climate Initiative’s statement on global warming, some 1,500 religious leaders signed onto the Cornwall Declaration that reached quite different conclusions.”

“From the beginning,” he said, “God warned about elevating nature and the environment over man and his Creator.”

Mr. Barton tallied a list of examples where, after “announcing strong conclusions,” environmental science had reversed itself, including: the supposed benefits of fetal tissue research, the doomsday “global population bomb” prognostication and the unfounded “harm to humans from DDT.” He said that these examples, along with the predictions of a “coming ice age” 30 years ago, were justification for a healthy dose of skepticism.

In conclusion, Barton stated: “Currently, I do not find any substantial widespread movement within the mainstream Evangelical community to support a massive policy proposal on Global Warming that would significantly alter their current lifestyle, or that might inflict additional burdens on the poor and even potentially confine them permanently to a state of poverty. I therefore urge extreme caution in any approach that this body might take in crafting any policy on this issue.”

To contact author Peyton Knight directly,
write him at [email protected]


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