Evangelicals misled on climate change

Posted: Feb 28, 2006 12:05 AM

Do you remember the day you found out one of your role models was imperfect?  Perhaps you saw your mom punish the wrong sibling for breaking a vase, or you heard your kindergarten teacher swear.  I’m finding myself just as disillusioned right now with several of our nation’s prominent Christians.

An impressive list of evangelical Christian leaders has recently signed onto the “Evangelical Climate Initiative” (ECI), a statement calling for Americans to do what they can to combat climate change.

Some of the statement seems reasonable and biblical.  Yes, Christians are called to be stewards of the earth.  Yes, we’re charged with caring for the poor.  Yes, we want to stand for what is right, and even get involved politically when an opportunity arises.  These assertions are agreed upon by nearly all evangelical Christians.

However, these Christian leaders step outside of their areas of expertise when they take on the issue of climate change.  They assert, “Over the last several years many of us have engaged in study, reflection, and prayer related to the issue of climate change,” but the majority of them are not scientists.  They are also not economists, so they seem to be totally unaware of the economic ramifications of the ideas they are proposing.

Let’s take the world’s poor as an example.  The ECI states:

Poor nations and poor individuals have fewer resources available to cope with major challenges and threats. The consequences of global warming will therefore hit the poor the hardest, in part because those areas likely to be significantly affected first are in the poorest regions of the world. Millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.

If indeed climate change was real (which is still in doubt), and if millions would die as a result, this would be an important issue for Christians to tackle (although I’m still not sure how the leaders came up with the not-so-precise estimate of “millions”).  But is the ECI really the best way to help the world’s poor?

In 2004, a group of leading economists from around the world gathered for the Copenhagen Consensus to prioritize world problems and to put together economic estimates of possible solutions.  They ranked each of seventeen potential solutions according to a cost-benefit analysis of each one.  The three proposed climate change solutions received the three worst rankings.  The top-ranked solutions – in other words, the solutions that could do the most good at the best cost – included combating HIV/AIDS, providing micronutrients to those suffering from malnutrition, liberalizing trade, and controlling malaria.

You see, even if all scientists agreed that climate change is a threat, there’s no good solution in sight.  The Kyoto treaty, for instance, would reduce climate change only minimally while imposing economy-crushing regulations on businesses and individuals around the world. 

A forthcoming press release from The National Center for Public Policy Research explains:

Mandatory emission controls would result in more costly and less accessible energy. The Clinton Administration’s Department of Energy estimated that the Kyoto Protocol’s mandatory emissions reductions would raise gasoline prices by 66 cents and increase electricity prices by up to 86 percent by 2010. Driving up energy prices would have a disproportionate impact on the poor, who may be forced to choose between buying food or heating their home.

I bet the folks behind the ECI didn’t bother telling the evangelical leaders some of these little-publicized facts.  In fact, we’ve recently discovered one group that’s behind this Initiative: the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, one of the primary funding sources of abortion programs around the world. 

In addition, The National Center for Public Policy Research has formally requested the last three years of tax returns of the ECI's sponsor, the Evangelical Environment Network.  The National Center's Amy Ridenour says the funders of ECI and EEN seem to have less to do with Christianity than with liberal causes:

What we are finding so far is what we expected to find: the group is a far-left environmental project funded by leftists with an interest in environmental issues and no track record of promoting or supporting Christianity, evangelical or otherwise.  We are seeking, among other things, evidence that donors also fund explicitly anti-Christian activities.  This would demonstrate that their interest here is definitely not the promotion of Christianity, but the hijacking of Christianity for political purposes.

The signatories of the ECI need to know who has duped them.  They also need to know the truth behind so-called “global warming.”  If you are associated with any of the signatories, please let them know that the policies they are supporting are dangerous, especially to those they really want to help.  Some of the bigger surprises on the list of signatories include:

  • Dr. Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life
  • Dr. Jack Hayford, television/radio evangelist
  • David Neff, editor of Christianity Today
  • Dr. Peter Borgdorff, executive director of the Christian Reformed Church
  • Clive Calver, former president of World Relief
  • Richard Stearns, president of World Vision
  • Commissioner W. Todd Bassett of the Salvation Army
  • Michael Nyenhuis, president of MAP International
  • Dr. Timothy George, well-known author
  • Countless Christian college and university presidents, including those heading up Wheaton College (IL), Calvin College (MI), and Gordon College (MA)

Christian leaders should look toward the Copenhagen Consensus if they’re serious about being good stewards.  More than anyone, Christians should be wary of throwing their money after impossible goals when achievable aims – such as combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and malnutrition - are in sight.  That’s the true definition of stewardship.

For more information:

Another group of Christian evangelicals – including Dr. Jim Dobson, Dr. D. James Kennedy, Dr. Marvin Olasky, and Rev. Robert Sirico - has founded the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance as an alternative to the ECI.

The Acton Institute’s Jordan Ballor examines stewardship and economics in a recent article.

Eight years ago, the National Center published an important policy paper entitled “What Scriptures Tell Us About Environmental Stewardship.”

A great study by the National Center for Policy Analysis argues that it's more cost-effective to learn how to live with global warming than trying to combat it.

One of Chuck Colson’s recent columns lists other helpful resources.