“They only asked us to remember the poor–the very thing I was eager to do.”
–The Apostle Paul, Galatians 2:10
To read the full letter including endorsements click: An Open Letter to the Signers of Climate Change an Evangelical Call to Action and Others Concerned About Global Warming.
Widespread media reports tell of a scientific consensus that:
the world is presently experiencing unprecedented global warming; the main cause of it is rising atmospheric carbon dioxide because of human use of fossil fuels for energy; and the consequences of continuing this pattern will include (1) rising sea levels that could inundate highly populated and often poor low-lying lands, (2) more frequent deadly heat waves, droughts, and other extreme weather events, (3) increased tropical diseases in warming temperate regions, and (4) more frequent and intense hurricanes. Recently eighty-six evangelical pastors, college presidents, mission heads, and other leaders signed “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action,” under the auspices of the Evangelical Climate Initiative. The document calls on the federal government to pass national legislation requiring sufficient reductions in carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming and argues that these are necessary to protect the poor from its harmful effects.
In light of all this, many people are puzzled by the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance’s opposition to such calls. Do we not care about the prospect of catastrophic global warming? Do we not care that with rising temperatures the polar ice caps will melt, and the sea will inundate low island countries and coastal regions? Do we not care that the world’s poor might be most hurt by these things? Yes, we care. But we also believe, with economist Walter Williams, that “truly compassionate policy requires dispassionate analysis.” That is the very motive for our opposing drastic steps to prevent global warming. In short, we have the same motive proclaimed by the Evangelical Climate Initiative in its “Call to Action.”
But motive and reason are not the same thing. It matters little how well we mean, if what we do actually harms those we intend to help.
That is why we take the positions we do. In the accompanying document, “A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming,” we present extensive evidence and argument against the extent, the significance, and perhaps the existence of the much-touted scientific consensus on catastrophic human-induced global warming. Further, good science–like truth–is not about counting votes but about empirical evidence and valid arguments. Therefore we also present data, arguments, and sources favoring a different perspective: foreseeable global warming will have moderate and mixed (not only harmful but also helpful), not catastrophic, consequences for humanity–including the poor–and the rest of the world’s inhabitants. Natural causes may account for a large part, perhaps the majority, of the global warming in both the last thirty and the last one hundred fifty years, which together constitute an episode in the natural rising and falling cycles of global average temperature. Human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are probably a minor and possibly an insignificant contributor to its causes.
Reducing carbon dioxide emissions would have at most an insignificant impact on the quantity and duration of global warming and would not significantly reduce alleged harmful effects. Government-mandated carbon dioxide emissions reductions not only would not significantly curtail global warming or reduce its harmful effects but also would cause greater harm than good to humanity–especially the poor–while offering virtually no benefit to the rest of the world’s inhabitants. In light of all the above, the most prudent response is not to try (almost certainly unsuccessfully andat enormous cost) to prevent or reduce whatever slight warming might really occur. It is instead toprepare to adapt by fostering means that will effectively protect humanity–especially the poor–notonly from whatever harms might be anticipated from global warming but also from harms that mightbe fostered by other types of catastrophes, natural or manmade.
We believe the harm caused by mandated reductions in energy consumption in the quixotic quest to reduce global warming will far exceed its benefits. Reducing energy consumption will require significantly increasing the costs of energy–whether through taxation or by restricting supplies. Because energy is a vital component in producing all goods and services people need, raising its costs means raising other prices, too. For wealthy people, this might require some adjustments in consumption patterns–inconvenient and disappointing, perhaps, but not devastating. But for the world’s two billion or more poor people, who can barely afford sufficient food, clothing, and shelter to sustain life, and who are without electricity and the refrigeration, cooking, light, heat, and air conditioning it can provide, it can mean the difference between life and death.
Along with all the benefits we derive from economic use of energy, another consideration–a Biblical/theological one–points in the same direction. The stewardship God gave to human beings over the earth–to cultivate and guard the garden (Genesis 2:15) and to fill, subdue, and rule the whole earth (Genesis 1:28)–strongly suggests that caring for human needs is compatible with caring for the earth. As theologian Wayne Grudem put it, “It does not seem likely to me that God would set up the world to work in such a way that human beings would eventually destroy the earth by doing such ordinary and morally good and necessary things as breathing, building a fire to cook or keep warm, burning fuel to travel, or using energy for a refrigerator to preserve food.”
Whether or not global warming is largely natural, (1) human efforts to stop it are largely futile; (2) whatever efforts we undertake to stem our small contributions to it would needlessly divert resources from much more beneficial uses; and (3) adaptation strategies for whatever slight warming does occur are much more sensible than costly but futile prevention strategies. Therefore, we believe it is far wiser to promote economic growth, partly through keeping energy inexpensive, than to fight against potential global warming and thus slow economic growth. And there is a side benefit, too: wealthier societies are better able and more willing to spend to protect and improve the natural environment than poorer societies. Our policy, therefore, is better not only for humanity but also for the rest of the planet. We recognize that reasonable people can disagree with our understanding of the science and economics. But this is indeed our understanding.
Please join us in endorsing “A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming” To do so, send an e-mail with your name, degree(s) (with subject, level, and granting institution), professional title, professional affiliation (for identification purposes only), mailing address, e-mail address, and (for verification) phone number to Stewards@CornwallAlliance.org. If you have questions, please e-mail the same address.
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