(Washington, D.C.) – On January 17 a group led by representatives of the Center for Health and the Global Environment and of the National Association of Evangelicals sent “An Urgent Call to Action: Scientists and Evangelicals Unite to Protect Creation” to political and religious leaders and the media. They claimed to speak for a broad consensus of scientists and evangelicals on a wide range of environmental issues. A letter to the same leaders today, however, denies the ‘consensus’ and the claims in the “Urgent Call.”
The letter, sent today by the Cornwall Alliance (formerly known as the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance), calls into question the “Urgent Call’s” fear that humans will “remake [the Earth] as another kind of planet” because of alleged catastrophic human-induced global warming. The response states, “We believe the scientific evidence better supports the view that climate change in the past 30 to 150 years, as well as what may be projected with reasonable confidence into the foreseeable future, has been and will be: 1) well within the bounds of natural variability, in which Earth’s climate has warmed and cooled cyclically throughout its history; 2) largely natural in origin; 3) unlikely to be catastrophic to humanity or the rest of the biosphere; 4) not susceptible of significant reduction by any actions we take; and 5) far from the most serious threat to humanity and the rest of our environment.”
Cornwall Alliance national spokesman Dr. E. Calvin Beisner said, “While we commend our fellow evangelicals and their scientist colleagues for wanting to promote good stewardship of the environment and protect the world’s poor, we insist that motives and passions not be confused with sound science and sound economics. Many people of good will, evangelical faith, and solid scientific and economic judgment can and do disagree with some of their judgments and believe that some policies they promote would harm the people they seek to help.”
“Though there are good reasons for concerns about certain types of pollution, habitat conversion, and resource misuse,” Beisner said, “we do not believe we are on the verge of making the Earth ‘a different kind of planet.’ In contrast, great environmental improvements in economically advanced countries stretching back over fifty years–like declining air, water, and solid waste pollution–justify expectations that as the rest of the world grows wealthier it, too, will experience the same environmental improvements.”
“A clean, healthful environment is a costly good,” Beisner explained. “When people are worried about putting food in their stomachs, clothes on their backs, and a roof over their heads, they understandably care little about air and water pollution, climate change, or habitat conversion.”
The Cornwall Alliance letter also states that the costs of achieving even tiny reduction of warming through greenhouse gas emissions reductions would far outweigh the benefits, while the benefits of adaptation to whatever slight temperature changes the future brings–warmer or cooler (and geologic history assures us that they will be both)–can outweigh the costs.
Just as prominently, the letter questions the claim of “consensus” among evangelicals and the support of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), saying, “We are disturbed also by the lack of clarity of the precise relationship between the National Association of Evangelicals and the collaborative effort and ‘Urgent Call.’” In a letter to the Alliance dated January 25, 2006, the president of the NAE wrote: “Recognizing the ongoing debate regarding the causes and origins of global warming, and understanding the lack of consensus among the evangelical community on this issue, the NAE Executive Committee, while affirming our love for the Creator and His creation, directs the NAE staff to stand by and not exceed in any fashion our approved and adopted statements concerning the environment contained within the Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility,” a document that never mentions global warming.
Today’s Cornwall Alliance letter continues, “In the absence of a clear action by the Executive Committee or Board of Directors, it appears the collaborative effort and its ‘Urgent Call’ do not represent a consensus of the board or the 30 million members of the Association’s member churches.”
The recent State of the Union address by President Bush seems to align more closely with the position of the Cornwall Alliance and its breadth of scientists and leaders.
“Since climate change is largely natural,” Beisner concludes, “and the cost of reducing carbon dioxide emissions will far outweigh its benefits—especially for the poorest among us—without any significant impact on future temperatures, our wisest response is to promote economic and technological development that will increase energy efficiency, reduce pollution, and enable us to adapt to the modest cyclical variations in temperature the best science projects.”
(Read the full text of the letter.)