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The theory is taken for granted by nearly every scientist working in the field. But because it is difficult to confirm experimentally, a few vocal skeptics continue to raise pointed questions. The skeptics find a ready audience among evangelical Christians, with groups like Focus on the Family saying that "significant disagreement exists within the scientific community regarding the validity of this theory."

I'm not talking about evolution. Or maybe I am.

The issue in question is not our distant past but our near future. The theory is the all-but-unanimous scientific consensus that human beings are changing the climate by emitting gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere, and that if we do nothing to change our behavior, the warming trend that has taken hold for the past century may well become a runaway gallop.

Prompt action could not only avert the worst consequences—extreme drought and ocean levels rising as much as three feet by 2100—but could actually open up a new era of prosperity through the development of new, more efficient technologies. Some evangelical leaders—including the editors of this magazine—have called for action to address climate change. But the Bush administration, which generally listens carefully to conservative Christians, apparently hasn't heard enough to reconsider its indifference. For many churchgoers, the issue seems murky, its complexity amplified by claims of "significant disagreement."

There is in fact no serious disagreement among scientists that human beings are playing a major role in global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose scientific working group was chaired for many years by the evangelical Christian Sir John Houghton, concluded in 2001 that ...

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August 2005

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