A new coalition argues Christians need not heed warnings that millions will die from human-induced global warming and says we should seek more practical ways to help the world's poor.
Human emissions of carbon dioxide are not the main cause of global warming, the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance (ISA) said in a document released in July. The ISA, a loosely affiliated group of more than 130 theologians, scientists, policy analysts, and others, said the consequences of global warming for the poor have been exaggerated.
Activities that produce carbon dioxidesuch as "breathing, building a fire to cook or keep warm, driving a car or tractor, or burning coal to produce electricity [are] morally good and necessary activities that God intended for us," said Wayne Grudem, research professor of Bible and theology at Phoenix Seminary. "It seems very unlikely to me that God would have set up the earth to work in such a way that these good and necessary activities would actually destroy the earth."
The ISA is responding to the Evangelical Climate Initiative's February statement "Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action," signed by 97 evangelical leaders. The statement claimed that "[m]illions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors."
In its point-by-point retort, "A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming," the ISA argues, "Claims of dangerous or catastrophic global warming are based on grossly unrealistic assumptions about future energy use, dominant energy types, pollution levels, economic development, and other factors that do not reflect current facts or likely future situations."
"It's not so much that we have evidence that there won't be global warming; it's that the theories that support catastrophic global warming are so uncertain," said climatologist Roy Spencer, an atmospheric scientist who consults for NASA and co-authored the ISA report. "The public is being misled by those who claim we can greatly reduce global warming by conserving energy, reducing emissions, and buying hybrid cars."
Jim Ball of the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI) declined to discuss the ISA report. An ECI press release referred to it as "a repetition of outdated sentiments not based on the current scientific consensus that human-induced climate change is a serious problem that requires action now."
ISA founder Calvin Beisner, who teaches historical theology and social ethics at Knox Theological Seminary, reiterated an environmental stewardship mandate based on Genesis and laid out in the ISA's founding document, the Cornwall Declaration. The statement anticipates Christ's eventual restoration of creation, but also requires humans to care for all creatures, "first and foremost for their fellow human beings, recognizing their proper place in the created order."
Beisner said evangelicals should focus on helping the poor create wealth and providing them with clean drinking water and medical care. Efforts to fight global warming could ultimately harm the poor more than help them, according to Grudem.
"If we are forced to reduce production of carbon dioxide, it means that everything that is manufactured or transported has to use more expensive forms of energy," he said. "That drives up the prices of goods around the world and hurts everybodythe poor most of all."
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More on the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance and the Evangelical Climate Initiative are available from the groups' websites.
More Christianity Today articles on global warming and the environment are available in our full coverage area.
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