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Are Evangelical Critics of Global Warming Driven by Politics?

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D. | Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation | Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Are Evangelical Critics of Global Warming Driven by Politics?

Katharine Hayhoe, Director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, believes firmly in dangerous, manmade global warming. She’s also an evangelical.

That puts her in a minority several times over. Out of the American population as a whole she’s in a minority; over 60 percent think human activity has nothing to do with global warming. Out of evangelicals, she’s in a minority; rejection of human causation among evangelicals is even higher than for the general population. And if, like her husband (who co-authored a book on global warming with her), she were an evangelical pastor, she’d be in a minority there, too; 68 percent of them disagree that global warming is manmade.

But Hayhoe isn’t worried. She has a ready response: “Climate change is associated with Al Gore, the liberal agenda, the U.N., tree-huggers. Essentially, people who don't seem to share [Christians’] values,” she told International Business Times. “As a Christian community, we're currently allowing politics to inform our faith, rather than allowing our faith to inform our politics.”

Is that so? Could’ve fooled me.

The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation has published frequently its belief that recent and foreseeable global warming is largely natural, that human activity has probably contributed to it but only slightly, and that it hasn’t been and isn’t likely to become dangerous. Our publications have been credited by the media with heavily influencing evangelicals’ thinking. And indeed polls have shown evangelical opinion trending strongly in our direction and away from Hayhoe’s.

If Hayhoe is right, there should be plenty of political and no theological arguments in our documents.

But the facts are otherwise.

  • In November, 2005, we published An Examination of the Scientific, Ethical, and Theological Implications of Climate Change Policy. It was written by a climatologist, an energy policy analyst, and a theologian/economist — not a politician among them.
  • In July, 2006, we published A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming, which refuted, point-by-point, the scientific, economic, and theological/ethical arguments in “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action,” which had been issued earlier that year — it, too, had no section on politics. The authors included the same three plus an environmental economist — still no politician.
  • In the fall of 2008, we published The Cornwall Stewardship Agenda, in which the chapter on “Energy and Climate Change” incorporated scientific, economic, and theological arguments — but nary a political one. Its five authors included two climatologists, two theologians, an environmental economist, and — you guessed it — no politician.
  • In December, 2010, we published A Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science, and Economics of Global Warming, with chapters titled “Theology, Worldview, and Ethics of Global Warming Policy,” by a theologian/scientist/economist (yes, advanced degrees in all) as lead author, with four theologians as contributing authors and five theologians and a lawyer, but no politicians, as reviewers; “The Science of Global Warming,” by two climatologists as co-authors and six other scientists (an engineer, two physicists, two chemists, an applied mathematician specializing in fluid dynamic systems including climate, and an environmental manager) and an environmental economist as reviewers; and “The Economics of Global Warming Policy,” with an environmental and climate-change economist as lead author, an economist and a theologian/economist as contributing authors, and six other economists as reviewers — not a single politician or political scientist among them.

Remember, Hayhoe says opponents of her view are “allowing politics to inform our faith, rather than allowing our faith to inform our politics.” That should mean one finds no theological arguments in these papers. Yet they are chock full of them. Just the first chapter of the “Renewed Call to Truth” contains dozens. Even on a single page it enumerates four:

  • “Environmentalism sees Earth and its systems as the product of chance and therefore fragile, subject to easy and catastrophic disruption. The Biblical worldview sees Earth and its systems as robust, self-regulating, and self-correcting, not immune to harm but durable.”
  • “Environmentalism sees human beings principally as consumers and polluters who are only quantitatively, not qualitatively, different from other species. The Bible sees people as made in God’s image, qualitatively different from all other species, and designed to be producers and stewards who, within a just and free social order, can create more resources than they consume and ensure a clean, healthful, and beautiful environment.”
  • “Environmentalism tends to view nature untouched by human hands as optimal, while the Bible teaches that it can be improved by wise and holy human action.”
  • “Environmentalism tends to substitute subjective, humanist standards of environmental stewardship for the objective, transcendent standards of divine morality.”

When you can’t answer an opponent’s arguments, you frequently resort to misrepresenting them. That seems to be the case with Hayhoe.

No, Dr. Hayhoe, it’s not politics that drives us. It’s theology — and, for good measure, sound science and economics.

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is founder and national spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

Publication date: February 22, 2012