Year 3, Month 5, Day 2: A 50-Watt Bulb?

The faithful are opening their eyes. Or are they? The News Virginian reports — you decide:

In “The Global Warning Reader: A Century of Writing about Climate Change,” Dr. Bill McKibben presents “The Evangelical Climate Change Initiative,” a 2006 document signed by 86 American Christian evangelical leaders. Signers include: Rick Warren (“The Purpose Driven Life”); W. Todd Bassett, National Commander of the Salvation Army; Ron Sider, President of Evangelicals for Social Action; and advisors and columnists for Christianity Today magazine. “In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord,” they said, “we urge all who read this declaration to join us in this effort” of teaching and acting on the following four claims.

1. “Human-Induced Climate Change is Real.” Among the evidence the signers studied was that collected by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) whose 1988-2002 chairman, John Houghton, is a committed Christian. They remembered that the science was settled enough for the Bush Administration to state in a 2004 report, and then at the 2005 G-8 summit, that humans were responsible for “at least some of it (climate change).” The IPCC, however, holds that human activities are responsible for “most of the warming,” according to the evangelical leaders.

2. “The Consequences of Climate Change Will Be Significant, and Will Hit the Poor the Hardest.” The signers emphasized the impact of even the smallest increases in human-caused world-wide temperature upon people in poor countries: tropical diseases, hurricanes, flooding, reduction in food crops, famine, and the vulnerability of refugees to exploitation and violence, even internal and external military oppression. “Millions of people,” they wrote, “could die in this century because of climate change.” They also noted the destruction it could bring to “God’s other creatures.”

I’m not going to take this one on faith. Sent April 23:

The rejection of climate change has long been a shibboleth of political conservatives, who have a record of denying inconvenient facts and expertise that goes back at least fifty years. Why, then, are evangelicals — one of the most consistently conservative voting blocs in the country — beginning to accept the scientific reality of global warming? While some may be encouraged, I am less sanguine about the motivations behind the faithful’s abandonment of long-held denialist positions.

Environmentalists are interested in the long-term survival of the planet; talk to a “tree-hugger” and you’ll hear someone whose worries about humanity’s future in the year 3000 motivate them to conservation and the wise use of resources. By contrast, evangelicals eagerly anticipating the End Times may have little reason to practice sustainability. Is climate-change acceptance among conservative Christians accompanied by a growing conviction that industrialized humanity needs to change its ways to avoid catastrophe? Or are they cheering on the burgeoning greenhouse effect, assuming that the souls of the faithful will be providentially rescued from a disaster of Biblical proportions?

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 4, Day 30: “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

According to the Christian Post, some of the God-Botherers are apparently, um, seeing the light:

A professor at an evangelical university in Southern California claims that evangelicals are becoming more convinced of the evidence for man-made global warming ahead of Earth Day this Sunday.

Mark McReynolds, assistant professor of Environmental Science at Biola University, said, “Evangelicals, like the rest of our society, are coming around to the real evidence of global climate change. It is a big, complicated topic, with many implications for us in the U.S.”

“Climate scientists are in near unanimity that the evidence speaks loudly for human-caused climate change and the general public is slowly understanding the issue and its implications.”

McReynolds’ remarks come as Biola University prepares for a series of events to observe Earth Day next week. Titled “Creation Stewardship Week,” the events from April 23 to 27 include participation in the Global Day of Prayer for Creation Care, a tour of the faculty-student run Biola Organic Garden, and the screening of the film “No Impact Man,” which is about a family that tries to live a lifestyle without high environmental impact.

It’s still a little clunky, but if this story has any legs, I’ll send out a few more versions in the next few days. Sent April 21:

When I hear that evangelicals are beginning to accept the reality of global climate change, my emotions are mixed. While it seems a positive development that members of many Christian groups no longer reject the validity of climate science and its analyses, the question necessarily arises: how many of you agree that climate change is real, only because you see in the burgeoning greenhouse effect a harbinger of the End Times?

I am puzzled by those who enthusiastically assert that the Lord’s wishes involve the utter destruction of His own Creation. But the introduction of vast quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere makes Armageddon a matter of chemistry, not theology. It would be reassuring to know that evangelicals who are coming to accept climate change are not doing so from an eager anticipation of apocalypse, but from a desire to preserve the infinitely majestic web of earthly life for future generations — a wish I, an unbeliever, can wholeheartedly embrace.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 3, Day 21: Only When The Last Tree Has Been Cut Down…

The Tuscon Sentinel notes the frothy mixture of god-bothering and just plain dumb that makes up Senator Santorum’s public statements:

Rick Santorum calls global warming a “hoax.” If he were a scientist, he would be in a small minority.

“The dangers of carbon dioxide? Tell that to a plant, how dangerous carbon dioxide is,” Santorum said at the Gulf Coast Energy Summit in Biloxi, Miss., on March 12. He made similar comments in early February in Colorado Springs, Colo., saying that global warming was a “hoax” and that “man-made global warming” and proposed remedies were “bogus.”

Santorum isn’t the only climate change skeptic, but skeptics are rare among scientists who actually study the climate. A paper published in 2010 by the National Academy of Sciences found that 97 percent to 98 percent of climate researchers “most actively publishing in the field” agreed that climate change was occurring.

To my knowledge, no journalist has yet asked Santorum about his views on apocalypse. It would be a very interesting question…although we already know the answer. Sent March 15:

Just when we thought the 2012 election couldn’t get any more idiotic, we’re treated to Rick Santorum’s recent remarks on climate change. Judging from the former Pennsylvania senator’s eager rejection of scientific research, his backers must be terribly nostalgic for the good old days…when the sun revolved around the earth.

Mr. Santorum’s constituents are ready to ignore the science of global warming for two reasons. First, because they’ve been lied to and manipulated by a group of cynical, profit-driven corporate entities; second, because their collective eagerness for a Biblical Armageddon renders irrelevant any notion of planetary long-term thinking. Ronald Reagan’s Interior Secretary, James Watt, famously remarked, “We don’t have to protect the environment — the Second Coming is at hand.” Mr. Santorum’s theologically-driven ignorance of basic science shows that he’s cut from the same cloth.

Any politician this anxious for apocalypse should never be entrusted with the levers of power.

Warren Senders