I’ve been a pastor, and I know how busy pastors can be. So why would I urge America’s Christian leaders and clergy to take on yet another concern, namely, standing against global warming alarmism?
Because while on the surface this might seem like a peripheral issue, it has profound spiritual, moral and economic implications for believers – and especially the poor – that pastors can ill afford to ignore.
It is widely believed that increasing emissions of carbon dioxide are causing global warming that threatens to harm people, wildlife and ecosystems through rising sea levels; increasing droughts, floods and storms; and an altering of natural habitats.
In response, some people propose to fight global warming by slowing or reversing the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere through massive, forced reductions in use of carbon-based fuels – oil, coal and natural gas.
The most recent example is a bill that recently passed the House of Representatives. It would create a so-called “cap and trade” system to reduce CO2 emissions. Emitters would be required to obtain permits, which would be limited in number (the “cap”), from the federal government and could then buy and sell them on the market (the “trade”). The cap would gradually decrease, increasing the cost of energy over time.
A recent study by the Heritage Foundation found that the law would:
- raise the average family’s annual energy bill $1,241 (over $100 per month);
- raise electricity rates 90 percent, gasoline prices 74 percent and residential natural gas prices 55 percent;
- raise unemployment by nearly 2 million jobs in 2012, with additional job losses to follow;
- raise the inflation-adjusted federal debt 26 percent by 2035 – about $115,00 per family of four; and
- reduce gross domestic product by an average of $393 billion per year, or $9.4 trillion through 2035.
The payoff? About 0.09 degree F reduction in global average temperature in the year 2050. (The real reduction might be only one-tenth as much.) At that rate, counting the costs only through 2035, we’d be paying $940 billion for every one-one hundredth of a degree reduction in temperature. Assuming – optimistically! – that costs after 2035 were slashed in half, we’d end up paying an additional $2.9 trillion, for a total of over $12 trillion, or $1.2 trillion for every one-one hundredth of a degree. That’s an awful lot to pay for so little return when growing numbers of qualified scientists reject the case for destructive manmade global warming anyway.
In the face of these facts, we should remember that the Bible requires us to care for the poor. The Apostle Paul wrote that the other Apostles in Jerusalem had one main concern on their minds when he visited them: that he should “remember the poor – the very thing [he] also was eager to do” (Galatians 2:10).
The costs of climate change policy will hit the poor harder than anyone else. Indeed, they can least afford the general rise in prices, and energy constitutes a larger share of their spending than of others with more discretionary income.
But that isn’t the only reason pastors should be concerned. Global warming policy is part of a concerted effort to push environmentalism to the fore in American politics and culture. We must recognize such secular environmentalism is hardly limited to good stewardship of God-given natural resources.
Secular environmentalism – in contrast to biblical creation stewardship – is at heart a false religion. It degrades human beings, the crown of God’s creation (Genesis 1:26; Psalm 8); it deifies nature in its untouched state as the ideal, contrary to God’s mandate for man to fill, subdue, and rule the Earth (Genesis 1:28); and it disregards the poor, who often are harmed by environmental policies like banning DDT, a cheap and safe insecticide that could largely eliminate the malaria-bearing mosquitoes that cost millions of lives every year in the developing world.
Secular environmentalism is also the new face of the anti-human, pro-death agenda. As the Optimum Population Trust put it in 2007, “The most effective national and global climate change strategy is limiting the size of its population. … A non-existent person has no environmental footprint.”
Among many environmentalists, people are the ultimate pollution, and reducing their numbers – through abortion, euthanasia, disease or poverty – is the goal. Replacing wood and dung as fuels for cooking and heating with electricity would prevent 2 to 3 million premature deaths every year in poor countries, yet CO2-restricting policies will make electricity generation more expensive and delay its provision to the poor for decades. Such thinking is more common than you might think; one well-known religious leader once told me that “the last thing” the developing world poor need is cheap, abundant energy. (Brian McClaren, radio interview, 2007)
But there’s an alternative. The WeGetIt.org Campaign calls for stewardship of creation based on biblical principles and factual evidence. The heart of the WeGetIt.org Declaration is, “With billions suffering in poverty, environmental policies must not further oppress the world’s poor by denying them basic needs. Instead, we must help people fulfill their God-given potential as producers and stewards.”
As a pastor, I signed on. Please join me. And please help spread the call for biblically based creation stewardship near and far.
E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.