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February 22, 2006
Column #1,278
Advance for Feb. 25, 2006
Evangelical Call to Action on Climate Change
by Michael J. McManus

Two weeks ago 86 prominent Evangelical leaders issued an unprecedented statement, "Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action." Among the signers: Dr. Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life;" David Neff, editor of "Christianity Today;" and a score of denominational and university presidents.

They acknowledged that "Many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians."  They now support "four simple but urgent claims," and asserted that "evidence demands action:"

1. Human-Induced Climate Change is Real.

"Everything hinges on scientific data," they said, noting that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world's most authoritative body of scientists and experts on global warming, "has documented the steady rise in global temperatures over the last fifty years, projects that the average global temperatures will continue to rise in the coming decades and attributes `most of the warming' to human activities" such as burning fossil fuels.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences and similar scientific Academies in Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, Italy and Russia agree on climate change - as does the Bush Administration, belatedly.

However, some of America's most prominent evangelicals, such as Chuck Colson, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell disagree, saying: "Global Warming is not a consensus issue." Fallwell alleged it is "an unproven phenomenon and may actually be junk science."

How does he explain that over 30 years the total power released by storms in the Atlantic has more than doubled, as has the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes worldwide? Scientists say this is a result of a rise of sea surface temperatures that spawn hurricanes of just one degree Fahrenheit. Only a week ago, we learned Greenland's glaciers are melting twice as fast as they used to.  We can expect more Katrinas. (See christiansandclimate.org)

2. The Consequences of Climate Change Will be Significant and Hurt the Poor. 

Signers of the "Evangelical Climate Initiative" argued, "Even small rises in global temperatures will have such likely impacts as: sea level rise; more frequent heat waves, droughts, and extreme weather events such as torrential rains and floods, increased tropical diseases in now-temperate regions, and hurricanes that are more intense."

If America was surprised by the devastation and evacuation of Katrina, though widely predicted, poor countries are even less prepared. New Orleans residents most impacted were the poor, hundreds of thousands of whom lost homes. Similarly, Evangelicals predict, "The consequences of global warming will hit the poor the hardest," such as residents of Bangladesh, much of which could be flooded. The result? Perhaps 20-50 million refugees.

3. Christian Moral Convictions Demand Our Response

In Genesis Chapter 1, God gives man stewardship of the earth. Jesus urged, "Love your neighbor as yourself." And, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." 

Evangelicals conclude: "Christians must care about climate change because we love God the Creator and Jesus our Lord, through whom and for whom the creation was made. This is God's world and any damage that we do to God's world is an offense against God Himself."

4. The Need to Act Now Is Urgent.

"Governments, businesses, churches and individuals all have a role to play in addressing climate change - starting now," Evangelicals asserted. "First, deadly impacts are already being experienced," such as the mudslide in the Philippines smothering a village of 1,000.

"Second, oceans only warm slowly, creating a lag in experiencing the consequences. Much of the climate change to which we are already committed will not be realized for several decades." The consequences of today's pollution will hit our children and grandchildren.

"Third, as individuals and as a society we are making long-term decisions today that will determine how much carbon dioxide we will emit in the future, such as whether to purchase energy efficient vehicles and appliances that will last for 10-20 years."

The statement urged Congress to pass and implement laws requiring economy-wide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions "through cost-effective, market-based mechanisms such as cap-and-trade program," of a Senate passed resolution, backed by energy companies and environmentalists.

Dr. Richard Cizik, Vice President of National Association of Evangelicals, who drives a hybrid Toyota Prius with 50 mpg, asserts, "Critics of Evangelicals see us as anti-science, and will blame us for future climate change if we categorically reject explanations for climate change that are indisputable in the scientific community. If we oppose political action toredress this crisis, the ramifications are enormous, such as discrediting the Gospel we profess."

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