Recently, my fellow evangelical scientists and academics sent a letter to the United States Congress urging immediate legislation on climate change. In an effort to care for the planet—God’s second greatest gift to humanity—they argue that our uncontrolled use of fossil fuels will disproportionately affect the poor, the vulnerable, and the oppressed.
I applaud their concern for the environment and for those in defense of whom Jesus commanded us to be especially diligent. But their call to reduce carbon emissions would do more harm than good, especially to the “least of these” as referenced by Christ.
Furthermore, oppression thrives when energy is restricted. Totalitarian regimes remain in power by keeping their subjects poor and deprived of technological amenities. Freedom spreads when people have time and ability to travel and communicate, to develop ideas and concepts, and to organize against a common enemy and for a better way of life. Energy, therefore, is the life blood to ending poverty and oppression.
In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14–28), Jesus told of a master who entrusted his money to three servants. The first two put the talents to use and presented the master with more than they had been given. The third, whom Christ called ‘worthless’, hid his talent in the ground.
Often we think of the talents as money or ability, but they really stand for every resource. If we needlessly leave resources ‘hidden’ in the ground, will we be met with the same rebuke from the “Master of All Creation”?
In America and around the world, people are hurting now. I pray that my Brothers and Sisters in Christ see their need and respond accordingly, rather than limiting energy affordability and making life today more difficult for the poor, the vulnerable, and the oppressed.
Dr. David R. Legates, a Christian and a Professor of Climatology at the University of Delaware, is a Senior Fellow of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation—a coalition of clergy, theologians, scientists, economists, and policy experts committed to bringing a balanced Biblical view of stewardship to environmental and developmental issues.
‘Evangelical Scientists and Academics’ Mistaken in Urging Congress to Act on Climate
by E. Calvin Beisner
Climatologist Dr. David Legates’s response above to the letter from “evangelical scientists and academics” urging Congress to immediate action to fight global warming by reducing fossil fuel use points out some of its factual inaccuracies and the harms that would be done by acting on its advice.
It’s also interesting to look at the letter as an example of misleading policy-related communications.
One would naturally expect that a letter addressing climate change and starting with “As evangelical scientists and academics, we understand climate change is real and action is urgently needed” would have among its signers a host of climate scientists. Indeed, a reporter for ClimateWire, a publication of Environment & Energy Publishing, Inc., thought so. She emailed me asking, “Did you expect this collection of 200 Evangelical scientists, all with degrees in climate science, to promote their studies with a faith-led banner?”
But out of the 194 signers, we’ve been able to identify only five climate scientists (2.6%), while by far the largest field of study represented is biology, with 117 (60.3%). Here’s the complete breakdown:
- Atmospheric Science/Meteorology/Climatology: 5 (2.6%)
- Biology : 117 (60.3%)
- Chemistry: 29 (14.9%)
- Computer Science and Mathematics: 3 (1.5%)
- Engineering: 10 (5.6%)
- Environmental Sciences: 2 (1.3%)
- Geography: 1 (0.5%)
- Geology: 11 (5.7%)
- Medicine: 1 (0.5%)
- Paleontology: 2 (1.3%)
- Physics: 10 (5.6%)
- Unidentified: 3 (1.5%)
No wonder the organizers listed only names and institutions, not the fields in which they taught! The vast majority are not climate scientists and almost certainly are unfamiliar with the enormous controversy raging among climatologists, meteorologists, and other climate scientists over such fundamental questions as “How much warming—after climate feedbacks—would be cause by doubled atmospheric CO2 concentration?” Granted the mainstream media’s failure to report it, almost none would be familiar with the fact that there’s been no statistically significant global warming for at least 15 years, probably over 17, and possibly as many as 23—a fact nearly impossible to reconcile with the theories behind the computer climate models underlying fears of dangerous warming.
Conspicuously absent from the list of signers are economists—of any specialty whatever, but particularly of environment, energy, and development—who would have the expertise to evaluate the probable impact of climate policy on human welfare. Many such scholars believe rushing to replace fossil fuels with “Green” energy would cause enormous harm to the world’s poor.
That raises an irony in the recent letter. It cites Romans 13:10 as saying “Love does no harm to its neighbor,” and argues from it that we must cut fossil fuel use to prevent global warming. But raising the price of energy, as would necessarily happen under the letter’s prescription, harms the very people the signers say they want to protect. Indeed, over 28,000 people died in the U.K. in the bitter winter of 2011–2012 because high energy prices, driven upward by Britain’s aggressive policy to replace fossil fuels with wind and solar, forced them into “fuel poverty”: they couldn’t afford both food and heat for their homes.
Evangelicals need to do much better than to repeat the mantras of global warming alarmists. They need to study the controversy in depth for themselves. The letter’s signers could do worse than to begin by reading the Cornwall Alliance’s A Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science, and Economics of Global Warming.
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