The greatest threat to the alleviation of the structural poverty of the Third World is the continuing campaign by western governments, egged on by some climate scientists and green activists, to curb greenhouse emissions, primarily the CO2 from burning fossil fuels. …
[I]t is mankind’s use of the mineral energy stored in nature’s gift of fossil fuels … accompanying the slowly rolling Industrial Revolution, [that] allowed the ascent from structural poverty which had scarred humankind for millennia.
To put a limit on the use of fossil fuels without adequate economically viable alternatives is to condemn the Third World to perpetual structural poverty. —Deepak Lal, Poverty and Progress: Realities and Myths about Global Poverty
Why Climate Policy Matters to Evangelical Christians
Founder and National Spokesman, Cornwall Alliance
On June 2, 2014, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new rule requiring a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing power plants by 2030. Compliance is estimated to cost about $50 billion per year, the loss of about $1,200 per year in income for the average family of four, and the loss of about 600,000 jobs. Is that a good idea, or a bad one?
Assuming that CO2 warms the atmosphere as much as EPA (depending on the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC]) claims, the “benefits” of compliance include, even according to EPA itself, a hypothetically calculable but observationally indiscernible 0.02˚C reduction in global average temperature by the end of this century, which would have no discernible impact on human or other life on the planet. If CO2’s warming effect is actually much less, then the indiscernibly small global temperature reduction will be even smaller. …
The authors of the two chapters of this paper are not only fully credentialed, veteran university researchers and professors in the academic disciplines relevant to their contributions but also evangelical Christians committed to glorifying God through responsible stewardship of the earth.
In Chapter 1, climatologist Dr. David R. Legates rehearses the scientific evidence that CO2’s impact on global temperature is much smaller than IPCC and other alarmists claim, and that there is no persuasive scientific evidence that human emissions of CO2 have caused, or in the foreseeable future will cause, dangerous global warming.
In Chapter 2, environmental economist Dr. G. Cornelis “Kees” van Kooten rehearses the economic evidence that policies to fight global warming by reducing CO2 emissions by switching from fossil fuels to wind, solar, and other “renewable” sources will do far more harm than good to the world’s poor.
For evangelical Christians, who take seriously the Bible’s emphasis on protecting the vulnerable from harm (Psalm 12:5; 35:10; 41:1; 72:4, 12; Proverbs 31:9; Galatians 2:10), these two chapters and the information above provide compelling evidence that to protect the poor, we must oppose such policies and instead support policies that simultaneously reflect responsible environmental stewardship (Genesis 1:28; 2:15), make energy and all its benefits more affordable, and so free the poor to rise out of poverty. To take this position is not to suggest that we may abuse the earth or any of its ecological systems. It is to conclude, instead, that what some people consider an abuse of the earth (obtaining energy from fossil fuels and so adding CO2 to the atmosphere) is not an abuse of the earth but is instead a vitally important way of improving human wellbeing.
The Cornwall Alliance offers this paper in support of a new declaration, “Protect the Poor: Ten Reasons to Oppose Harmful Climate Change Policies,” and encourages our evangelical Christian brothers and sisters to join us in endorsing it and to share it with others, including political representatives at national, state, and local levels. …
Greenhouse Gases and Warming of the Earth
David R. Legates
Professor of Climatology
University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA
Few controversies have received greater attention around the world in the last twenty years than that over global warming. Some think it threatens the very survival of the human race, others that it is little or nothing to worry about—and there are many intermediate positions. What is a well-informed, faithful Christian perspective?
At the outset, let us define what the debate is not about. The debate is not about whether our climate is changing; indeed, it always has changed on timescales ranging from decades to millennia. It is not about whether humans can influence the Earth’s climate; they certainly do. It is not about whether global air temperatures have risen over the past 160 years; they have. The real questions that define this debate are: (1) To what extent are humans responsible for the climate change we see? (2) What are the future consequences of climate change, from both natural and anthropogenic sources? (3) How should we respond? This paper focuses on the first question and provides implications for the second and third. …
As Christians, we are exhorted both to “Test all things, hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and to be good stewards of our environment (Genesis 1:26–28; 2:15)—especially when millions on the planet are without clean water, adequate sanitation, and affordable energy. We certainly do not want to squander precious resources or harm our environment, but neither do we want to waste our time and efforts to “solve” non-problems. An examination of the science shows that the sensitivity of our planet to greenhouse gases is not as large as the climate models indicate, and, indeed, higher levels of carbon dioxide are beneficial to life on Earth, since plants grow better in response to more carbon dioxide. Climate change is both natural and human-induced and has always occurred, since climate is not simply “average weather”; it is dynamic and variable. The evidence shows that much of the climate variability we see is attributable to natural climate fluctuations with a small contribution of rising global air temperatures due to changes in anthropogenic carbon dioxide concentrations.
Proponents of efforts to mitigate climate change often appeal to the “Precautionary Principle,” which was set forth in Principle #15 of the Rio Declaration in 1992: “In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities … where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” In light of that, we are urged to take draconian action to avert climate change even if scientific proof that a problem exists is lacking or the efficacy of recommended remedies is unproven. But we must also remember the Corollary to the Precautionary Principle: “Action to abate climate change, either natural or human-induced, shall not be taken until it can be demonstrated that the proposed response will (1) effect a positive remedy to the issue at hand and (2) not have adverse impacts that will create new problems or exacerbate existing ones.” We believe attempts to reduce climate change will increase the cost of providing electricity to the over 1 billion people in the world who now lack it, thus prolonging their dependence on wood, dried dung, and other biomass as principal heating and cooking fuels, which in turn causes hundreds of millions of upper respiratory diseases and over 4 million premature deaths annually in the developing world, primarily among women and young children (World Health Organization, 2014). We cannot forget the world’s poorest citizens, who will be the hardest hit by the severe energy restrictions imposed by climate “stabilization” efforts.
Climate Policy, Economics, and the Poor
Cornelis van Kooten, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Studies
University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
The Economist (September 25, 2010, p. 117) reported that, in 2009, 1.44 billion people lacked access to electricity, and all but three million of those lived outside the rich, developed countries. Worse yet, some 2.7 billion still cook their food on inefficient stoves that use dung, crop residues, and fuel wood. It is estimated that perhaps 2 million people die prematurely each year because of health problems associated with biomass-burning stoves (p. 72). Collection of biomass for burning occupies much time (mainly of women and children) that could otherwise be used to produce wealth, robs cropland of important nutrients that can only partly be replaced by artificial fertilizers from offsite, and causes deforestation.
One-quarter to one-third of the world’s population—1.75 billion to 2.33 billion people—need access to electricity and high-density energy such as currently can be provided only from fossil and nuclear fuels, so that they can live decent lives and have some hope that their children will lead a better life than they. Again, it would be immoral to deny the poor the ability to develop by curtailing their access to abundant, affordable, reliable energy, all in pursuit of an environmental objective that only interests one billion rich people.