Climatologist Dr. David Legates’s response 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 caused 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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