Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Earth Day (early) - According to the NYT, today is evangelical earth day -- specifically a number of evangelicals (86 according to the NYT, "more than 85" according to its website) held a press conference this morning in DC to announce a new initiative: the Evangelical Climate Initiative. The publicist for this group is Jim Jewell of Rooftop MediaWorks. The group is funded by the Hewlett Foundation ($475,000), among others -- it is not clear whether this is a grass-roots organization or an astroturf organization.

I hope it is an organiztion which is genuinely concerned about doing well and truth -- I am concerned, however, that the emphasis is on "global warming." According to their FAQ's:

What is Climate Change or Global Warming?

Climate change, also called global warming, is an urgent problem that can and must be solved. The problem is caused primarily by human activities that produce heat-trapping or greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, artificially warming the planet and thereby changing the climate. Serious consequences include dryer droughts, fiercer floods, and harsher hurricanes. Carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas or global warming pollutant, is released when fossil fuels such as oil, gas, or coal are burned in our vehicles, by power plants, and by industry. The good news is that there are plenty of cost-effective solutions that will create jobs, clean up our environment, and enhance national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, thereby creating a safe and healthy future for our children.

Why is global warming an urgent problem?

There are three basic reasons for urgency: (1) Global warming is happening now. Impacts are already starting to be felt, e.g., a 2003 heat wave in Europe that killed approximately 20,000 people. (2) The oceans warm slowly, creating a lag in experiencing the consequences. Many of the impacts from climate change to which we are already committed will not be realized for several decades. The consequences of the pollution we create today will be visited upon our children and grandchildren. (3) As individuals and as a society we are making long-term decisions each day that 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, or whether to build more coal-burning power plants that last for 50 years rather than investing more in energy efficiency and renewable energy. We need to start solving global warming now to make it easier and less expensive for our children to deal with in the future.
Recently, I was reading The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time by John Kelly and came across this passage:
Sometime between 750 and 800, Europe entered the Little Optimum [note omitted] a period of global warming. Across the continent, temperatures in-[45]creased by an average of more than 1 degree Celsius, but rather than producing catastrophe, as many current theorists of global warming predict, the warm weather produced abundance.* England and Poland became wine-growing countries, and even the inhabitants of Greenland began experimenting with vineyards. More important, the warm weather turned marginal farmland into decent farmland, and decent farmland into good farmland. In the final centuries of Roman rule, crop yields had fallen two and three to one – a yield represents the amount of seed harvested to the amount planted: a return so meager, the Roman agricultural writer Columella feared that the land had grown old. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, as winters became milder and summers warmer and drier, European farms began to produce yields of five and six to one, unprecedented by medieval standards.

*Says Dr. Phillip Stott, professor emeritus of bio-geography at the University of London, “What has been forgotten in all the discussion of global warming is a proper sense of history... During the medieval warm period, the world was warmer than even today and history shows that it was a wonderful period of plenty for everyone.” (Phillip Stott, interview, Daily Telegraph, 4/6/2003.)
From pages 44-45. (I include two links in Kelly's footnote so you can critique Stott yourself.)

This seems to make sense to me. First, I am not sure that "global warming" exists; second, I'm not sure, if it does, that it is human-created; third, I'm not sure it would be a bad thing if it did exist.

Actually, there are two notes in the FAQ I find more troubling:
Does addressing climate change mean we're becoming liberals?

No. We believe that creating a better future for our children and grandchildren by fulfilling out biblical call to stewardship and love of neighbor through reducing pollution is simply being a good biblical Christian. Climate change is not a liberal issue. It is a profound problem for people Jesus loves, people Jesus died to save.

Are we working with environmentalists?

No. While we are not working with environmentalists, and are critical of some of their views and approaches, we also feel that once we have established our own voice on this issue we should use this as an opportunity to share the gospel with those who care about "environmental" issues. We also appreciate all environmentalists have done to protect God's creation. Finally, we do not rule out working with environmentalists and anyone else of goodwill in the future.

Umm, excuse me -- who really cares if "we're becomming liberals?" Nothing's wrong with that, is there? Second, what's wrong with working with environmentalists?

I'm sorry, but there's a lot in this whole "initiative" which rubs me the wrong way...

See also these two excellent posts by Mark Byron: 1. Christians and the Environment-Part I-The Purpose-Driven EPA? and 2. Christians and the Environment-Part II-Who's in the ECI?. Then there's this in GetReligion and this on the CTwebsite.

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