Rational Thought Underlies Conservative Christian Views on Climate Change
Environmentalist David Suzuki writes in his recent article " Is it Just Me, or is the World Getting Nuttier? " that some American and Canadian scientists hold religious views that are anti-science. He argued that some climate scientists – including me by name – put "misguided beliefs above rational thought." He implicitly assumes that conservative Christian views are irrational and incompatible with science and that we have replaced Almighty God with the "almighty dollar," believing the economy matters more than the environment.
I helped write the Cornwall Alliance's "Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science, and Economics of Global Warming," on which the Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, cited by Suzuki, was based. It integrates scientific, economic, ethical, and theological reasoning to support its conclusions. There's nothing at all irrational about it – unless you consider religion irrational per se.
But Suzuki is right on one point: the economy does matter as much as the environment. Why? Because good environmental stewardship requires sound financial footing and because improving and safeguarding human health and welfare require maintaining a strong, vibrant, innovative economy that can sustain continued environmental progress.
The people of India pour untreated sewage into the Ganges River-and then draw their drinking and "cleaning" water from it. So poor that they're desperate for food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities for life, they cannot concern themselves with environmental stewardship. Only when they have ample food, clothing, and shelter can they turn their attention to caring for the environment.
As the United States and Canada advanced economically, we developed technologies and policies that increased our quality and length of life. This has led us to be more proactive with our environmental stewardship. We emit far less pollution and waste today than we did fifty years ago. We feed more people with every parcel of land, get more energy from every drop of oil, are more efficient at everything we do, and are much better stewards of our environment. None of that could have occurred without a strong and developing economy.
Unfortunately, some so-called environmentalists wish to keep Africa and other developing nations in perpetual underdevelopment. They pay them off to be "environmentally conscious" by giving them food and monetary aid to keep them alive but not prospering or becoming middle class. This perpetuates the notion of the "noble native," supposedly "at one" with the environment. But much of that money is lost to corruption and the people continue living in a state of poverty and disease.
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Yet in the name of "saving the planet," developing countries are denied modern technologies and the energy they require that have improved our lives and our environment. They are condemned to high infant mortality, significantly shortened life spans, and a greatly decreased quality of life.
Climate alarmism – where political ideology mixes with the new religion of environmentalism – is the rationale for these policies. Overstated threats to the environment and impractical or imaginary ways to prevent them are the new scripture on which the adherents de velop their theologies for micromanaging the course of human events. These eco-religionists never consider the misery and devastation that their policies inflict on the world's poorest people because they are too concerned with "saving the planet."
Some wish to have energy rationed or be made increasingly expensive in North America, creating artificial fuel poverty for millions. Such policies will make everything more expensive and scarce, create more unemployment, push many people back into poverty and deprivation, and gravely impair human health and welfare. This strategy will not save the planet because one of its first casualties will be environmental stewardship. History and human nature both testify that, forced by economic limits to choose between a cleaner environment and food on the table, people always choose food.
In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus told of a master who gave his servant one talent and then condemned him for hiding it in the earth and not putting it to use. The talents really stand for resources – including natural resources. How will the Master of creation judge us if we hide our resources in the earth and, on judgment day, say, "Behold, you have what is yours?" If we do not use the resources God has given us to care for those in need, we will be irresponsible stewards of God's creation and deserve the same fate as the servant the master called "wicked and lazy."
I fail to understand how anyone thinking rationally can argue that poverty and economic hardship will enhance environmental stewardship, or that the planet is more important than the people who live on it.