I do not claim to be an expert on global warming or to have mastered the scientific literature on the subject. But I do think that it is important for Christians to consider the claims of certain evangelicals concerning global climate change. The “Evangelical Climate Initiative” (endorsed by evangelical luminaries such as Rick Warren) says that,
The same love for God and neighbor that compels us to preach salvation through Jesus Christ, protect the unborn, preserve the family and the sanctity of marriage, and take the whole Gospel to a hurting world, also compels us to recognize that human-induced climate change is a serious Christian issue requiring action now.
Is global warming really the threat that some people are claiming that it is? Do Christians really have a duty to support public policies and politicians who endeavor to stem that tide of global warming?
I’m still working through these questions, but here’s where I am right now. It seems fairly clear that global temperatures are rising and that there will be consequences for the environment and sea levels in the not-too-distant future. Yet two important issues remain unresolved in my mind.
First, it is not clear to me the extent to which humans are the cause of global climate change. Even the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change qualifies its assertion that humans are the cause with the phrase “very likely” (page 3). To be sure, human activity has played a role (especially in the last 50 years), but the jury is still out on how significant its role was.
Second, whatever the cause, it is not clear to me the extent to which modifying human behavior (e.g., reducing fossil fuel emissions) will prevent the negative consequences of future warming. The adverse economic impact of modifying global energy use may be worse for the world’s poor than rising sea levels.
There are enough unresolved questions in my mind that I do not feel as urgent about global climate change as other Evangelicals do. Even so, I do not mind that some Evangelicals are taking up this cause as an expression of their Christian stewardship over creation (Genesis 1:28). But I do question giving this issue an equal or greater priority than the other issues mentioned by the Evangelical Climate Initiative. Even the worst case scenario consequences of global warming are still decades away. How can the evangelical conscience take on global climate change as its signature issue when the unborn continue to die by the millions right now?
To my mind, abortion-on-demand remains the central human rights crisis of our time, and I think the Christian conscience should focus its priorities accordingly.