RE: Jerry Falwell -- global warming is "junk science"

From: Kenneth Piers <>
Date: Fri Feb 17 2006 - 07:56:12 EST

Friends: I have been lurking on this discussion, but can not resist some
comment. Today's Washington Post
( )
has a story about much faster-than-expected meltback of the Greenland icecap
and mountain glaciers around the world. It seems to me that the evidence in
support of the hypothesis that global warming is largely caused by excessive
human use of fossil fuels is about as strong as (or stronger than) the 1960's
evidence in support of the hypothesis that smoking is significantly responsible
for lung cancer, even though at that time there were many who denied that
hypothesis too.
It's not like some morning in the near or far future we will wake up and
declare "Aha, now it's clear that global warming is caused by burning fossil
fuels". There will be no such eureka moment. Instead it is the weight of the
evidence, not the least of which is the fact that no climate models that I know
of can account for past temperature increases without including the warming
effect attributable to rising carbon dioxide levels, together with the fact
that the physics of greenhouse gas warming is well understood, that is
The main reason that there is so much resistance to addressing this issue in
the US is that it will require great changes in our lifestyles. Such changes go
against the very core of the dominant Western world view - unending economic
growth based on the belief in the limitless capacity of humans for creativity
and ingenuity. Our dominant world view sees nature as not much more than a
source of raw materials for humans to use for short-term profits. Addressing
global warming will require the admission that there are limits to growth -
limits to how much we can pollute the atmosphere without inducing the prospect
of catastrophic changes. The much easier path is to plunge ahead in denial of
the facts based on the belief and hope that science and technology will save
I believe that current US climate policy (reduce carbon intensity - the ratio
of carbon emissions to GDP - by 18% before 2012) is a sham. We have already met
this goal even while the absolute amount of carbon emissions we are responsible
for is higher than it ever has been.
We may quibble about whether or not it is responsible for churches or other
Christian groups should make public statements about such issues. I suppose
there were those who also questioned whether or not churches should make public
statements about slavery or about the holocaust or about Ruanda or Darfur; in
my opinion failure to address these issues with our parishioners will mean the
continuing marginalization of the church on crucial social issues. I am not
suggesting that churches engage in policy making; but they should be calling
attention to important social issues that are being neglected or abused in the
public arena.
To conclude, I want to point out that the climate statement that was signed by
a number of influential evangelicals, was not a denominational or institutional
expression; all who signed did so as individuals and as such did not speak for
the institutions with whom they are affiliated.
It is more than time for the developed world to address climate change issues;
it is also more than time for us to become serious about transitioning away
from fossil fuel dependence. None of this will be easy and doing so will
require courage and may require sacrifice. But failure to do so, IMHO, will
very likely ensure a bleak future for most of us - especially our
ken piers

Ken Piers

"We are by nature creatures of faith, as perhaps all creatures are; we live by
counting on things that cannot be proved. As creatures of faith, we must choose
either to be religious or superstitious, to believe in things that cannot be
proved or to believe in things that can be disproved."
Wendell Berry

>>> "Tjalle T Vandergraaf" <> 2/14/2006 5:32 PM >>>
I wonder, if denominations would speak on _theological_ issues, they would
even have the time or the resources to deal with environmental issues. What
I think usually happens is that a denomination will hop on the next
available bandwagon, with mainline denominations favouring liberal
bandwagons and more conservative denominations looking for conservative

Another problem I see with denominations getting involved in
"non-theological issues" is that they tend not to understand the robustness
of a theory or lack thereof (I cannot think, offhand, of a better way to put
this). Increased CO2 emissions and global warming is one example. Common
wisdom has it that there is a link but my guess is that atmospheric
scientists will acknowledge that there is still some uncertainty and that
other factors may play a role. For a denomination to take the link between
CO2 emission and global warming as "gospel truth," it may not recognize this
uncertainty or know to convey it.

The impact of a proposed change is often ignored as well. It's easy for a
denomination to advocate a change in lifestyle without considering how this
change will impact on society. I will cite the opposition by some
denominations to nuclear power as an example. If some denominations had
their wish, nuclear power plants would be shut down. However, other than
some vague hand waving, no alternatives to nuclear power plants are
presented other than to "reduce consumption."

When a denomination becomes identified with a particular non-theological
issue, and it turns out that the premise on which this issue was based is
wrong, where does that leave the integrity of that denomination and how will
its message of the Evangel then be received?

My experience with some denominations (and some clergy!) has been that
beating the environmental drum or the social drum is easier than to work on
theological issues. One thing that annoys me to no end is to go to church
and, instead of a sermon expounding God's Word, to get a lecture on the
environment or on some social issue from a non-expert.

Chuck Vandergraaf


A responsibility for churches that is even more fundamental than speaking
about ethical issues connected with the environment is speaking about
_theological_ issues: Our ethics should grow out of our theology. &
churches should deal with the task of environmmental theology whether or not

global warming is actually occurring & whether or not it (if real) is
anthropogenic. I.e., our environmental theologies ought not be just
superficial responses to the most recent scientific data but should be
explications of what the Christian faith implies about the natural world &
our place in, & responsibilities for, it.

But that shouldn't be left at the level of generalities. We also need to be

able to speak to specific real concerns. & when scientific evidence becomes

very strong then churches should be prepared to say "If X is true - as
scientific evidence presently indicates - then we should do Y & not Z."

Received on Fri Feb 17 07:56:49 2006

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