Christians Taking Sides in Global Warming Debate

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:06pm EDT

( - Efforts aimed at curbing carbon emissions blamed for global warming could have a negative impact on the world's poor, according to a Christian group formed recently to oppose what it sees as climate change alarmism in evangelical circles.

The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation (CASC), officially launched Tuesday, grew out of the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance. The new group is a coalition of religious leaders, academics and scientists "committed to bringing a proper and balanced Biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development."

The group believes that the earth is warming but does not believe humans are responsible or that the phenomenon will have catastrophic consequences.

Instead of pursuing policies aimed at reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, CASC supports policies that would make it easier for developing countries to access efficient energy, to promote growth.

"Punishing the use of energy is going to hurt the poor first, obviously," Roy Spencer, a research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, said at a news conference Tuesday. "The only salvation we have ... is through new technology."

Current proposals addressing global warming include efforts to limit CO2 emissions through a cap-and-trade program. Applied in the United States, the legislation would set limits on the amount of carbon that companies may pump into the atmosphere and allow them to trade "carbon credits" among themselves.

CASC spokesman Calvin Beisner called such proposals "economic nonsense." He said efforts to mitigate future global warming by reducing fossil fuel use would "condemn" poorer countries. Christians should support policies that empower poor countries with access to fossil fuels, which should be a "major part" of their energy structures, he said.

"As societies become wealthier, they begin to take better and better care of their environment," Beisner said, suggesting that improved environmental conditions will be a byproduct of increased wealth in developing nations.

The Cornwall Alliance, which says it has support from more than 1,500 religious leaders and scientists, stands in contrast to other evangelical movements which have embraced predictions that global warming will have catastrophic effects and are urging their congregations to support conservation efforts.

In February, 86 Christian leaders, including best-selling author and pastor Rick Warren, signed a statement pledging to fight global warming. The statement declared that climate change "is being caused mainly by human activities" and that "Christian moral convictions demand our response to the climate change problem."

Both sides of the debate center their argument around care for the poor. While CASC argues that proposals to combat global warming will hurt the poor, the Evangelical Climate Initiative believes global warming itself poses a threat to the poor.

"Even small rises in global temperatures will have such likely impacts as: sea level rise; more frequent heat waves, droughts, and extreme weather events such as torrential rains and floods; increased tropical disease in now-temperate regions; and hurricanes that are more intense," the group said in its statement.

"Poor nations and poor individuals have fewer resources available to cope with major challenges and threats," it said. "Millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors."

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