Does Caring for ?the Least of These? Demand Fighting Global Warming?
Source: Cornwall Alliance
David R. Legates, Ph.D.
Recently, my fellow evangelical scientists and academics sent a letter to the United States Congress urging immediate legislation on climate change. In an effort to care for the planet?God?s second greatest gift to humanity?they argue that our uncontrolled use of fossil fuels will disproportionately affect the poor, the vulnerable, and the oppressed.
I applaud their concern for the environment and for those in defense of whom Jesus commanded us to be especially diligent. But their call to reduce carbon emissions would do more harm than good, especially to the ?least of these? as referenced by Christ.
Average global temperatures have not risen over at least the past fifteen years. Dr. John Christy, a fellow evangelical Christian and a highly respected climatologist, testified to Congress that in the United States, we have seen virtually no change in daily maximum temperature, while most of the warming is confined to increases in daily minimum temperatures. (Nighttime temperatures are driven by turbulence [or lack of it] near the surface, not CO2 warming. By contrast, daytime maximum temperature is a much better measure of warming from greenhouse gases. The lack of a signal in daily maximum temperature suggests that the rate of warming due to CO2 is relatively small.) That and the lack of warming for at least a decade and a half implies the effect of CO2 warming is much smaller than climate models suggest.
Moreover, the environment itself suffers because when a people are in dire need of food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities, they cannot be concerned with environmental issues. The Ganges River, for example, is both the source of ?clean? drinking water and the reservoir for untreated sewage. Why? Because the people are so poor. Technological development would enable them to afford water and sewage treatment. High-tech, high-yield farming methods would increase food supplies. Natural gas and electricity would heat homes and cook food without cutting forests and burning wood and dung, which degrade indoor air quality and cause lethal lung infections. Refrigeration would mean the poor do not have to choose between eating spoiled food and going hungry.
Furthermore, oppression thrives when energy is restricted. Totalitarian regimes remain in power by keeping their subjects poor and deprived of technological amenities. Freedom spreads when people have time and ability to travel and communicate, to develop ideas and concepts, and to organize against a common enemy and for a better way of life. Energy, therefore, is the life blood to ending poverty and oppression.
In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14?28), Jesus told of a master who entrusted his money to three servants. The first two put the talents to use and presented the master with more than they had been given. The third, whom Christ called ?worthless?, hid his talent in the ground.
Often we think of the talents as money or ability, but they really stand for every resource. If we needlessly leave resources ?hidden? in the ground, will we be met with the same rebuke from the ?Master of All Creation??
In America and around the world, people are hurting now. I pray that my Brothers and Sisters in Christ see their need and respond accordingly, rather than limiting energy affordability and making life today more difficult for the poor, the vulnerable, and the oppressed.
Dr. David R. Legates, a Christian and a Professor of Climatology at the University of Delaware, is a Senior Fellow of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation?a coalition of clergy, theologians, scientists, economists, and policy experts committed to bringing a balanced Biblical view of stewardship to environmental and developmental issues.