Religion in Society

Why Christians in Particular Should Care About Climate Debate

| by Baptist Press

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- A biblical worldview dictates Christians should be concerned about what is spiritually at stake in the United Nations climate treaty negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark, a spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation said.

Speaking from Copenhagen as a non-governmental organization representative, E. Calvin Beisner told Baptist Press Dec. 17 Christians should have a unique perspective on the global warming debate.

"Other religious worldviews tend to see the earth as the product of blind chance over time and therefore very fragile and subject to being knocked into catastrophe by minor influences," Beisner said.

"But that isn't the proper inference from a biblical worldview, which says that the earth is instead the product of God's intelligent design and is sustained by His omnipotent faithfulness. From that we should infer that earth itself with its various ecosystems and its climate system is robust, self-regulating, self-correcting and admirably suited for human flourishing."

Also, Christianity recognizes the sinfulness of man and subsequently realizes that the centralization of power is inherently dangerous, Beisner said. The treaties proposed during the course of the Dec. 7-18 talks to control greenhouse gas emissions entail some kind of a global body.

"Whether you call it a global government or a global institute or anything else, there has to be some sort of a global agency that would have the authority to enforce major restrictions on fossil fuel use and therefore on the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases," Beisner said. "That is a concentration of power that I think is unadvisable from a biblical perspective granting what we know of the sinfulness of man."

If a resident of the United States objects to the way his state is handling matters, he has the freedom to move to another state. Or if he objects to the way the U.S. government is acting, he can move to another country, Beisner said. But if a centralized government apparatus controls major parts of the world economy, there is no escape.

"That is exactly what the promoters of this kind of treaty are asking for. I stood and watched scores of thousands of people marching with communist flags, with Youth for International Socialism flags and the like demanding 'Change the system, not the climate.' By which they meant and clearly stated, 'We want to get rid of capitalism,’ we want in other words to get rid of economic freedom and usher in worldwide heavy-handed socialism, which destroys freedom," Beisner said. "Christians, I think, need to be concerned about that sort of thing."

Believers also should care about the aftermath of the Copenhagen climate talks because the Bible teaches them to protect the poor from oppression by the powerful, Beisner said. The sort of treaty driven by developed countries at the talks would enormously raise the cost of energy worldwide.

"It would therefore delay for generations the time when the billions of people in the world who live without electricity will be able to afford electricity to replace the very filthy fuels like wood and dry dung that they now use for cooking and heating their huts -- which cause millions of deaths every year and hundreds of millions of illnesses," Beisner said.

"This kind of treaty would delay for generations their rise out of poverty and therefore condemn them to more generations of high rates of disease and premature death. That, I think, from a Christian, biblical perspective is simply unconscionable."

The Copenhagen talks broke down because of disagreements between developed countries and developing nations, and even a $100 billion offer by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the United States to help less-developed nations meet treaty obligations and a rebuke by President Obama couldn't bring a substantive resolution.

"The developing countries really don't want to be saddled with tight restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions because they desperately need to grow their economies and they know that abundant and affordable energy is an absolute prerequisite to that and the most abundant and affordable energy in the world at this time still is fossil fuels -- coal, oil and natural gas," Beisner said.

"So the developing countries don't want to kiss those goodbye without some kind of major compensation from the already developed countries. The developed countries in contrast want to have some sort of restrictions, but they're only willing to restrict themselves if the developing countries will go along with it.

"I think there's good scientific reason for that. Quite simply, the developed countries could shut down their economies completely and within a few years the developing nations' emissions would completely make up for that. There would be no difference in climate whatsoever long-term," Beisner told BP. "So the developed countries recognize that their efforts are going to be empty symbols rather than in any way effective at reducing future temperatures unless the developing countries come along."

Transparency also is a major issue in the talks because China, India and Brazil, the three largest developing countries, are reluctant to provide means for other countries to check on their emissions controls, Beisner said. One factor is their distrust of the leaders of developed countries, who reportedly worked on their own treaty before the conference began, shunning the developing nations.

"There are just all kinds of major problems in the way of any significant agreement coming out of this conference," Beisner said. "There will surely be something face-saving, but probably nothing binding, nothing really comprehensive or substantive -- for which I think, by the way, we should give thanks because any binding and substantive agreement that would come out of this to greatly reduce emissions would be devastating to economies all over the world and especially harmful to the world's poor."

For the Copenhagen talks to end without a desired treaty does not mean the world must fear dramatic repercussions from global warming, Beisner said.

"I don't think even a comprehensive and substantial agreement would have any impact on climate simply because the science does not support the notion that human activity is a significant contributor to climate," he said.

"We could completely cut all our greenhouse gas emissions, the human race could go extinct and we wouldn't make any significant impact on future climate. We could also quintuple our greenhouse gas emissions and the climate would not be significantly different in the future because of it.

"I am quite convinced of that, and I think the release of e-mails and computer codes and other documents from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England a few weeks ago -- what's now being referred to as Climategate -- has really pulled the curtain back and allowed people to see the orchestration of climate fears by an inner cadre of about two dozen or so climate scientists who, frankly, have not been in pursuit of truth but have been in pursuit of power and reputation and government research grants to fund their work and to pay their salaries," Beisner said.

"This, I think, is the beginning of the end of climate alarmist fears, but it's going to take some time for the truth to sink down to the population as a whole and particularly to the decision-makers in governments."

Meanwhile, Christians can help expedite the process by informing their political representatives of their own convictions about global warming, making clear they do not want policies that will harm the poor while having no impact on future temperatures worldwide, Beisner said, referencing the Cornwall Alliance's "Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming" and "Renewed Call to Truth," both available at

"In my time here this week at this conference, though I was aware before of a significant anti-Christian sentiment in the United Nations Environment Program, in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and in the environmentalist movement generally, I have been stunned to see the depth and breadth of it here," Beisner said.

"I am more convinced than ever that this is spiritual warfare, that this is not just a matter of science, it's not just a matter of politics, it's not just a matter of economics. It's a matter of clashing religious worldviews and ultimately a clashing understanding of the Gospel and everything else," he said.

"Christians should be praying that God will open the eyes of their leaders to the biblical understanding of how God made His world and to true science about global climate, which shows that we are not experiencing anything unnatural, and to the enormous costs that would be imposed on everyone on the globe because of this kind of treaty or that kind of legislation -- everyone in the world except those few people who are already well-positioned to be made extremely wealthy by the passing of this legislation, because they already are major stockholders in the sorts of corporations that would see huge income shifted to them by the passage of such a treaty."