Do We Credulously Believe “The Litany”?
We are living in a day and age that seems surrounded by information—the so-called information highway—and yet is incredibly unknowledgeable about important matters. Moreover, a shift is occurring in the so-called evangelical church towards a warmed-up version of the Social Gospel. In essence, the Social Gospel was a disguise for liberalism, political, economic, and theological with a strong emphasis on “social justice.” Sound familiar?
During the 1960s and early 1970s, the hue and cry was also for social justice. Three Dog Night sang about it, so it must be true. But just like in the 60s and 70s, we need to differentiate between fact and fiction, between truth and perception. To that end, I have been walking you through the article “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action,” that was signed by a number of prominent evangelicals. The document gives the impression that if we really want to be in tune with the planet, then we too should become signatories.
Whereas I do not doubt the sincerity of those who signed the document, I do believe that it is prudent for us to “hurry up slowly” as the Dutch saying goes. Just as it is unwise to pass legislation that no one has read, it is equally unwise for Christians and non-Christians alike to accept as true in the realm of environment what science has not yet proven to be true and to claim a “consensus” among scientists, when no such consensus exists.
It also strikes me as just a little odd that throughout the article, accompanied by its “Claims,” there is so little biblical evidence. In fact, until we reach the third claim, there is not one shred of biblical evidence in the document. Yet, it is precisely in that third Claim that we read, “Christians, noting the fact that most of the climate change problem is human induced, are reminded that when God made humanity he commissioned us to exercise stewardship over the earth and its creatures. Climate change is the latest evidence of our failure to exercise proper stewardship, and constitutes a critical opportunity for us to do better (Gen. 1:26-28).” (p. 4. Emphasis added.)
Calvin Beisner and friends published a very worthwhile paper in 2006 that bore the title, “A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming.” This document is also signed by a number of evangelicals as well as by climatologists. It is an excellent counterbalance to CC. In the Preamble in Beisner’s article, a deep and abiding love and concern for the poor as well as the biblical worldview, theology and ethics of those who signed CC. (p. 1.) Neither do the authors of ACTPPP question the motives of the Evangelical Climate Initiative’s “Call to Action.” They do, however, question ECI’s assumptions, which is totally legitimate. What are those assumptions?
First, they believe that “Human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as we burn (fossil) fuels for energy are the main cause of global warming.” (Ibid.)
Second, they further believe that “Global warming is not only real (which we do not contest) but is almost certainly going to be catastrophic in its consequences for humanity—especially the poor.” (Ibid.)
Third, “Reducing carbon dioxide emissions would so curtail global warming as to significantly reduce its anticipated harmful effects.” (Ibid.)
Finally, “Mandatory carbon dioxide emissions reductions would achieve that end with overall effects that would be more beneficial than harmful to humanity and the rest of the world’s inhabitants.” (Ibid.)
The main difference between the two publications is that each believes the other is false. Danish professor, Bjørn Lomborg reminds us of the propaganda that often passes as information in our world. In the case of the environmental agenda, he refers to it as the “Litany.” He asserts that “Even children are told the Litany.” What is the “Litany”? After quoting an article that asserts that “We humans are about as subtle as the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs,” he continues, “This understanding of the environment is all pervasive. We are all familiar with the Litany: the environment is in poor shape here on Earth. Our resources are running out. The population is ever growing, leaving less and less to eat. The air and the water are becoming ever more polluted. The planet’s species are becoming extinct is [sic] vast numbers—we kill off more than 40,000 each year. The forests are disappearing, fish stocks are collapsing and the coral reefs are dying.” And this is on a good day. I’m still trying to figure out the part about the asteroid wiping out the dinosaurs. One asteroid got ‘em all? And non-Christians laugh at Christians who believe the Flood actually occurred.
At any rate, Lomborg sets the stage for the remainder of his book when he says the following about the Litany: “We know the Litany and have heard it so often that yet another repetition is, well, almost reassuring. There is just one problem: it does not seem to be backed up by the available evidence.” As we move forward, we will have more occasions to return to Beisner, Lomborg, the works of Driessen, Spencer, and others.
The ECI’s first claim reads: “Human-Induced Climate Change is Real.” This is otherwise known as “truth by declaration.” These folks put forward the thesis that “Since 1995 there has been general agreement among those in the scientific community most seriously engaged with this issue that climate change is happening and is being caused mainly by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels.” (CC, 2.) Taken at face value, this is a false statement. First, it is fallacious to assert that there has been “general agreement” since 1995, unless we want to include the non-scientific communities of politicians and media wonks.
Who doesn’t want to be the reporter that breaks the story that the world will end tomorrow, in a week, in six months, a year, or as Al Gore asserts, in about six years? If Al had not failed theology, he would, no doubt, have been among the ranks of those who predicted the return of Jesus.
On the other hand, I concur that scientists agree that climate change is happening. The rub comes, however, when a number of scientists tell us that climate change is a constant. Climate fluctuations have been around a very, very long time, changing, for example, Greenland from a lush farming community to being so cold that all the farmers either left or died out. So, sure, climate change is a reality. What the debate is about today is what causes climate change. That is to say, in times when America burned far, far less fossil fuels why were there very hot periods of time, especially if the argument is against greenhouse gases.Beisner’s report reminds us that “a number of studies support the conclusion that natural causes—e.g. fluctuations in solar output, changes in cloud forming, and precipitation microphysics—could outweigh human CO2 emissions as causes of the current global warmth.” This does not sound nearly as alarmist as the media would prefer, but it does offer a reasoned and reasonable alternative to going off half-cocked. My question is: are Warren, Hybels, Wallis, McLaren and others willing to listen to the other side or are their minds already made up? You need to realize that there is a great deal more at stake here than just winning a debate. The factors in the discussions surrounding the environment involve money—a lot of money. There is money in the forms of grants as well as tons of taxpayer dollars being sent to deal with the poor in developing and Third World countries. We need to look at the Claims of ECI less emotionally, but none the less passionately.
 Bjørn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, (NY: The Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 3.
 New Scientist, 2001:1. Emphasis mine.
 Lomborg, TSE, 4.
 Beisner, Call, 2-3.
Labels: Global Warming/Climate Change