Editor's note: This story is part of PolicyMic's Millennials Take On Climate Change series this week.
A group of 200 self-identified Evangelical scientists sent a letter to Congress last week expressing their scientific belief that climate change is real and calling for legislation to reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment. The letter, addressed to Senate Majority Leader Reid, House Speaker John Boehner and members of the United States Congress, stands as a sharp rebuttal to those members of Congress who have invoked their Christian faith to deny climate change.
All of the signatories had a Masters or doctorate in a scientific field and cited their belief in Christian teachings on compassion for the poor, as well as the increase in extreme weather events. The letter states, “The Bible tells us that 'love does no harm to its neighbor' (Romans 13:10), yet the way we live now harms our neighbors, both locally and globally. For the world's poorest people, climate change means dried-up wells in Africa, floods in Asia that wash away crops and homes, wildfires in the U.S. and Russia, loss of villages and food species in the Arctic, environmental refugees, and disease.”
The Evangelicals signed on to the letter have made it clear that the world’s poor are of primary concern as Christians, stating,“The negative consequences and burdens of a changing climate will fall disproportionately on those whom Jesus called 'the least of these': the poor, vulnerable, and oppressed.” The letter references recent extreme weather events (including the fact that 2012 was the hottest year on record) alongside Revelations.
Dr. Dorothy Boorse, one of the signers, saw a direct link between Christian values and fighting climate change. “Three basic principles in the Bible should underlie our concern about climate change,” she said. “Care for the poor, pursuit of justice, and stewardship of creation.”
Unlike these Christians, several Republicans have cited their faith to defend their climate change denial. Senator James Inhofe has said that his belief that climate change is a “hoax” is due to his Christian beliefs. He has said on Christian radio that only God can change the climate, so the belief that climate change is man made is “arrogance.” Representative Joe Barton has said that he does not believe God will flood the world again after the biblical promise made to Noah. Representative John Shimkus has made similar statements.
Indeed, there exists a profound culture of skepticism among some devout Christians. A recent LifeWay research report found that 54% of Protestant pastors don’t think climate change is real. Jim Ball, executive vice president for policy and climate change at the Evangelical Environmental Network has said that the Evangelical community’s culture of climate skepticism also comes down to a matter of trust in science — something some Christians have historically struggled with.
“There is a suspicion about science because of the debate in creation and evolution theory,” Ball said. “To have evangelical scientists, people of faith, saying to the evangelical community that you can trust this science is quite important. It’s all a matter of trust.”
Nonetheless, some in the Evangelical community are working to buildthat trust for more action on climate change. Reverend Richard Cizik, the president of the New Evangelical Partnership for Common Good has said that to “deplete our resources, to harm our world by environmental degradation, is an offense against God. That’s what the Scriptures say." Evangelical social justice groups like Sojourners have pushed for action on climate change, as has the United Church of Christ.
At least in Evangelical and GOP circles, debate about whether or not climate change is real, and whether or not believing man can harm the earth goes against Christian beliefs, continues. These 200 scientists have made it clear that they believe that their Christian values demand they take action on climate change, to protect God’s creations and the world’s poor. As Dr. Cal DeWitt said, “I am a scientist because I am a Christian.”
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