- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 30, 2006

What would Jesus do? Or as one evangelical group has said — “What would Jesus drive?” — in response to the biblical command to be proper stewards of the Earth.

Although no one quite knows the answer, global warming is beginning to heat up in the evangelical community.

On Tuesday, the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance (ISA) released a document endorsed by more than 100 evangelical theologians, pastors, climatologists and economists that criticized the claims of the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI).

ECI, sponsored by 86 evangelical leaders, released a statement in February titled “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action.” The document listed four claims that trouble ISA:

cHuman-induced climate change is real.

• The consequences of climate change will be significant and will hit the poor the hardest.

• Christian moral convictions demand our response to the climate change problem.

• The need to act now is urgent. Governments, businesses, churches and people all have a role to play in addressing climate change, starting now.

ECI’s February statement — signed by evangelical leaders such as the Rev. Rick Warren, the Rev. Jim Wallis and the Rev. Brian McLaren — did not name any legislation but did list several guidelines, including a recommendation for mandatory reductions to carbon-dioxide emissions.

“The purpose of ECI is a very practical one,” said Jim Jewell, the group’s spokesman. “It is an attempt to rally evangelicals around the very real need to solve global warming and a call on Congress to pass legislation accomplishing this.”

But E. Calvin Beisner, spokesman for ISA, said ECI’s proposal included little scientific data or authoritative literature.

“To sign on to ECI’s statement, you had to simply trust what was put before you. At ISA, we have tried to present the actual data,” Mr. Beisner said at a press conference last week. “There is not consensus that global warming is either catastrophic or human-induced.”

Kenneth Chilton, director of the Institute for the Study of Economics and the Environment at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., said that although ECI’s motivation to help the poor was commendable, its proposal to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions would do more harm for the poor than good.

“If we make energy costs higher, the poor are hit the hardest,” Mr. Chilton said at the press conference. “If there is a real problem, the only real way out is improved technology.”

Mr. Chilton also cautioned ECI supporters about presuming that human activity or government-mandated reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions would have much of an effect on climate change. In particular, he criticized the Kyoto Protocol, an environmental treaty that calls for reductions in carbon-dioxide output.

“It is costly and ineffective,” Mr. Chilton said. “In half a century, we would only see a decrease of 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit, if we were lucky.”

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