Evangelicals, scientists join to combat global warming


BOSTON (AP) – Leading scientists and evangelical Christian leaders have agreed to put aside passionate differences over the origin of life and work together to curb alarming levels of global warming that threaten the survival of life on Earth.

Representatives met recently in Georgia and agreed on the need for urgent action to drive down growing environmental degradation.

Details on the talks will be unveiled in Washington on Wednesday, according to a joint statement.

“Whether God created the Earth in a millisecond or whether it evolved over billions of years, the issue we agree on is that it needs to be cared for today,” said Rich Cizik, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents 45,000 churches.

Eric Chivian, director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School agreed, saying, “scientists and evangelicals have discovered that we share a deeply felt common concern and sense of urgency about threats to life on Earth, and that we must speak with one voice to protect it.”

Chivian and Cizik, who both participated in the talks, declined further comment beyond their written statements.

In February 2006, 86 evangelical leaders signed a statement to fight global warming, saying human-induced climate change is real, its consequences will hit the poor the hardest and Christian moral convictions demand urgent response to the problem.

They argued that governments, businesses, churches and individuals all have a role to play.

Signatories included presidents of evangelical colleges, aid groups, churches and pastors of megachurches.

The powerful National Association of Evangelicals, however, did not join the initiative. It is unclear whether Cizik’s involvement in the new campaign will convince the organization to adopt environmental conservation as a central agenda.

Evangelicals and scientists previously failed to launch a large-scale joint initiative partly because they focused more on differences between evolutionary science and a literal interpretation of the Bible – a rift dating back to Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

Those who met in Georgia, however, are expected to argue that the threat to life on Earth is too great to let the rift prevent them from working together to combat greenhouse emissions that lead to global warming.

“Scientists and religious leaders really make a powerful team. They both start and end as truth seekers, they are both rooted in ethics and morals,” said Kevin Knobloch, head of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which did not take part in the consultations. “Scientists speak and apply facts to understand the amazing miracle of life, and clergy seek and apply faith and spirituality in the same quest.”

The development reinforces a momentum created by former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,” California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s environmental policies and businesses that are increasingly responding to public concerns over the problem, said Katie Mandes, spokeswoman for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

“The momentum is building, and consensus among groups such as these – the religious and scientists – can only help,” Mandes said.

Speakers at the Wednesday announcement will include megachurch Pastor Joel Hunter, who refused to take the leadership of Christian Coalition of America because the organization wouldn’t let him expand its agenda to include the environment and poverty.

Others are Harvard biologist and two-time Pulitzer prize winner Edward O. Wilson, and NASA scientist James E. Hansen who came under fire from the White House after a December 2005 lecture in which he called for urgent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to slow global warming.

“The evangelicals have a lot of clout on the conservative side of the political spectrum and their voice would be a very welcome one,” said Jim Presswood of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “To the extent that they weight in, they only make that point clear that this is something we need to deal with because it is the right thing to do.”

On the Net:

Evangelical Climate Initiative: http://www.christiansandclimate.org/

Union of Concerned Scientists: http://www.ucsusa.org/

Natural Resources Defense Council: http://www.nrdc.org/

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change: http://www.pewclimate.org/

AP-ES-01-14-07 1322EST