NAE won’t Tackle Global Warming

The Washington Post reports on the latest from the National Association of Evangelicals on the subject of climate change:

The National Association of Evangelicals said yesterday that it has been unable to reach a consensus on global climate change and will not take a stand on the issue, disappointing environmentalists who had hoped that evangelical Christians would prod the Bush administration to soften its position on global warming.

…Calvin DeWitt, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin who is a leading evangelical supporter of environmental causes, called the statement “a retreat and a defeat.”

It isn’t, though, much of a surprise. The Religion News Service reported back on the 19th:

The Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for government affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, said the NAE is not planning to take a position on the issue.

“The NAE was never going to adopt a policy on climate change,” he said. “Like on a lot of issues, evangelical leaders are across the board on this subject and have a variety of views.”

Cizik was responding to a letter urging the NAE not to take a position. More than twenty evangelical leaders had signed it; the Post lists some:

The letter’s signers amounted to a Who’s Who of politically powerful evangelicals, including Charles W. Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; James C. Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family; the Rev. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries; the Rev. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention; Richard Roberts, president of Oral Roberts University; Donald E. Wildmon, chairman of the American Family Association; and the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition.

As I noted on this blog a few months ago, the NAE has in recent years been taking a stronger line on the environment, since coming into contact with British evangelical scientists such as Sir John Houghton, who has served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This has caused some controversy – the NAE has been criticized in particular by senator James Inhofe, who believes that global warming is a massive conspiracy cooked up by feminists and homosexuals.

The RNS adds the detail that the letter was

circulated by the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, a new Washington-based coalition that in November issued a report that challenged the idea that there is a scientific consensus on climate change.

The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance may be new, but it’s basically a re-launch of the now-defunct Interfaith Council for Environmental Stewardship (ICES, see Wayback), which was founded by the Ayn Randian Roman Catholic priest Robert Sirico back in 1999; many of the same people are involved. Bill Berkowitz profiled the ICES in 2000 (link added):

In October 1999, 25 economists, environmental scientists, and policy experts convened in West Cornwall, Connecticut, and hammered out the Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship. The Cornwall Declaration, the founding document of ICES, is the first major pronouncement on environmental issues by a coalition of conservative religious groups. The Declaration prioritizes the needs of humans over nature, advocates the unleashing of free-market forces to resolve environmental problems, and denounces the environmental movement for embracing faulty science and a gloom-and-doom approach.

…The Declaration’s signers are a veritable Who’s Who of the Religious Right. Among them: Focus on the Family president James Dobson; Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright; Prison Fellowship Ministries’ head Charles Colson; the Rev. Donald Wildmon, president of the American Family Association; Rabbi Daniel Lapin of Toward Tradition; and [Fr Robert] Sirico.

…Dr. Kennedy, a leader in the anti-gay movement and an outspoken denier of separation of church and state, says, “if ever an issue needed sound Biblical Doctrine brought to bear upon it, it’s the environment, and the Interfaith Council for Environmental Stewardship, through its Cornwall Declaration accomplishes this.”

And, as we could have guessed, James Kennedy wielding a Bible is going to be more than a match for a bunch of evangelical scientists – no matter how many qualifications and knighthoods they might have.

UPDATE: As has been now widely reported, more than eighty evangelical leaders (including Rick Warren) have signed an opposing statement expressing the importance of acting to prevent global warming.

(Hat tip: Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life)