Sunday 26 May 2013

Christians on the climate consensus

Dan Kahan thinks that John Cook and colleagues should shut up about the climate consensus; the consensus among climatologists that the Earth is warming and human action is the main cause. Kahan claims that research shows that talking about consensus is:
a style of advocacy that is more likely to intensify opposition ... then [to] ameliorate it
It sounds as if his main argument is that Cook efforts are counter productive because Cook is not an American Republican, which is hard to fix.

Katryn Hayhoe

As an example of how you communicate climate science the right way, Kahan mentions Katryn Hayhoe as an example. Hayhoe is an evangelical climate change researcher and stars in three beautifully made videos where Hayhoe talks about God and climate change.

Except that she also talks about her religion, I personally see no difference with any other message for the general public on climate change. She also openly speaks about the disinformation campaign by the climate ostriches.
The most frustrating thing about her position, she says, is the amount of disinformation which is targeted at her very own Christian community.
Maybe naively, but I was surprised that the Christian community is a special target. While I am not a Christian myself, my mother was a wise environmentally concious woman and a devout Christian. Also when in comes to organized religion, I remember mainly expressions of concern about climate change. Thus I thought that Christians are a positive, maybe even activist, force with respect to climate change.

Thus let's have look what the Christian Churches think about climate change.

Evangelical Church in Germany

As I life in Germany, let's first have a look at the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (Evangelical Church in Germany), which is the democratic umbrella organisation of the non-catholic churches with 24 million members. They write in their annual book (link in German) titled "Justice V: People, Climate, Future. Roads to a just World, Social justice and climate justice belong together":
Climate change is the key environmental, social and peace-relevant challenge of the 21st Century - Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation will not be possible without limiting climate change.
German original:
Der Klimawandel ist die zentrale ökologische, soziale und friedenspolitische Herausforderung des 21. Jahrhunderts – Gerechtigkeit, Frieden und Bewahrung der Schöpfung werden ohne Begrenzung des Klimawandels nicht möglich sein.
In the clinical words of Cook et al. (2013) this would be an "implicit endorsement of human-caused global warming".

Dutch Counsel of Churches

I was born in The Netherlands. Most Dutch churches are organised in the Dutch Counsel of Churches (Raad van Kerken in Nederland). They have a subsidiary group on church and environment (in Dutch). In an official statement on climate change they write:
The climate change problem call for inventiveness, for radical proposals to change.
Dutch original:
Het probleem van de klimaatverandering vraagt om vindingrijkheid, om radicale voorstellen tot verandering.

Which I would judge to be "implicit endorsement".

Conference of European Churches

The Conference of European Churches is a fellowship of some 120 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, plus 40 associated organisations.
In a press release issued before their 13th Assembly in Lyon in 2009 they write jointly with the Catholic Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE):
Securing a stable climate is one of the most pressing moral and political challenges of the twenty-first century. Failure to address this challenge would amount to a moral failure on the part of humanity as a whole.
Which I would again judge to be implicit endorsement.

World Council of Churches

According to their homepage: "The World Council of Churches (WCC) brings together churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 500 million Christians and including most of the world's Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches. At the end of 2012, there were 345 member churches."

One of their main activities is Care for Creation and Climate Justice.
Care for creation and justice are at the centre of WCC work on climate change. The Bible teaches the wholeness of creation and calls human beings to take care of the garden of Eden (Gen 2:15). ... When creation is threatened, churches and Christians are called to speak out and act as an expression of their commitment to life, justice and love.
I would say: "implicit endorsement".

Catholic Church

The position of the Catholic Church is made clear in the third encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate.

As an aside, in it Pope Benedict makes an unnecessary strange attack against atheists:
When nature, including the human being, is viewed as the result of mere chance or evolutionary determinism, our sense of responsibility wanes.
I would personally claim that from an evolutionary position nature is very precious. If a species goes extinct you are destroying billions of years of development and it is lost forever in the evolutionary view. In the creation view, you just destroy two days of work and God could recreate it any time.

On climate change he is clear. In paragraph 50, he writes about the obligation of international leaders to protect the climate.
the protection of the environment, of resources and of the climate obliges all international leaders to act jointly and to show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet.
Implicit endorsement.

Climate consensus

If Dan Kahan is right, this post should be a convincing way to communicate the climate consensus. I am curious and would not mind seeing the number of readers to disinformation blogs such as WUWT going down further. It would be great if the word sceptic again stands for someone who is also critical about his own ideas. Without disinformation, the public debate about the pros and the cons of the various mitigation and adaptation measures will be much more productive.

The disparity of opinions between the American evangelical Christians and the rest of the Christian world, suggests that Christian exchange programs could be a good way to tackle climate change denial.

It would be highly appreciated if you could add the positions of your national Churches below.

Further reading

Katharine Hayhoe - Climate Science and Christianity
The Inquiring Minds podcast (Chris Mooney) interviews Hayhoe after being on Years of Living Dangerously and after being named one of the 100 most influential people of 2014 by Time magazine.
Climate, Politics, and Religion
Katharine Hayhoe explains that it is politics not religion that drives climate denial and how to effectively talk to such people.
A responsibility for sustainability — These people want you to know climate change isn’t just for liberals
Good article in Ars Technica on conservatives and Christians caring about climate change.
Creation Care
The homepage of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN). They seek to "equip, inspire, disciple, and mobilize God's people in their effort to care for God's creation".
Pale Blue Dot
A Baptist describes how a change in perspective can make you see how precious and valuable the Earth is.
The Guardian: Just what is it with evangelical Christians and global warming?
Discussion of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, the need for "creation care" and speculative global warming.
Reddit, Christianity: Why are conservative evangelicals against climate change?
Interesting discussion among Christians.
Limbaugh: ‘If You Believe In God, Then Intellectually You Cannot Believe In Manmade Global Warming’
In response to a quote of Rush Limbaugh, ClimateProgress lists American Christian groups that think and accept climate science.
Christians Care About the Earth Too: Earth Day Reads From the Creation Care Movement
Some good books from the Creation Care movement, which is rooted in God's Gensis 2:15 command to tend the earth.
Ethics and public perception of climate change: Exploring the Christian voices in the US public debate
A scientific article that analyses the climate debate between US Christians.
American Christian environmental groups
GreenFaith, Care of Creation, the Evangelical Environmental Network, the Green Seminaries Initiative, and the Evangelical Climate Initiative.


  1. Many churches from around the world have supported the Interfaith Declaration on climate change.

    We recognize the science of climate change, and we call for global leaders to adopt strong, binding, science-based targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases in order to avert the worst dangers of a climate crisis. We urge the nations of Earth to ensure that those who will suffer under climate- induced changes such as more severe storms, floods, droughts and rising seas, be aided to adapt, survive and equitably prosper.

    We recognize that climate change is not merely an economic or technical problem, but rather at its core is a moral, spiritual and cultural one. We therefore pledge to join together to teach and guide the people who follow the call of our faiths. We must all learn to live together within the shared limits of our planet.

  2. The evangelicals proof the pope wrong.

    1. Let's formulate that more positively. The Evangelical position is an outlier in the Christian World. Thus it is likely not a matter of religion, but of politics. Which is a good thing: It is easier to change a detail political idea as a religious dogma.

      Accepting the science, does not mean you have to agree with a gasoline tax of X dollars or whatever. There is still a debate on the risks, costs and advantages of the various policy options in between. If most people would agree upon the basic scientific facts, that would make it easier to talk with each other.

    2. It is easier to change a detail political idea as a religious dogma.

      Especially when people start to realise that their political ideas conflict with their religious duties.

  3. Ironically, John Cook is also a committed Christian, and sees his involvement in climate science as an extension of his faith.

    1. Why doesn't that surprise me? It was very easy finding the above quotes. Christians outside of the USA seem to be quite activist about it and very outspoken.

      Strange that people who claim to be "evangelical Christians" seem to care more about political ideology as about faith.

      So Cook should only work a little on his accent and he would be a credible communicator according to Dan Kahan?

    2. People like Al Gore (and Margaret Thatcher) talked about "keeping the planet in trust for our children", and there is a Green/ "preserving God's Creation" wing to American Christianity. Some of the others call that a heresy, and there is the Cornwall Alliance, who use the Parable of the Talents to justify burning all the fossil fuels.

      I think Kahan thinks Hayhoe is a great communicator because affirming her values is part of the communication. Maybe that is where "An Inconvenient Truth" also succeeded. However, Hayhoe would not talk like that when delivering a conference paper, and the problem is that the science conference "style" is found to be dry, formal and didactic by the public.

      So scientists need to adapt their style to the situation ... I think some have learned that the hard way. But Steven Schneider pointed the way when he asked scientists to be both effective and honest.

    3. You mean a rap like this? :-)
      h/t HotWopper.

      I'm A Climate Scientist

      It also illustrates the problem with a looser style. They rap: "We're scientists, what we speak is True." Which is okay to say among real living people, but wrong among scientists, at least during working hours.

      On this blog I try to write less formal, but that is difficult. I am speaking here as a scientist and thus kinda represent the scientific community. Thus every statement should be right as well, which makes it harder to cut corners to make a text easier to understand. Just a few days ago, I warned a journalist that something he wrote was wrong. He answered, he knew, but did not want his article to make a detour in an additional topic.

  4. The National Council Of Churches in Australia representing The following churches...

    The Anglican Church of Australia
    The Lutheran Church of Australia
    The Antiochian Orthodox Church
    The Religious Society of Friends
    The Armenian Apostolic Church
    The Roman Catholic Church
    The Assyrian Church of the East
    The Romanian Orthodox Church
    The Churches of Christ
    The Salvation Army
    The Congregational Federation of Australia
    The Syrian Orthodox Church
    The Coptic Orthodox Church
    The Uniting Church in Australia
    The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia

    ...has the following as part of a longer statement and call for action.

    "All of us are aware that our planet's health and vitality are decaying. In the twentieth century, the human impact on the earth increased enormously. In the last thirty years alone, human activity has destroyed many of the planet's natural resources. Climate change, flooding, salination, habitat destruction, desertification, pollution, urban expansion, and famine have all played their part. A large number of species have become extinct. Many more are in danger of extinction. One billion people now suffer from a shortage of fresh water. Scientists have said the web of life is unravelling."

    American evangelicals are so distinct from the mainstream Christian community that they could be called "radicalised" with their views corresponding with that of far right wing politicians. Given the way they war monger and call for a laissez faire approach to gun ownership etc one can only wonder what Jesus would say?

    1. Thank you!

      What would Jesus do? The American Evangelicals seem to read the Old Testament more than the New Testament and seem not to care much about Jesus.

  5. I predict that sometime in the near future the Christian world community, which seems in complete agreement that humanity is evil and causing the earths climate to change in ways which will be detrimental to all life, will forget about climate alarmism and act like it never happened.

    Especially once they realize that climate alarmism is more of a competing faith than anything else.

    Just consider the last time your heard a climate denier spouting off. Remember how you felt but you couldn't quite put your finger on exactly why he was wrong? Remember how deeply offended you were by his comments?

    You felt this way because he was speaking heresy.

    Climate alarmism is a faith. Wake up.



    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    3. Klem, I have removed your comment as it did not contain any arguments. My apologies for the word game on your name. I have deleted my comment as well and repost the arguments without that sentence below.

    4. You hear similar predictions more often from climate "sceptics". I wonder where that come from. The good news is, the "sceptic" community is in decline.

      Is that why you comment? To offend people? Go play outside!

      I do not remember ever being offended. Wonder may be a better word. Wonder at the lack of shame of some people. The same people that discuss their private life on their mobile phones at a tone that makes sure that everyone within 10m will understand everything clearly. The same wonder I felt as a woman in the train explained her husband on the phone that he was weak, that he is the boss and it was his job to mob a female employee away. In a volume that the entire compartment could hear it.

      There will always be such fools, you cannot avoid it. No one will ever be able to convince them. There is no way to reach them with reason. They are best ignored.

      Unfortunately, there are currently still too many believers in this nonsense. Consequently ignoring is currently no option and we have to waste our precious life time on making clear that the "sceptics" lie and misinform.

  6. Episcopal Church of the United States (Anglican Communion )

    "Scientists have been studying human impacts on our global biosphere for decades, and today there is clear consensus about the effects of these gases on the mean temperature of the planet. There are a few very loud voices who insist this is only “natural variation,” but the data do not lie. Those voices are often driven by greed and self-centered political interests, and sometimes by willful blindness. The Judeo-Christian tradition has always called those motivations sinful. It is decidedly wrong to use resources that have been given into our collective care in ways that diminish the ability of others to share in abundant life. It is equally wrong to fail to use resources of memory, reason, and skill to discern what is going on in the world around us. That has traditionally been called a sin of omission."

    Keynote address for 30 Days of Action The Most Rev. Katharine Jeffers Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate

    "We are united as Christian leaders in our concern for the well-being of our neighbors and of God’s good creation that provides life and livelihood for all God’s creatures. Daily we see and hear the evidence of a rapidly changing climate. Glaciers are disappearing, the polar ice cap is melting, and sea levels are rising. Incidents of pollution created dead zones in seas and the ocean and toxic algae growth in water supplies are occurring with greater frequency. Most disturbingly, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising at an unprecedented rate. At the same time we also witness in too many instances how the earth’s natural beauty, a sign of God’s wonderful creativity, has been defiled by pollutants and waste"

    Pastoral Message, 2014


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