WASHINGTON – Climate change took center stage in the political and religious arenas on Thursday when both President Bush and evangelical leaders discussed the issue and potential global responses at two separate events both occurring in Washington.
At the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, Bush brought climate change to the forefront of national concern, making a rare address about greenhouse gases while nearby evangelical leaders debated the threat of global warming.
Bush announced his intent to propose international meetings among countries producing the most greenhouse gases to develop a long-term strategy to reduce emissions by the end of 2008 at the Group of Eight summit in Germany next week.
"The United States takes this issue seriously," Bush said, according to The Associated Press. "The new initiative I'm outlining today will contribute to the important dialogue that will take place in Germany next week."
He is urging nations to invest more money on new technologies for "clean energy," according to USA Today.
New energy technologies listed by Bush include "clean coal," "clean, safe nuclear power," ethanol and battery-powered and hydrogen-power vehicles.
Though significant in showing the administration's willingness to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the proposal came under criticism for not offering and asking for specific commitments, which critics say will lead to no results.
"We don't need more talk," said Ann Mesnikoff of the Sierra Club, according to The Associated Press,
Elsewhere, evangelical Christians met to discuss the cause and threat of climate change from a religious perspective.
At the headquarters of the Family Research Council, the Rev. Jim Ball - president of the Evangelical Environmental Network and the national coordinator of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, a network that includes prominent leaders such as Rick Warren and Bill Hybels – held the position that human activities are mainly responsible for the warming of the earth over the last few decades.
The United States is the world's leading producer of greenhouse gases. And new evidence indicates human activities are "very likely" the cause of most global warming, according to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"Our Christian moral convictions demand our response," Ball said, according to Cybercast News Service (CNS). "We have a tremendous opportunity to walk faithfully with the risen Lord" by alleviating climate change.
However, Calvin Beisner, professor of historical theology at Knox Theological Seminary and national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, countered Ball's position, arguing that although human activities contribute to climate change they are overall insignificant.
He also said that global warming while harmful in some ways is also helpful to the growth of crops and other vegetation because of the increase levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
"Added carbon dioxide from fossil fuels isn't pollution," he said. "It's the solution to human poverty."
He argued that government mandates to reduce carbon dioxide emission "would do more harm then good."
"Because energy is an essential component of economic production, reducing its use and driving up its costs will slow economic development in poor countries, reduce overall productivity and increase costs of all goods including the food, clothing, shelter, and other goods most essential to the poor," Beisner said.
Religious communities have increasingly become involved in the global warming debate – most notably at an event earlier this year when prominent evangelicals including the National Association of Evangelicals' vice president for governmental affairs, the Rev. Richard Cizik, joined forces with top scientists to raise awareness and advocate for stronger action on climate change.
In March, soon after the event, however, more than a dozen leading evangelical leaders such as Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Gary Bauer of Coalitions for America filed a complaint to the NAE board urging it to take action against its Cizik for his global warming advocacy.
While NAE's president, the Rev. Leith Anderson, said that the board did not specifically respond to the letter during its bi-annual meeting in March, it did reaffirm a 2004 paper that listed creation care as an evangelical responsibility.
The 2004 paper, "For the Health of the Nations," detailed seven areas of civic responsibilities of evangelicals: sanctity of life, nurturing the family, compassion for the poor, religious freedom, human rights, inhibiting violence, and creation care.