WASHINGTON – The head of an evangelical environmental group welcomed a Senate committee's unprecedented vote this week to advance a climate bill to the Senate floor.
The Senate committee endorsed the bill late Wednesday after an 11-8 vote – a narrow victory that for the first time sent the comprehensive climate "cap-and-trade" bill to the full Senate for a possible vote early next year.
The Lieberman-Warner Climate bill addresses carbon emissions reductions that can help alleviate the effects of climate change. The measure would cap greenhouse gas emissions – which scientists blame for global warming – starting in 2012 and require power plants, large manufacturers and the transportation sector to gradually reduce their emissions by roughly 70 percent by 2050.
"We applaud the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for its approval of the Lieberman-Warner bill and we commend Senators Warner and Lieberman for their leadership," said the Rev. Jim Ball, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network.
Ball called global warming a "moral problem" and action to protect "God's creation," a "moral moment."
"This vote has given the American people and the world a breath of fresh winter air rather than a lump of coal, and should help inspire those at the international climate talks in Bali," he added.
Ball is one of 117 signers of the Evangelical Climate Initiative's "Call to Action," a landmark statement which declares global warming is real and mainly caused by man. The statement – which is signed by influential evangelical leaders such as Pastors Rick Warren and Bill Hybels – calls the U.S. government and citizens to take active steps to reduce carbon emissions.
The statement is one of many signs that evangelicals are a growing force in the environment protection campaign.
Earlier this year, the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), teamed up with Harvard scientists to unite scientific facts with Christian voices in creating a stronger campaign for change in energy consumption and other environmental public policies.
Cizik has since traveled around the country urging NAE member churches and Christian universities to reduce their building's energy consumption – an action he argues will both protect the environment while lowering monthly bills.
"People need to understand that creation care and the sanctity of life are both biblical principles and they overlap," said Cizik to The Christian Post in an earlier interview.
"If you are for the sanctity of life and ignore the health impact of the environment on the unborn, I think that is a limited understanding of how everything is connected in life," Cizik said.
Although abortion and same-sex "marriage" have been the traditional core issues taken up by evangelicals, a growing number of evangelical leaders are challenging their colleagues to expand the social issue agenda to include creation care, poverty, HIV/AIDS and other topics.
To Green evangelicals, the new climate change bill is a step in the right direction despite what secular or religious opponents might say. The bill is expected to be heard by the full Senate this spring.