Climate Change and Evangelicals: Thou Shalt Not Fear Fossil Fuels
"The fossil fuel industry should be dismantled because it is as bad as human slavery."
That's exactly what Kathleen Henry, president of a non-profit environmental law firm argued in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She went on:
Continuing to use fossil fuels will, in fact, lead to economic collapse from the consequences of climate change. But people continue to listen to the harmful rhetoric of the fossil fuel industry... ...They must rise above this and actively support the dismantling of the fossil fuel industry just as our forebears dismantled the slavery industry.
She thinks the planet will become so uninhabitable because of man-made "climate change" that we will "face the extinction of the human race because of our continued use of coal, oil and gas."
But Henry's opinion runs contrary to that of over 31,000 scientists–9,029 with PhDs–who signed a statement saying human-induced "catastrophic heating of Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate" is unsupported by evidence.
Scientists debate whether a cease-and-desist order on burning coal or oil would save us from atmospheric apocalypse. They even debate whether carbon dioxide, the result of fossil fuel and supposed culprit of climate change, is bad or good for the environment.
As Christians, we love and embrace Jesus' commands and teachings. He taught us that the greatest commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." The second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
This is the best reason Christians should care for the environment. If I am a bad steward, my pollution or waste may hurt my neighbor and thus dishonor God. So I should not dump toxic chemicals in the water because my neighbor downstream could suffer from them.
There is a cruel irony in Henry's comparing abandoning fossil fuels with dismantling slavery. Deriving energy from fossil fuels was actually on of the most important steps toward ending slavery, both literal and figurative. If we can't get energy for farming and other kinds of work from non-human sources, of which fossil fuels are the most abundant, affordable, and reliable, we get them from human sources. The gasoline or diesel that powers a tractor or combine today replaces the sweat and toil of hundreds of slaves from two centuries ago.
Fossil fuels are currently the cheapest, surest energy sources, while "green" energies, like solar and wind, are less reliable and more expensive to use. When the cost of energy increases, the cost of everything else necessarily increases because energy goes into everything we do, and into the production of everything we eat, wear, or touch.
If more laws get passed that force people to get their energy from solar or wind, costs go up, and people are have to spend more of their disposable income to obtain it. Sadly, the people who get hurt the worst are the poor.
I'm all for finding, supporting, and developing the cleanest, best, most environmentally friendly energy ever. But unless we want people to have to pay more for heating their homes, getting to work, and feeding their children, we should not support government coercion to use alternative energy.
But someone may object, "But isn't our current level of fossil fuel consumption unsustainable?"
Scary predictions about impending oil shortages have been made over and over again since 1885. The truth is that the current known world oil reserves are far greater than they've been at any time in history. The global production of oil is higher than ever, too, and oil prices have fallen by more than half since last June.
As far as coal goes, assuming no new discoveries of coal deposits (a big assumption), at current consumption rates BP estimates there are over 100 years left of coal supplies. While still not the cleanest option, coal is currently less dirty than ever, with reductions of major pollutants by over 90% since 1970.
That's all thanks to bright minds focused on developing technologies that clean up coal, find new ways to extract oil out of the ground, and come up with better, cleaner resources altogether. That, in turn, is thanks to free market economics and, of course, the kind providences of our God who created the world and upholds the universe by the word of his power.
God put resources in the ground for our blessing in the first place. So then, let's not fret about fossil fuels.