Eliminating Fossil Fuels to Protect Unborn Babies: An Evangelical Case or Pro-Life Deceit?

(Photo: Courtesy of Alexei Laushkin)Evangelical Environmental Network President and CEO, the Rev. Mitch Hescox, along with Kristen Hayes and Alexei Laushkin participate in March for Life, on Jan. 25, 2013.

An ongoing debate between evangelical groups on whether eliminating pollution and providing clean electricity over fossil fuels can be considered a "pro-life issue" has reached North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory's doorstep.

Groups such as the Evangelical Environmental Network and Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, along with 15,000 pro-life Christians in North Carolina, have petitioned to McCrory and other elected officials, urging them to aim for achieving 100 percent clean electricity in the state by 2030 as part of its Pro-Life Clean Energy Campaign.

However, E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., founder and national spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, told CP in a separate interview, that the Pro-Life Clean Energy plan is a "deceptive campaign" that has been been criticized by a number of pro-life leaders.

Beisner pointed to a statement signed by over 30 pro-life leaders in February 2012, including the Rev. Bryan Fischer, Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association, and Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List, which states that there are a number of fundamental principles that distinguish what they called "truly pro-life issues," such as abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem cell research, from environmental issues.

The leaders said that the true pro-life issues are "issues of actual life and death, while environmental issues tend to be matters of health." They added that true pro-life issues address "actual intent to kill innocent people, whether the unborn, the gravely ill, or the aged, while environmental issues do not."

In their petition, the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) and Young Evangelicals for Climate Action state that pollution causes lifetime damage to unborn babies, and so it is vital for energy production to focus entirely on renewable resources, like wind and solar.

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Rev. Mitch Hescox is President & CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network in New Freedom, PA.

EEN President and CEO the Rev. Mitch Hescox told The Christian Post that Christians are called to be pro-life in all parts of their walk with Jesus Christ.

"In John 10:10, Jesus states that he came to provide abundant life. In Matthew 25, Jesus also commands us to care for the least of these. We believe in a consistent whole life theology and we're not alone," Hescox told CP.

He pointed to Pope Francis' address to Congress in September 2015, when the Roman Catholic Church leader declared that "the Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development."

Hescox continued: "Being a Christian for us means being pro-life is all aspects of living. That's why, for us, creation care is a matter of life. Each time we willingly or even unknowingly foul God's wonderful creation it often comes back to harming life."

He added that the argument has received support from The National Association of Evangelicals and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"As pro-life evangelicals, we want children to be born healthy, unhindered by the ravages of pollution even before they take their first breath. The medical community has long known the environmental impacts on our unborn children."

But in an update last month in which even more pro-life leaders joined in, the Cornwall Alliance argued that the EEN has been exaggerating the harmful effects of things such as mercury pollution.
The group also warned that EEN's campaign could risk "siphoning off activists from the real pro-life movement into a different movement," which could support population control by way of government-run family planning programs that include abortion.

"This doesn't mean we should ignore environmental risks. It does mean combating them should not be portrayed as pro-life. Genuinely pro-life people will usually desire to reduce other risks as well — guided by cost/benefit analysis. But to call those issues 'pro-life' is to obscure the meaning of the term," Cornwall Alliance argued.

"Instead of disguising their desired policies as pro-life, environmental advocates need to make the case for them honestly and above board, by credible analysis of risks and benefits. They should cease claiming the pro-life banner. That is at best badly misinformed, at worst dishonest," the statement added.

(Photo: Reuters)Detroit Edison's Trenton Channel Power Plant is seen in Trenton.

As for the question of whether some levels of pollution and non-clean energy can be justified in order to provide opportunity and support for poorer human populations, Hescox said that the best way for increasing the quality of life and developing economic vitality for people around the world is through turning "energy poverty to energy prosperity."

"As a parent, I often told my children after making a mistake, 'You can't change the past but you can change the future.' The same is true for generating electricity," he added.

Hescox pointed to an October 2015 Bloomberg article, which argues that it has "never made less sense to build fossil fuel power plants," and noted that since 2000, the amount of global electricity produced by solar power has doubled seven times over, while wind power has doubled four times.

The article contends that fossil fuels have been hit by declining investment, with Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries reducing demand for almost a decade, and with only developing countries with rapidly expanding energy demands still adding coal at a slowing rate.

"The majority world is deploying renewables over old-fashioned fossil-fuel power," Hescox said, adding that most financial institutions are viewing fossil fuels as a poor investment.

"The World Bank, numerous European nations, and the United States are limiting capital for coal and other fossil fuels. All of them are agreeing with us that the real cost of coal generating electricity already exceeds other generation methods," he added.

He also pointed to market based solutions, such as M-Kopa Solar, which operates in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania by taking advantage of current conditions and allowing African families the opportunity to have a solar system installed, which provides for long-term improved quality of life.

Hescox argued that pro-life Christians must lead the charge on clean energy, declaring that it is "time to stop poisoning the womb and our environment and create a cleaner, brighter future for our children, free from pollution."

"We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform how we create electricity for our homes and businesses — not with the old, dirty, outdated, wasteful approaches from the past, like coal-burning power plants run by state-sanctioned monopolies — but with clean, new, innovative approaches like those powered by sunshine, such as rooftop solar, owned by families and individuals," he added.

The argument that renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels is only a minority view among energy experts, who assert that renewables are only economically viable when heavily subsidized and supported by more reliable energy infrastructure.

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E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D.,is the founder and national spokesman for The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

Beisner argues that major institutions, including even the pro-climate-control United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have climate-and-economy models revealing that economic growth is maximized by the use of abundant, affordable, reliable energy from fossil fuels, compared to the "much more diffuse, expensive, and intermittent/unreliable renewables."

The Cornwall Alliance founder shared numerous writings, including an open letter by the organization in 2015 addressing President Barack Obama and other government leaders, reminding them that right until the last two-and-a-half centuries, the ordinary condition of humankind consisted of severe poverty, widespread hunger, rampant disease, and short life spans.

"These tragedies are normal when human beings act and are treated as if they were mere animals, which need to submit to nature. The Judeo-Christian heritage (Genesis 1:28; 2:15), in agreement with common sense, teaches instead that human beings are exceptional, able to rule over nature, freeing ourselves from poverty and hunger to live long and healthy lives," the letter stated.

It reminded leaders of how fossil and nuclear fuels have helped free people from the basic tasks of survival by replacing animal and human muscle and low-density energy sources like wood, dung, and other biofuels, as well as providing the reliability needed to support low-density, intermittent wind and solar energy.

The Cornwall Alliance argued that empirical evidence suggests that continuing to use fossil fuels will not cause the type of "catastrophic warming" that some people fear, arguing that computer climate simulations of the warming effect of enhanced atmospheric carbon dioxide have played a large part in creating that fear — but noted that such models have not yet been validated by real-world observation.

The group argued that climate change is "overwhelmingly natural and cyclical," and that human contribution to it is "slight and not dangerous."

It warned that attempts to reduce human contribution by reducing CO2 emissions would bring more harm than good, and insisted that the use of fossil fuels is "necessary to provide the abundant, affordable, reliable energy indispensable to lifting and keeping societies out of poverty."

Both the EEN and The Cornwall Alliance provide a plethora of further facts and figures on the fossil fuels and clean electricity debate on their respective websites.