The popular media claim that evangelical churches are climate deniers. They caricature them as anti-scientific and ignorant.
Though many believe this to be a fact, the reality is far from it. Not only are these accusations false, they are illogical. Here is why.
What is Climate Denialism?
Before deciding on whether a church is a climate denier or not, it is critical to shed light on what it means to be a climate denier.
Not long ago, the term “climate denier” was used to define someone who does not believe in climate change, i.e., one who believes that there has been no change in the climate at all. However, the percentage of people who believe in “no change” was never large and is almost nil today.
Today, the term “climate denier” is used to define those who do not believe in dangerous human-induced climate change, also known as catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW).
These are people who either believe that the warming is not predominantly caused by humans or that it does not pose catastrophic problems to our environment. They are better described as “climate realists” or “climate skeptics.”
In other words, the term “climate denier” now refers to people who believe in climate change but not the hyper-sensationalized version promoted by politicians and Hollywood actors.
But the climate doomsayers have used the term coarsely without defining it. Even worse, the mainstream media have made the public believe that skeptics and realists believe in “no change” in climate.
Why then are evangelical churches branded climate deniers?
These churches have not taken any position on the issue of climate change. Instead, they appear to be largely neutral.
Nonetheless, doomsayers claim that evangelical Christians’ attitude towards climate change is determined by their religious beliefs, not by science.
They say that Christians don’t care about the environment because they believe in God’s sovereignty over His creation, implying that humans could do no great harm to the environment even if they tried.
But these claims are not true, and they arise from a wrong interpretation of Christian theology. Contrary to public perception, Christians are well aware of the need to care for the environment.
The Biblical stewardship of the environment is one of the central commands given by God to His people. In fact, this command forms the basis for laws that protect nature, laws that a naturalistic or materialistic worldview cannot justify.
The Christian call is to help human life flourish and to protect the environment and the creatures in it. Nowhere does Scripture call for ill treatment of nature or abuse of living organisms.
This stands in contrast to some of the radical environmental policies put forward by doomsayers, which aim at stalling human development through restrictive energy policies and constraining access to natural resources.
So, if churches and individual Christians are called to save the environment, why are they quiet about the “dangers” from climate change? The answer lies in the difference between the actual state of our climate system and the doomsday politics surrounding it.
The Actual Climate Reality
All climate scientists and researchers, including me, completely agree that the climate has been changing throughout earth’s history.
However, not all of us believe that humans have induced warming to dangerous levels, or soon will. Scientists disagree with each other on a number of key issues: the proportion of human contribution to the ongoing warming, the causes behind and the magnitude of the current warming trend, and the dynamic climate history.
The “97 percent scientific consensus” claim about CAGW so often repeated by the mainstream media is bogus and has been discredited many times.
Hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific journals challenging the CAGW hypothesis are published every year, but the mainstream media never publicize them.
Recent global temperature levels (1999–2018) indicate that carbon dioxide emissions from human activity have little to no measurable effect on rising temperatures.
This became evident when the computer climate models used by climate scientists failed to predict the apparent slowdown in warming during the past two decades. Yet despite their failure, the very same models are currently being used to inform us about future temperature levels.
The “12-year doomsday deadline” and the “death of millions of species” that you see in the headlines are based on these shoddy climate models that even staunch doomsayers have acknowledged to be erroneous.
Moreover, the church itself has been through climate phases in the past that were similar to the present-day warmth. The Roman Warm Period and Medieval Warm Period (during the 1st and 10th centuries A.D.) were remarkably similar to the Modern Warm Period (18th century to present).
So, Christians who are aware of both climate history and church history know that the current warming is not unprecedented and that the human role, if anything, is minimal.
The lack of warming in recent years, the hypothetical forecasts based on erroneous computer models, and the visibly divided academia—all make a strong case against jumping onto the doomsday bandwagon.
Christians have rightly exerted caution on this matter by staying neutral. Among Christians, there are both alarmists and skeptics. A few are determined to make the church join the doomsday cult movement, while others espouse climate realism, which proposes an evidence-based approach to climate science.
The church by no means is a climate denier, and Christians (genuinely Christ-centered disciples) are lovers of environment, not destroyers of it.
Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in Bangalore, India.