Despite opposition from some of their colleagues, 86 evangelical Christian leaders have decided to back a major initiative to fight global warming, saying "millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors."Well, goody! Although...
The statement calls for federal legislation that would require reductions in carbon dioxide emissions through "cost-effective, market-based mechanisms" — a phrase lifted from a Senate resolution last year and one that could appeal to evangelicals, who tend to be pro-business.Although it's pleasantly surprising to see this large number of evangelicals breaking with their usual ranks and actually doing something Jesus might approve of - that is, trying to save the Earth and help the people and other creatures on it - it's not surprising that they couch it in terms of market-based mechanisms. After all, this group is often "conservative" - not in the old fashioned fiscally practical sense, but by being both socially traditionalist and very capitalism and big business-friendly. It's no secret that many megachurches teach that financial success follows from strong faith (and seemingly, therefore, vice versa). Now, I'm not against using market incentives to promote cleaning up the environment, but then the evangelicals have to go ahead and do something like this:
In their statement, the evangelicals praised companies like BP, Shell, General Electric, Cinergy, Duke Energy and DuPont that it said "have moved ahead of the pace of government action through innovative measures" to reduce emissionsOh, yeah. I hear that has Jeff Immelt been chaining himself to rainforest trees, lately. (And by the way, I'm so glad to hear coal is sexy again.)
Granted, these companies have have shown some spunk of late with new emissions-reducing programs. But let's not start pretending that a few small concessions and some new marketing campaigns - aptly nicknamed "greenwashing" - negate the continuing damage companies like Shell and "BP inflict on all life on Earth.
The truth is that while market pressure might help motivate big companies to reduce emissions (or at least put out better PR), it's not going to do the whole trick. The demand is just too slow, especially in the US, where people want to pay as little as possible for everything (and with the growing number of extremely poor, have little choice), and megacompanies want to make us much money they can as quickly as they can. Maybe I should be happy that a bunch of traditionally conservative religious "leaders" are finally noticing the environment - any help is good help. And perhaps you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, so praising the few things oil companies do right couldn't hurt. But in a political environment where we couldn't get the Climate Stewardship Act passed (even with the addition of a nuke program the second time around), much less Kyoto ratified, forgive me if I don't do much besides raise an eyebrow at this news.
There is some hope here, at least for the tide turning to some kind of cap-and-trade system, if not some more aggressive program. So here's one clap for the 86 environmentalist evangelists. I'll hold applause until I see you caring for the world in more actually Christ-like ways.