J.C. Moore Online
Current Events from a Science Perspective

Global Warming: Alarmism Versus Denial

Fossil fuel companies knew in 1979 that carbon dioxide emissions would cause the Earth to warm, creating undesirable consequences for the Earth. By 1981, the Exxon scientist concluded that the burning of fossil fuels could be catastrophic for some of the world’s population by 2030. The choice between huge profits and the possibility of harming the Earth and its inhabitants was a tough ethical choice for Exxon’s scientists, but not so much for management. They launched a campaign to keep the truth hidden and to keep themselves from being regulated. Their main strategy was obfuscation and denial.

Evangelical Christians were some of the first to become concerned about how global warming would impact the Earth’s population, mainly the poor. Genesis 1:28 says, ” Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”  Generally, those who argue for Christian stewardship think that “dominion” means “benevolent rule”. The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, in 2000, developed the Cornwall Doctrine. Its main goal was to address the challenges faced by indigenous communities and the poorer countries as they faced climate change.

In 2008, the Cornwall alliance was taken over by Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, a Dominionist, who interprets the scripture to mean “subdue and exploit”, an interpretation which is received quite favorable by oil companies. Beisner argues that we should take what we wish from the Earth, without regard to its effect upon the environment. As far as the catastrophic effect on some of the world’s population, Beisner assuages his conscience by claiming that efforts to limit carbon emissions are actually harming poor countries by denying them fossil fuels. Poor countries do not have the resources or the infrastructure to use fossil fuels and distributive energy sources, such as wind and solar, would be most useful to them. And, indigenous communities will be hurt the most. The way of life that has sustained them for centuries is now being disrupted by climate change.  They do not have the resources to withstand prolonged droughts or protect themselves from sea level rise or flooding.

Beisner uses religious arguments as the apparatus of justification to reach out to conservative Christians and solicit donations. There is little evidence that the money goes to the poor. Charity Navigator says, “This organization cannot be evaluated by our Encompass Rating methodology because it files Form 990-N, as allowed by the IRS for charities with less than $50,000 annual revenue.” The Cornwall Alliance is funded by dark money and there is no way to establish how much money it collects, who supports it, or how the money is used. Critics of the Cornwall Alliance have accused the organization of being a “front group for fossil fuel special interests,” citing its strong ties to the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, which in the past was funded by oil industry giants such as Exxon-Mobil and Chevron. 

Beisner uses “climate alarmist”, in a pejorative way, to describe the 99.5% of climate scientists who know that climate change is caused by man’s activity. Of course, scientists are alarmed as Beisner, and others like him, are part of a disinformation campaign to keep governments from taking action on climate change. E Calvin Beisner does not like being called a “denier”, but denying scientific evidence is his main way of dealing with those “science alarmists”. And, he uses religious arguments to bolster his position.

Beisner is quite concerned that Katharine Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian, is infringing on his territory. Dr. Hayhoe is a Canadian-born climate scientist now living in Texas. She is excellent at communicating complex ideas, and her website and her recent book, Saving Us, are excellent primers on climate change, understandable to a non-specialist audience. Her explanations are not just limited to science but extend to religion, politics, and behavioral psychology. I sent a copy of her book to E. Calvin Beisner. He sent me a nice thank you for the book and said he hadn’t gotten around to reading it yet. Along with the letter were enclosed, not one, or two, or three…., but nine articles criticizing Katharine Hayhoe. The articles claim she is entangled in climate idolatry, has no business venturing into theology, is a climate alarmist, is wrong about global warming affecting the weather, and implies she could not believe in God and also man-made global warming. Beisner is sure these are true, even though he has not read her book.

Beisner likes to use religious arguments, but his views are at odds with both religion and science. Apparently, he has very little understanding of ecology. Pope Francis’s encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si, says that “climate change is real and mainly a result of human activity.” “The problem is urgent. Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.” Beisner claims that Pope Francis was just wrong, probably news to most Catholics. Beisner’s position is even at odds with his own Presbyterian faith. The Presbyterian Church is now recommending divestment from fossil fuels and it was one of the first churches to address global warming. The Presbyterian Church first noted its “serious concern over global warming at the 1990 General Assembly, when it warned that the global atmospheric warming trend (the greenhouse effect) represents one of the most serious global environmental challenges to the health, security, and stability of human life and natural ecosystems’’.

E. Calvin Beisner is certainly right about one thing. Scientists are alarmed because they understand that we are beginning to reach a tipping point from which we will never recover. Scientific models claim we have till about 2030 to reduce our carbon emissions – or the oil companies’ early predictions of catastrophes will come true. Beisner often dismisses any predictions about the future made by scientists by claiming they are based on computer models. However, computers are the way we now store and process information and models are the way that scientists understand complex systems. And, the Cornwall Alliance serves as a good model for understanding global warming denial. 

(c) 2022 JC Moore – all rights reserved.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Comment

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.