More than 80 Christian leaders issued a statement in February announcing their support for a major initiative to fight global warming and calling on the government to pass a law requiring a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
"Many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians," the statement said. "But now we have seen and heard enough."
Among the signatories are Bishop Charles Blake of West Angeles Church of God in Christ, Jack Hayford, president of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and Bishop James Leggett, head of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, as well as Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, and the Rev. Jim Ball, executive director of the Evangelical Environmental Network.
"This is not a partisan issue, this is a biblical, Christ-centered approach to the global warming problem," Ball said. "Our signatories are proud to be pro-life, and addressing global warming is a pro-life issue."
The statement, titled Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action, makes four claims: that climate change is real, that its consequences will have the greatest impact on the poor, that Christian moral conviction requires a response, and that the government, businesses and individuals all are part of the solution.
However, the Rev. Lou Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition, argues that restricting carbon dioxide emissions is not the compassionate course. "The poor are just as affected if you do away with the combustion engine," he told Charisma, adding that 1.3 million jobs would be lost in the next six years if a restriction were enacted.
Sheldon, Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson, Cornerstone Church pastor John Hagee and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson are among 22 influential leaders who issued a letter in January asking the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) not to take a position on global warming because the research is still "inconclusive."
Although the NAE opted not to take an official position on the issue, the group's president, Ted Haggard, told the New York Times he had "no doubt" climate change was occurring. He said he declined to sign the statement because it would have been interpreted as an endorsement by the NAE.
Ball said evangelical leaders have been discussing the claims made in Climate Change since a conference in 2004 and that the NAE was never asked to endorse a statement on global warming. "We asked people to sign on as individuals, not as representatives of their organizations," he said.
The statement is the first phase of an Evangelical Climate Initiative that includes TV and radio spots, informational campaigns in churches and educational events at Christian colleges, the Times said.