Sunday, January 21, 2007

Global Warming and Evangelicals Part Deux

After setting up the initial post on global warming I had a further chat with my wife. She points out that the ice core samples go back thousands of year and make perfectly clear that there has been a dramatic acceleration of the rise of the temperature of water in recent times. My son then chipped in with the following piece which is worth reading---

Global Warming Skeptics: A Primer
Guess who's funding the global warming doubt shops?

In 1998, Exxon devised a plan to stall action on global warming. The plan was outlined in an internal memo that promised, "Victory will be achieved whenuncertainties in climate science become part of the conventional wisdom" for "average citizens" and "the media." (Read the memo [PDF].)

The company would recruit and train new scientists who lack a "history of visibility in the climate debate" and develop materials depicting supporters of action to cut greenhouse gas emissions as "out of touch with reality."

While there is no indication that ExxonMobil paid the climate skeptics directly and the scientists may have their own motivations for participating, the company poured millions of dollars into spreading its message worldwide. Here's where some of that money went.

The following information is from Exxon documents and the organizations' web sites. (Specific sources and links are listed below the table.)
Organization Receiving ExxonMobil Funding 2002-2003 2004 2005
Competitive Enterprise Institute $870,000 $270,000 $270,000
American Enterprise Institute $485,000 $230,000 $240,000
American Council for Capital Formation $444,523 $255,000 $360,000
Frontiers of Freedom $282,000 $250,000 $140,000
George C. Marshall Institute $185,000 $170,000 $115,000
National Center for Policy Analysis $105,000 $75,000 $75,000
Tech Central Station Science Foundation $95,000*
Heartland Institute $92,500* $100,000 $119,000
Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow $72,000* $125,000 $90,000
Fraser Institute $60,000* $60,000
International Policy Network $50,000* $115,000 $130,000
Center for Study of Carbon Dioxide & Global Change $40,000* $25,000
American Council on Science and Health $35,000 $15,000 $25,000
Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy $27,500* $75,000 $30,000
Cato Institute $25,000* $15,000
Consumer Alert $25,000 $25,000
Independent Institute $20,000 $30,000
Advancement of Sound Science $20,000 $10,000

*These numbers are for the year 2003 alone.

The information above is from Exxon documents and the organizations' Web sites: Exxon's 2002 contributions [PDF], Exxon's 2003 contributions [PDF], Exxon's 2004 contributions [PDF] and Exxon's 2005 contributions [PDF].

Find Out More
They're taking their act on the road: Global warming skeptics shower their climate denials onto the U.K., according to the Guardian (1/27/05)

For more information on the science of global warming and the politics of combating climate change, go to our Global Warming issue page

You may find further information on ExxonMobil's funding of global warming skeptics by visiting the database web site.

For details on the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act, the most effective bipartisan legislation to reduce America's emissions of greenhouse gases, visit

This particular piece which I have reprinted here can be found at cfm?ContentID=4870.

The further point needs to be stressed. In the specialized field of climate scientists there is almost no debate on the topic of global warming. There is a near unanimity on the topic. Guess where you find most of the doubters-- they work for companies like Exxon. Hmmmm...... I don't suppose that might reflect a conflict of interest.

Here's my point for Evangelicals. Do you want to be a good witness to people who do care about this world and our ecosphere? If you don't you should. Thus I would suggest that you accept, for the sake of argument, that there is such a thing as global warming (remember that hole in the ozone and what was said to cause it?). Assume that we have some serious responsibility for causing this problem. How then would be the best way to witness to people who do care about the environment. I would suggest that one way is to show we also care about it and about things like global warming because we have a theology that says God has given us a big beautiful world and called us to take good care of it until he returns. 'Nuff Said.


Hollands Opus said...

Hi Ben,
I offer the following link to a Senate subcommittee report with various other links. At the bottom of the linked page, you will also find a .pdf file "Skeptics guide to global alarmism". It is a very interesting read.

Indeed, global warming is happening, but it seems that man's role and what can be done about it are matters of some serious debate.

Senate Subcommittee on Environment

What thinkest thou?

yuckabuck said...

Why do we have to keep going down the conspiracy and accusation road?


Here's a guy who says that increased solar flares are causing a slight increase in temperatures, and when the flares die down, we will actually go into a global cooling period. Oh, and he makes sure he mentions how there's a lot of grant money to be had from advocating global warming.

This is issue is so politicized, that it's nearly impossible to know who is truth-telling, and who is advocating, and who is just duped.

Oh, and just for my buddy Traditionalist1611, I have been told elsewhere that the same increase in solar flares are actually one of the sign in the sky that says the rapture will occur any day now.

Ben Witherington said...


Yes, I quite agree that the question of what is to be done about so big a problem is a matter of serious debate.

For example, take all those coal fires in China. Take account of the some 975 million peasants in China who do not live in the city areas and have little or no prospects to become more than a peasant. Take into account that they don't have other means of heating themselves in the cold. What shall we do? Shall we ask the Chinese government to provide electricity for them? Well the three gorges dam project is meant as a step in that direction, but it is already seen as an environmental disaster. And the Chinese government has actually had the guts to make a rule about the number of children a family can have, unlike almost all other nations primitive or 'civilized'. The problems are legion to be sure.

But to do nothing is to be a bad witness to a Creator God who made it all and made it very good (tov m'ov as the Hebrew says).

It is a pleasant fiction to think that Jesus must be coming soon due to current events in the Middle East. The very same sort of events have happened dozens of times in that volatile region, and as Orthodox Jews will tell you, the current 'government' of Israel is no fulfillment of prophecy-- its a secular Zionistic state.

But in some ways I hope Jesus is coming soon before the world falls totally apart, before the last polar bear dies due to loss of the polar cap, before the last hummingbird hums, before we all become blue because there are no more bluebirds.

But then I remember the human race that Jesus died for, and I think, what would Jesus do, the Jesus who had so many eloquent things to say about nature and how it illustrates the goodness of God who gives his sun and rain to the just and the unjust and feeds the sparrows and clothes the grass of the field?

I think of course he would call us to focus on rescuing perishing humans. But I know as well he would call on us to be good stewards of our resources as well. It is a hard balance.

It takes some courage to stick your finger in the dike when others are ridiculing you and calling it a lost cause. It is never lost however when we have a sovereign God who intends to turn this world into a new earth to go with a new heaven as Rev. 21.

So here is my wisdom. While it may look like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic while the ship is going down, actually by being good stewards we are serving as God's prophets and ensigns of the final redemption of this world-- which is after all our Father's world and he does not intend to abandon it.

Our final destination is not, nor was it ever according to the NT as disembodied creatures in heaven. Our final destination is here on earth at the resurrection and then in the kingdom when it finally comes fully on earth, as we pray for in the Lord's prayer.

This being so, rather than curse the darkness, disease, decay and death, I choose to be a symbol of what is to come-- anakeinisis, renewal, new earth, new resurrected people, and a world where the effects of the fall are felt no more. Rev. 21-22 is the truth, and escapist theology is not.

I saw a good bumper sticker the other day--- 'Where are we going, and Why are we in this handbasket?"
This is how it feels. But in fact 'it does not yet appear' how things shall be when it is all changed. Of course I do not think that humans can save the world by themselves. I do think that God has chosen to use us as his emissaries of the future and final solution.


Bob Bliss said...

Why no discussion of who is funding the global warming alarmists? That might be just as interesting and revealing. Conspiracy theories can cut both ways.

Michael Duduit has an interesting post about Al Gore's film for a different evangelical view point.

Trierr said...

A few quick notes:

Romans 1:20 notes that "God's Invisible qualities ... have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..." When we destroy the environment, we destroy some of God's witness to himself. When we care for God's creation, we value his witness in creation. It truly is a matter of witness.

So, I don’t understand why we fight so hard for our right to drive oversized cars, consume so wastefully, and pollute so wantonly. I’m curious which one of Jesus’ teachings we get that from.

opinionated said...

Ben, you might be interested in this article at,2933,220341,00.html

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Bob: I read Michael's post. Of course it is true that Gore's movie involves some rhetoric. This is beside the point. Even if his facts were only 25% we'd still be trouble and there would still be no excuse for being poor stewards of our resources, our air and water and the like. It is irresponsible to suggest those Scandanavian scientists are representative of the majority of the climate science community.


Ben Witherington said...

Hi Jean.... that url doesn't work anymore.


byron smith said...

It is this world which groans and awaits its liberation from bondage to decay (Romans 8.20-21). We groan with it as we await the liberation of our bodies. Even God's Spirit is groaning, or is the cause of our groaning, because we have (and so are) a taste of the future, as Dr Witherington says. Our hope is resurrection of the body on a renewed earth, not a disembodied flight into heaven. I have written a whole series on this here.

Before we get stuck in details about whether and to what extent and in what ways humans have damaged the environment, it is worth reflecting carefully on the theological reasons why this matters. If we are content to ignore the Bible's commands to be stewards of creation then it becomes easy to dismiss detailed evidence as irrelevant or a conspiracy of environmentalists.

Matt said...

Of course the oil companies would want to deny global warming. It makes total sense to their bottom line to try to cast doubts on it. That does not prove or disprove it. It just proves what we already know - money is more important to them than anything else.

I really appreciate this take on it though and I think it is a more substantial plea than the first post. I appreciate your concern and using a widely read medium to publicize critically important issues - not because they help or hurt your bottom line but because you have strong feelings that it is a godly concern. Keep it up.

Bob Bliss said...

So how do we count noses and find out just what opinion about global warming is representative of the scientific community?

Jeremy Pierce said...

The main opposition to global warming does not deny that it is taking place. Nor does it deny that human beings have had some role in its increase. There might be some debate about what percentage of the increase is from humans, but that's not the central issue. The main issue for things like Kyoto is whether the expense of such treaties would have a significant enough effect on the rate of global warming to be worth the disastrous consequences of implementing such policies, consequences the countries who have agreed to Kyoto have not even been able to abide by. The critics are saying that the economic and other consequences of that treaty are not worth the miniscule effect that it would have on the warming, which might amount to a couple years' delay or something.

Ben Witherington said...

Right Jeremy, right you are. But then we do not know what new advances in science may yet help us with our environmental problems, and so we must move on faith, do what we can, take best evidence.

There is a way to take best evidence in any field of expertise as a guide. It requires critical thinking but it can be done. For example, in NT studies just as in climate science, you pay close attention when a large and diverse group of persons in the field who are genuine experts but by no means always agree on things, find something they are all adamant and rather sure about. Global warming is such a thing. A enormous array and range of climate scientists are sure about this, scientists who often disagree.

There are a wide variety of lines of evidence that support this conclusion, such as the ice core samples, the very impressive NASA satellite shots over the last 25 years of the polar caps showing how dramatically they are shrinking and so on. The converging lines of evidence are compelling even if you can find another reasonable explanation for this or that piece of the evidence.

This is what I mean by we must take best evidence as presented to us by a wide array of experts. When you do that, then you know we have some serious problems and it would be wise to start responding to them, individually, incrementally, and on a larger scale as well.

Thank you all for your good points.



Terry Hamblin said...

The UK is one of the few countries likely to met the Kyoto standards, mainly by retreating from coal-fired power stations and the taxation of fossil fuels to stimulate fuel efficiency in automobiles.

I am sure that technology is capable of reversing the man-made bit of global warming. Many of the necessary changes cost very little - better insulation in our houses, for example - but most technological innovations are expensive. Since the driving force for man-made global warming is going to be the industrialization of China and India, it is hard to see these countries adopting them.

America is the other great producer of man-made global warming, and is in a difficult position because India and China are likely economic competitors in the 21st century. Already most types of manufactured goods are made in China because labor is so cheap. Cheap energy is seen as a remedy to cheap labor.

Few Americans would be happy with gas at around $7 a gallon, but that is what it costs in the UK.

Nevertheless, in the long run, Americans will have to aid developing countries in producing fuel efficient power generation. It would be better if it were to do so in a way that raised the living standards of the workers in these countries, so that the cheap labor advantage were lost.

I think the scare stories that we hear are exaggerated and the global-warming put-downs are too. What we are witnessing is the sparring of industry and governements, each trying to gain a tactical advantage in the new global economy.

In the meantime there are more pressing concerns. With the amount of money that is required to make an impact on global warming, we could already have eliminated malaria - which in itself would raise the world's GDP by 3% - give every AIDS sufferer retroviral drugs and provide fresh water for everyone in Africa.

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Brian:

With all due respect how exactly has economic growth been a boon to the environment? I understand how its been a boon to human economies but I can't think of many ways its been a boon to the environment.

Take for example the growth of the Brazilian coffee industry. Most of us enjoy coffee, but few realize that in order to plant so many many coffee plantations 80% of the vital Brazilian and general Amazon rain forest was clear cut! We needed that rain forest to put back more O2 into the air. Oh well.

Or consider Bald Head Island off the coast of North Carolina. For years many of us natives fought to keep the developers off the island all together. We begged the legislature to make this one tiny island a wild life sanctuary because it was a place of pristine beauty with 40 different species of fish, crustaceans, birds, and even wild ponies not found anywhere any more on the Eastern seaboard and many others critters which were rare. Did we win this battle? Nope.

The developers moved in, destroyed the estuary, cut down most of the trees, polluted the ravines where the fish spawned, all in order that rich people could buy more exclusive beach condos. Like we don't have enough of those on the coast of N.C. and S.C. already! All in the name of economic growth.

I am sorry, but I fail to see how such ventures are good for the environment. And as for Exxon. Perhaps you have forgotten the Exxon Valdes disaster on the coast of Alaska? Perhaps you have forgotten how companies like Exxon and General Motors bought up all the patents on electric cars and then buried the idea so they could keep the oil and gas driven industry on top?

I too have met heads of major companies. Like that good Methodist from Houston that was head of Enron. I'm sorry to say but your faith in the integrity of many of those folks is largely naive and misplaced. In my experience their number one concern is the bottom line and to heck with ethics. Its just a matter of not wanting to get caught.


Ben W.

Milton Stanley said...

Why won't most of the links work? The Environmental Defense link didn't go anywhere, and the Exxon PDF links are not links at all.

Jeff Burton said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeff Burton said...

Quite damning, all that about Exxon. I wonder if you are as interested in where Global Climate Change alarmists get their funding?


read tthis and weep


Milton Stanley said...

Dr. Witherington, I want to believe what you're saying, but your post has no reliability if all your hyperlinks are dead. Why does your post have dead links?