Oklahoma Sens. Tom Coburn and James Inhofe are signatories on a new environmental statement co-written by the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Family Research Council and the Institute on Religion & Democracy, among others. The declaration is part of a larger campaign called We Get It!
The We Get It! declaration says, in part: "Our stewardship of creation must be based on Biblical principles and factual evidence. We face important environmental challenges, but must be cautious of claims that our planet is in peril from speculative dangers like man-made global warming. With billions suffering in poverty, environmental policies must not further oppress the world's poor by denying them basic needs. Instead, we must help people fulfill their God-given potential as producers and stewards."
According to the group's Web site, the campaign has already garnered thousands of signatures from religious leaders, pastors and politicians. In addition to Coburn and Inhofe, the declaration was also signed by U.S. Rep Paul Broun (R-Ga.), James Dobson, Chuck Colson and Richard Land.
The We Get It! declaration relies partly on findings released in The Manhattan Declaration on Climate Change, a document produced at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change in New York City in March. The scientists, business leaders and policymakers in attendance began their declaration with: "'Global Warming' is not a global crisis."
The document goes on to affirm: ""¦ that attempts by governments to legislate costly regulations on industry and individual citizens to encourage CO2 emission reduction will slow development while having no appreciable impact on the future trajectory of global climate change. Such policies will markedly diminish future prosperity and so reduce the ability of societies to adapt to inevitable climate change, thereby increasing, not decreasing, human suffering "¦"
The Manhattan Declaration also states that there is no evidence that human-caused CO2 emissions will lead to catastrophic climate change. The document ends with the recommendation that "all taxes, regulations and other interventions intended to reduce emissions of CO2 be abandoned forthwith."
Sen. Inhofe, R-Okla., is the ranking minority member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. As such, he has a prominent voice in shaping energy policy. Inhofe's office did not comment but referred Oklahoma Gazette to the We Get It! Web site for an explanation of his decision to sign the declaration. Coburn, R-Okla., did not comment.
As part of his endorsement, Inhofe wrote: "A couple of years ago, when a small group of evangelicals took it upon themselves to speak for all the rest of us on global warming, I was, frankly, upset. I knew they didn't speak for me. Based on years of research, I also knew they didn't speak for sound science and economics. I was glad to see that some other evangelicals, like those with the Cornwall Alliance, were prepared to speak for Christians like me on solid Biblical, scientific and economic grounds. Now the 'We Get It!' declaration also speaks for me, and I believe it speaks for the vast majority of evangelicals."
The We Get It! campaign attempts to appeal to evangelicals on Biblical grounds, especially the idea that climate change legislation will be catastrophic for developing nations and poor people worldwide. The campaign is partly a response to another evangelical declaration released in February 2006 by the Evangelical Climate Initiative. Richard Cizik, the vice president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, was instrumental in shaping the ECI. Cizik broke ranks with many conservative evangelicals when he began calling on the U.S. government to restrict CO2 emissions. The NAE refused to release a policy statement on the grounds that climate change is not a consensus issue.
Cizik assembled 86 evangelical leaders, including Rick Warren, Ron Sider, Jim Wallis, and Oklahomans Craig Groeschel, senior pastor of Lifechurch.tv in Edmond and James Leggett, general superintendent of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, based in Bethany. The group released "Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action," an appeal to governments, churches and individuals to work for climate change legislation, beginning at the federal level.
Sen. Inhofe disagrees with the conclusions of the ECI's statement, citing a Senate report listing 400 scientists who disagree with the alleged consensus that climate change will cause catastrophic problems worldwide. In The Wall Street Journal, he proposed instead: "The better way forward is an energy policy that emphasizes technology and includes developing nations such as China and India. Tomorrow's energy mix must include more natural gas, wind and geothermal, but it must also include oil, coal and nuclear power, which is the world's largest source of emission-free energy. Developing and expanding domestic energy sources will translate into energy security and ensure stable supplies and well-paying jobs for Americans."
Mark Shafer, director of climate services at the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, said climate change is not just a science problem; it's a political problem too.
"Science isn't necessarily going to carry the day," Shafer said. "It should inform the process, though. We need to adopt a 'no regret' strategy in regard to climate change. There are changes we can make that will help us overcome our vulnerabilities. For example, if temperature predictions are correct, we can expect water to be a critical issue in Oklahoma, more so than it already is."
Shafer said that there is some division in the scientific community about the extent and causes of global warming. "We know climate change is real, and we know it has a human component, but we are uncertain about the magnitude of the impact it will have." "Greg Horton