U.S. conservative Christians sound “cap and trade” alarms
America’s social and religious conservatives are turning up the heat as they galvanize heartland opposition against the latest example of President Barack Obama-inspired “socialism” — a climate change bill that aims to reduce fossil fuel emissions, which most scientists have linked to climate change.
The Democratic Party-led House of Representatives passed the bill on Friday. It would require large companies, including utilities and manufacturers, to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases associated with global warming by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels. It must still go through the U.S. Senate, where its ultimate fate remains uncertain despite the Democratic majority there.
Conservative Christians, a key base — if not THE base — for the out-of-power Republican Party, are among the biggest skeptics of human-induced global warming. In the eyes of many environmentalists, they were part of an “unholy alliance” with the energy industry that enjoyed its zenith under former president George W. Bush, who pulled America out of the Kyoto Protocol aimed at cutting emissions in the developed world. The Bush administration was widely seen as hostile to any attempt to cap emissions as well as the science behind it.
Conservative Christians are sounding the alarm bells about the climate bill, which represents Obama’s first major legislative victory and which Republicans see as a major opportunity to gain political ground ahead of the 2010 congressional elections. You can see our coverage of this issue here.
Republicans are calling it a “job killer” while the Cornwall Alliance — a conservative Christian coalition — has described its cap and trade provisions, which allow companies that pollute less than their limit to sell some of their permits to others struggling to meet such green requirements, “as the largest tax hike in history.” Analysts have said such arguments may appeal to voters especially against the backdrop of the current recession.
Conservative Christians are distributing an online petition called We Get It! which reads 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.”
Taking aim at other religious groups that have lobbied for emissions-cap measures on the grounds that the poor will suffer most from climate change, the Cornwall Alliance says the poor will be ill-served by cap and trade and its impact on the economy. In its “Talking Points” on cap and trade it says it is “a regressive tax … . Because the poor spend a higher proportion of their monthly income on energy than do others, they pay more of their disposable income for the increase in energy costs.”
It also puts its faith in such matters in the hands of a higher power.
“Cap and trade rests on an unbiblical world view. It assumes that a minuscule change in atmospheric
chemistry (carbon dioxide rising from about 3 in every 10,000 to about 5 in every 10,000 molecules in the atmosphere) could cause catastrophic climate change, putting human and other life at risk. That belief is contrary to the Biblical teaching that a wise Creator made the Earth (Genesis 1–2) and on observing it saw that it was ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31).”
Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and a leading figure in the social conservative movement, devoted much of his nationally syndicated radio show on Saturday to the topic, calling cap and trade a “regressive tax to the max.” Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, said in his blog last week that it “would increase an already staggering national debt by 26 percent by 2035” — a figure taken directly from the Cornwall Alliance’s estimates.
Some evangelical Christians also have said that the social upheaval that analysts have linked to climate change may be signs of the second coming of Christ. Perkins has outlined such a scenario in his recent book “Personal Faith, Public Policy.”
One thing is clear: this issue has the potential to really stir up the Republican Party base. But will it stir it enough to have an impact when the Senate considers the climate bill or when Americans go to the polls in 2010?
(Photo: A demonstrator for clean energy holds up a sign during a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington March 2, 2009. Moves to cap greenhouse gas emissions and promote green energy have some conservative Christians seeing red. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)