Concern for others activates evangelicals on climate change

Keith Gaby

It seems to be human nature to put people in categories and make assumptions about their behavior. Most evangelical Christians are conservatives, many conservatives have doubts about climate science, so we assume evangelicals are not concerned about global warming. The only problem with that logic is that, it turns out, a lot of deeply religious Christians are very concerned about climate change.

The latest evidence of that is a letter written by 200 scientists who are also evangelical Christians. One of the letter organizers, Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, told Climate Wire that the signers’ faith motivated them to speak out. “We wanted to tell our community and nation that not only does science compel us to get involved, but that also faith compels us,” Hayhoe said.

The letter reads, in part:

The Bible tells us that “love does no harm to its neighbor” (Romans 13:10), yet the way we live now harms our neighbors, both locally and globally. For the world’s poorest people, climate change means dried-up wells in Africa, floods in Asia that wash away crops and homes, wildfires in the U.S. and Russia, loss of villages and food species in the Arctic, environmental refugees, and disease. Our changing climate threatens the health, security, and well-being of millions of people who are made in God’s image. The threat to future generations and global prosperity means we can no longer afford complacency and endless debate. We as a society risk being counted among “those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18)

The letter comes on the heels of the Obama administration’s new Climate Action Plan, but many evangelicals have been making the case for action on global warming for years. Some see a biblical imperative to care for God’s creation. Others are reflecting on Christ’s command that we should care for the “least” in our society – seeing the risks from climate-driven impacts like flooding and agricultural disruption in places like Bangladesh and many parts of Africa.

This is not to say that all, or even most, evangelical Christians are pushing for urgent action on climate change. Opinion in that community is diverse, and many who are politically conservative remain uncertain about adopting a position normally associated with liberals. But it seems as if more and more evangelical Christians are seeing the impacts of climate change, and becoming concerned about its effects on the planet and the poor.

Finding a solution to climate change will require broadening the circle of those calling for action, so growing support in the evangelical community is very welcome news. Hopefully more people, evangelical Christians among them, will take a new look at this challenge and help spread the word of the need for action. While there has sometimes been a tension between science and religion, this is an area in which good works and good science can be aligned.