Evangelical Group Releases Climate Change Report, Claims Biblical Mandate for Action

By Jack Jenkins
storks climate change
A man who scavenges recyclable materials for a living walks past Marabou storks feeding on a mountain of garbage amid smoke from burning trash at Dandora, the largest garbage dump in Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)

The National Association of Evangelicals unveiled a sweeping report Monday on global climate change, laying out what its authors call the “biblical basis” for environmental activism to help spur fellow evangelicals to address the planetary environmental crisis.

“Creation, although groaning under the fall, is still intended to bless us. However, for too many in this world, the beach isn’t about sunscreen and bodysurfing but is a daily reminder of rising tides and failed fishing,” reads the introduction of the report, penned by NAE President Walter Kim.

“Instead of a gulp of fresh air from a lush forest, too many children take a deep breath only to gasp with the toxic air that has irritated their lungs.”

But the authors admit persuading evangelicals is no small task, considering the religious group has historically been one of the demographics most resistant to action on the issue.

The nearly 50-page report, titled “Loving the Least of These: Addressing a Changing Environment,” opens with a section that insists protecting the environment is a biblical mandate.

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“The Bible does not tell us anything directly about how to evaluate scientific reports or how to respond to a changing environment, but it does give several helpful principles: Care for creation, love our neighbors and witness to the world,” the report reads.

The authors go on to cite passages such as Genesis 2:15 (“God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it”), Matthew 22 (“Love your neighbor as yourself”) and Deuteronomy 15 (“Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart”).

“We worship God by caring for creation,” the report reads.

Another section outlines the science behind climate change. But the report, produced in partnership with the NAE’s humanitarian arm World Relief, returns often to the real-world impacts of climate change, such as how air pollution created by fossil fuels can have negative outcomes for children’s health or disproportionately affect the poor.

Kim suggested the emphasis on lived experiences, which are often tied to churches or evangelical organizations, is by design.

“One of the things that you’ll see in this document is not simply scientific information, though that is there, or biblical argumentation, although that is there, but you also hear stories of actual impact on communities,” he said in an interview.

Real-world examples help readers “understand the human dimension of the impact of climate change,” he explained.

“I think people of faith responded very deeply, because we’re wired to follow in the footsteps of Jesus of loving God and loving our neighbor.”

indonesia climate change
Nia Riningsih stayed behind after most of her neighbors left due to the rising sea levels that inundated their neighborhood on the northern coast of Java Island, Indonesia, Nov. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Dorothy Boorse, a biology professor at Gordon College and the chief author of the report, agreed.

“One of the things that can be true for evangelicals is they have a very deep desire to care for others, and they often have a deep spirit of hospitality,” she said.

Appealing to concerns about health and care for children, Boorse said, can “spark an imagination” in evangelicals that climate change is “not different from other problems in the world that we feel committed to care about, such as education, food availability or disaster relief.”

However, some evangelicals say the report doesn’t take into account how the world’s poor might be harmed by recommended changes.

“Those who claim that climate change is an existential threat to the poor look only at the costs, not the benefits, of both fossil fuel-derived energy (roughly 85 % of all energy we use) and the slight warming the CO2 emitted contributes,” E. Calvin Beisner, a climate change skeptic and president of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, told The Washington Times.

“It’s precisely the policies these folks promote that will harm the world’s poor the most, slowing, stopping or reversing their conquest of poverty by depriving them of the abundant, affordable, reliable energy, and the free-market economies, indispensable to lifting and keeping whole societies out of poverty.”

While mainline Protestant Christian groups and Pope Francis have repeatedly signaled the urgency of addressing climate change, many evangelicals remain skeptical.

According to a Pew Research survey conducted in January, white evangelicals were the religious group least likely to agree that human activity contributes to climate change, with only 54% saying humanity contributed a great deal or some to the trend. By comparison, 72% of white nonevangelicals, 73% of white Catholics, 81% of Black Protestants and 86% of Hispanic Catholics said so.

But as Boorse points out in the report, there has been some movement since the 2011 report was published, particularly among young evangelicals: A year after that document was unveiled, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action was founded.

“One huge pattern that I observed is that young evangelicals are very concerned about the environment,” Boorse, who sits on YECA’s advisory board, told media. “There’s an entrenchment of certain ways of thinking that just takes a long time to change.”

climate change fire
Bruce McDougal watches embers fly over his property as the Bond Fire burns through the Silverado community in Orange County, California, on Dec. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Activists say the change can’t come soon enough. In addition to ongoing droughts in various parts of the world, the NAE report was unveiled the same day as news broke that, given the current pace of climate change, 3.3% of the Greenland ice sheet — around 110 trillion tons of ice — is slated to melt into the sea, raising global sea levels nearly a foot between now and 2100.

Asked if she was hopeful the report and similar efforts could urge evangelicals to muster their resources and help prevent further environmental calamities, Boorse acknowledged she is often frustrated by fellow faithful who espouse baseless conspiracy theories about climate change or express open hostility to science in general.

“That has been very challenging for me in my professional life,” she said. “But I feel God has privileged me with the task of speaking to a group of people that I know and love, and trying, consistently, to talk about this as a real phenomenon — and it needs our attention.”

For Boorse, the necessity of the work — and the tenets of her faith — sustain her for the fight ahead.

“I’ve decided to be hopeful,” she said. “I think everybody has to, or you’d never get anything done.”

Julie Roys contributed to this report.

Jack Jenkins is an award-winning journalist and national reporter for the Religion News Service.

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29 thoughts on “Evangelical Group Releases Climate Change Report, Claims Biblical Mandate for Action”

  1. A good dose of Tony Heller’s analytical videos where he simply shows longer term climatic measures that dispel the panic would be good.
    Also the (evangelical) Cornwall Alliance’s work in this area could be taken into account (https://cornwallalliance.org/landmark-documents/ ), as well as a great paper by Dr Don Batten of Creation Ministries International at https://creation.com/climate-change.
    Paying attention to Genesis 8:22 might also help get this in perspective.

  2. I appreciate this. I have been so disappointed at how the evangelical community has dismissed , denied, or mocked the calls and pleas for us to be stewards of the environment God gave us.
    Just as I am a steward of the money the Lord has given to me (by tithing, giving and being fiscally responsible), a steward of the job He provided for me (by being an honest, hardworking employee), and a steward of animals He surrounded me with (I am a pet lover, volunteer at animal shelters, etc), I am a steward of the environment He has blessed me to live in (picking up trash I see littered around, gardening, etc).
    I am growing concerned at how the extreme weather is impacting various communities across the world (e.g., more and more elderly dying from the heat, larger storms devastating unequipped communities, etc). I would like to see the church be more committed to promoting good stewardship of what God has given, and good citizenship by caring for those most vulnerable to this weather.

    1. The Tonga volcano in January emitted more carbon than all the fossil fuels burned since the beginning of mankind.

      1. Fred, this is not even close to being true. I humbly ask that you re-evaluate your sources of information.

        https://phys.org/news/2022-02-tonga-eruption-carbon-dioxide-air.html

        A measurement NEAR the volcano went from a predicted 412 parts per million (ppm) to 414 ppm, which would be the expected increase in one year. So it changed the LOCAL levels as though an additional year’s worth of carbon increase had occurred.

        The difference between what you are saying and what the data shows cannot be overstated.

    2. Marin I agree.

      I wish we were more thoughtful in policies we support and lifestyle decisions we make. I think the bigger issue here is how the church has become very good at confirmation bias. We ignore sources of information we already want to disagree with and look for the fewer, often less credible, sources that tell us what we want to hear.

      1. If the Earth is at a so called tipping point of no return; how come the brilliant scientists from China, India and Russia continue unabated to build dirty coal plants? I assume they don’t have a societal death wish or are they just strategically assessing the Western world will self destruct as Germany is doing leading into a cold winter after Russia shuts off the natural gas supply?
        To blissfully plow ahead with green technologies that cannot replace what is being shut down with fossil fuels, will cause more death than we can imagine.
        The setting of artificial deadlines regarding the demise of Earth is folly. Did Evangelicals somehow forget a sovereign God is still in charge?

        1. Rob –
          God is in charge. That does not mean we should neglect our responsibilities – which include being a good steward of all He has given us.
          Do you say “well God is in charge” and abandon your health? Do you say “well God is in charge” and refuse to pay your bills or save money? Do you say “well God is in charge” and refuse to help those in need?
          Do you suggest we all do nothing about litter, air and water pollution, excessive heat and drought, and overall refuse to take care of the environment He’s blessed us with, yet claim “well God is in charge!” Does that somehow make it ok to be reckless?
          Is wanting to address these issues somehow a denial of God being in charge? That doesn’t make sense.
          Let’s not take God for granted.

          1. So let’s just cross our fingers when Russia shuts down the gas? You can’t replace 60 percent capacity with 20 percent and wishful thinking. If you are the German Chancellor, how do you proceed with winter approaching? Honest question.

          2. Actually, Rob, you are proving my point.
            Doing nothing but say “God is in control” is the equivalent of crossing your fingers and hoping.
            Take action. Do YOUR part to be responsible with what God has given you. Don’t be wasteful (of food, money, gas, paper, plastic, etc). Don’t litter or pollute the air or water (stop smoking, throw things in proper waste or recycle bins, consider walking if something is less than a mile away, etc). Check on the elderly and vulnerable in times of excess heat (or cold). See what you can do to support communities that are near manufacturing plants and often see their air and water polluted. (Flint, Michigan STILL does not have clean water).
            It’s both alarming and sad that Christians see these things going on and prefer to argue or make political points than take action.

          3. MARIN HEISKELL
            ***
            Of course, we do all those things you mention below.
            But in your refusal to offer insight into an imminent disaster unfolding in Europe and elsewhere this coming winter; the policies set in place are producing genuine real world results that are extremely immediately harmful to people. They are chopping down trees right now for heat this winter, the same trees that sequester CO2. All the green technologies cannot replace fossil fuels at this time, yet policy makers in a blind rush implement them anyway. Your suggestions will not keep them warm this winter.

  3. Cynthia Norbeck

    So far, no accurate models exist that directly tie human activity to temperature changes in the earth’s environment.
    What many forget is that climate has changed throughout human history. Perhaps it would be wise to concentrate on air pollution, water pollution, and poverty rather than the elimination of fossil fuels. Emissions in the USA have benefitted a great deal from natural gas.
    Another quick point: The “solutions” some are adapting actually create more problems. One example involves burying the blades of now defunct wind turbines in Wyoming, one of our most beautiful states. Also, raptors are flying into wind turbines and dying in significant numbers. When it comes to electric cars, they are fairly quiet. Playing children will not hear their arrival…

    As believers, we are called to care for the earth in ways that do not cause even more death and destruction. Wisdom dictates that we should first do no harm, either to people or animals or our landscapes.

  4. Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight)

    Look up videos and talks given by Katherine Hayhoe. She is an evangelical Christian and a Climate Scientist. She is able to communicate the reality of climate change to her fellow believers.

    1. As a scientist (though not a climate scientist) and a Christian, I give a rousing second to the recommendation for Katherine Hayhoe. She has a way of explaining things clearly and speaking in ways that communicate to her fellow Evangelicals.

      One of the biggest tragedies of our times is how so many evangelicals have been captured by the misinformation spewed by monied interests and the right-wing ecosystem of lies so that they fail to see the damage being done to God’s creation. We of all people should be willing to give up a little of our own comfort for the sake of our neighbors through the world, but instead we keep driving our SUVs, eating steaks, and voting for politicians who place the fossil fuel industry above the health of the planet and its inhabitants.

      Kudos to the NAE for speaking out, but I fear their influence on today’s American evangelical church is negligible compared to the influence of science-denial sources like Fox News and Breitbart and misinformation echo chambers like Facebook.

  5. Climate change is only getting worse and Cambridge scientists say there is a risk of going beyond irreversible tipping points. We need an environmental Promised Land to give some policy coherence and to encourage public support. Check out stopsellingthedesert.org

  6. In my lifetime the global human population has tripled. This increase drives and aggravates all the other dynamics changing the Earth environment. Arguably we are then caught up in a dynamic nexus where the best we can do is mitigate ongoing and increasing environmental degradation. We then reach for science and technology for fixes to environmental problems themselves caused by our previous recourse to science and technology.
    If out of Evangelical Christianity emerges a mitigating force, then that can only be welcomed. However there is then a tension between pro-life faith-based matters, such as the overturning of Wade v Roe, which adversely effects the primary problematic dynamic of global population growth, and the central priority of degradation mitigation.
    That being said, the filtering of Biblical understanding in the name of care for creation, is praiseworthy.

  7. Thank you for this insightful and well-written article. I’m always amazed at how hostile people can be to the concept of taking care of the earth as being one of our responsibilities as Christians. The research on climate change is a gift from God to be able to do this better.

  8. I hope the evangelicals get off the climate bandwagon, and playing into the grubby hands of the WEF et al and start working for energy justice for the poor everywhere and the middle to lower income groups in the modern West. No cheap energy and the modern world stops as we slide back to the 18th century. At the same time as the long range temperature records show no trend! It’s all based on models based on crazy RCP 8.5 assumptions which are as unrealistic as flying rabbits.

  9. “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through, My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue” –

  10. Please consider the possibility that current global warming has been foretold in Scripture, specifically Revelation 16:8-9, which says, “Then the fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun, causing it to scorch everyone with its fire. Everyone was burned by this blast of heat, and they cursed the name of God, who had control over all these plagues. They did not repent of their sins and turn to God and give him glory.”

    What if the world is seeing the early stages of what Revelation 16:8-9 foretells? What if God is actually causing, or allowing, the world to get warmer? What if He is “hinting” that He has just about had enough of the murderous bloody abortion holocaust, the unprecedented explosion of sexual perversion and the corruption of children, the rejection of His Gospel, and the persecution of His people?

    What if He’s just about done with a world full of rebels who have taken His awe-inspiring, finely-balanced ecology for granted, who have expected that of course they’re always going to get the rain they need, but who never think to thank the One who provides so abundantly for them. Not only do they not acknowledge Him or thank Him, but more and more, they openly despise and defy Him.
    What if the cup of God’s wrath is nearly full, and in His mercy He’s giving mankind a warning foretaste of that wrath before He completely turns the cup over and pours it out on the world?

    What if the Lord really is coming back, and the global judgements He has clearly forewarned about really are beginning to break forth?

    1. Hello John,

      There is no “what if” about the Lord coming back. He is most definitely coming back. The question is, When? Only God knows.

      In the meantime, Christians should live each day as if He could come at any moment. In other words, we should be feeding the poor, loving our neighbors, taking care of widows and the fatherless, picking up trash, keeping ourselves healthy (physically, mentally and emotionally), and telling others about the incredible love of Jesus.

      God holds the world in the palm of his hand. He will decide when and how it comes to an end, not us. We are only responsible for the time that is given to us, as Gandalf so wisely said. We are mere mortals; God is infinite. Our power is tiny; His is extraordinary. We stumble and fall; He lifts us up to keep on keeping on.

      So, fellow believers, keep on keeping on. Do what is right and do not give up. In the end, God will be the judge of how we stewarded the earth. I imagine he will sift out those who were only interested in the money they could make from so-called “green technology” no matter how much its implementation would destroy the earth and its inhabitants.

      1. Cynthia,

        You are right, the Lord is coming back. My “What if . . . ” questions are a rhetorical device, not an expression of doubt.

        Many Christians profess belief in the return of Jesus Christ, but seemingly cannot or will not conceive that it could happen soon. Some of those I have engaged with on this topic seem not even to want Him to return, and would far rather not even think about it.

        But what if the time is actually approaching, for real? Nobody knows the day or the hour, but the Bible is replete with reliable information about the season. The Lord has given not given us this information so that we should ignore it or dismiss it.

        As I see it, the climate crisis is serving not only as an “early warning” from God to all of humanity, but also to advance His purposes and to precipitate developments which are foretold, and thus certain, to happen at the time of the End. For example, a global system of digital commerce is being constructed that will allow the very tight control of human behaviour, especially spending and consumption. I believe the time will soon come when, in order to “save the planet,” all of humanity will be compelled to submit to this system.

        I anticipate that this system will ultimately provide, in the final years of this present age, the economic lever that will be to coerce the whole world to worship Antichrist. Revelation 13 tells of this diabolical end-time regime; its coming is absolutely certain.

        What does global warming mean for Christians? I believe it means we must really and truly set our hearts on eternity and the things which are above, and ready ourselves for great tribulation and then the return of our Lord.

    2. Please consider the possibility that current global warming has been foretold in Scripture, specifically Revelation 16:8-9, which says, “Then the fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun, causing it to scorch everyone with its fire. Everyone was burned by this blast of heat, and they cursed the name of God, who had control over all these plagues. They did not repent of their sins and turn to God and give him glory.”

      End Time Prophecy tie-in, right on cue.
      Make sure you have your Fire Insurance Policy (individual only, never group) and Rapture Boarding Pass ready, because that’s all that matters. (Any minute now… Any minute now… Any minute now…)

      Back in the Seventies, that exact same verse was quoted as Plainly meaning the thermal flashes of thousands of warheads in Global Thermonuclear Armageddon. Any minute now.

      You can only take the Gospel According to Hal Lindsay & Jack Chick for so long before you crack up, bail out, or double down and go crazy.

      1. Hi Ken. I wrote, “please consider.” Or don’t. Time will tell. I’m here to encourage consideration of Scripture, not Hal Lindsay or Jack Chick. In numerous ways, the world has been moving closer and closer toward the conditions the Bible foretells will be evident at the time of the End. I trust you will not deny that this Bible prophecy about the End is proving true: “Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation'” (2 Peter 3-4).

        1. Mr. Ryan,

          Thank you for a great example on a biblical mature response to a propaganda technique that uses gaslighting and attempts to characterize your faith based on what men (Hal Lindsay or Jack Chick) say, not God.

          2 Thessalonians 2 should also be considered in the current state of the church, it’s leaders/followers, and the overall condition of society.

      2. Ken,

        Faith. Try it some time. It’s called believing what God says regardless of how crazy it might seem. According to the Inuit people, if you have to see to believe, you will miss many things that are real.

        Only God knows the day and the hour. We do not. We have a mandate to live each day to the fullest. That is all. We have to believe and move on. Perhaps you should do some research on global warming alarmism before making light of Christians who believe Christ is coming soon.

        Did you know that, according to some alarmists from the seventies, we should all be gone by now? And, let’s not forget that AOC has all of us dead by about 2030.

  11. Our nations climate czar flies around the world in his private jet. China is still building coal fired power plants and our government is against the exporting of clean burning LNG. I’m sorry but in my opinion the politics of climate change has the primary goal of weakening the USA.

  12. Meredith Nienhuis

    Julie, the December 3, 2020, picture of the Bond Fire – are we to accept that it was caused by Climate Change? One should consider the great fires of the 17th century in the United States which happened during very hot and dry weather conditions, and not because of climate change.
    October 8, 1871. 1) The Peshtigo, Wisconsin, fire consumed more than a million acres and an estimated 2,000 people perished. 2) the great Chicago Fire, some 400 people perished. 3) Holland, Michigan burned. 4) Manistee, Michigan, a fire burned some two million acres to the other side of the state. 5) Port Huron, Michigan, more than a million acres burned in the “thumb” area with “at least 50 deaths”.
    August 1888, a lightening induced fire in the northern Rockies, and 851 people perished.

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