The Cornwall Alliance has organized “Protect the Poor: Ten Reasons to Oppose Harmful Climate Change Policies.” It urges prioritizing the interests of the global poor by prioritizing the wider availability of cheap energy, which primarily means fossil fuels. About 100 Christian notables were asked to be the initial endorsers, and I was honored to number among them.
Chiefly this declaration reacts to religious voices that hype global warming scare scenarios. Too often these voices claim that human use of fossil fuels will precipitate cataclysmic climate change, that the world’s poor will be the chief victims, and that the global economy must ultimately be completely restructured to first reduce and then ultimately eliminate fossil fuels. They typically don’t mention that what they demand eventually would cost untold trillions of dollars, with no guarantee of any significant impact on climate, and based on the fantasy that fossil fuels can be replaced plausibly in the foreseeable future with renewable energy sources.
Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest live without access to electricity. For heating and cooking they rely on burning wood or animal dung, precipitating widespread illness and premature death. At the same time, costs for fossil fuels are falling, thanks to new discoveries and technologies, like fracking, which of course climate activists oppose. Expensive alternatives to fossil fuels, like windmills and solar panels, realistically cannot help the global poor.
Hundreds of millions of the world’s poor have escaped poverty over the last 20 years, in China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and elsewhere, at the greatest rate in human history, thanks to economic growth facilitated by fossil fuels. China and India are busily building more coal fired power plants to provide electricity for their growing nations. Climate activists are peeved. But despite the growing emissions, there’s been no increase in global temperatures in over 15 years. The increase during the last century was about one degree.
Climate activists, based on their computer models, insist that global temperatures will resume their climb eventually. But these computer models did not predict the long stall. This Cornwall Declaration declaration doesn’t claim human activity has no impact on climate. But it is skeptical that experts can make dogmatic predictions about the future, for which evidence is lacking.
Most importantly, the declaration stresses the human cost of strict adherence to climate activism orthodoxy. The wealthy West perhaps can afford to absorb some of what climate activists demand. But the global poor would be consigned to permanent, chronic poverty if climate change orthodoxy were rigorously imposed on the global economy.
Just this week a Methodist bishop pronounced global warming a chief threat to humanity. Mainline Protestants officials have bewailed climate change for many years. They love disaster scenarios, especially if they align with their statist political and economic goals! But some Evangelicals over the last decade have also jumped aboard the cause of climate alarmism. They do not readily admit their cause is primarily for well-heeled western environmentalists. Most of the world, especially the Global South, is more interested in economic growth, which is only realistically plausible with inexpensive fossil fuels.
There’s often a cold comfort in grim pessimism, predicting the worst about the future. But sustained global economic growth, including the newly realized availability of affordable fossil fuels, is good news, especially for the poor. Christian leaders should celebrate this ongoing empowerment of the previously poor and emerging hope for the remaining poor. After all, God still reigns, and sometimes He rescues humanity from itself.