Economics, Energy and the Environment

Will Climategate Lead to Soul Searching among Religious Environmentalists?

For years, I’ve warned fellow Christians not to confuse environmental stewardship with climate change alarmism. My experience is that many Christian environmentalists simply accept the conventional wisdom when it comes to the science, rather than studying it carefully. They place a lot of weight on the credibility of mainstream views. So I’m hoping that Climategate will cause many of them to rethink their uncritical embrace of what they learn from the cover of Newsweek.

Of course, I’m not holding my breath waiting for mea culpas from, say, the Evangelical Environmental Network and National Religious Partnership for the Environment. But there are some hopeful signs among individual Christians who think about these issues. For instance, on November 20, “Blackadder,” at the (generally conservative) American Catholic wrote a post, “Are the GOP and/or Conservatives Anti-Science?” Among his examples: conservative skepticism about “evolution,” vaccines, and—you guessed it—global warming:

I do find it startling that so many conservatives still reject the idea that human activity is a major cause of global warming. Not only that, but in discussions about the subject people often will use arguments or bring up points calling into question the validity of scientific knowledge in general, or in areas completely separated from the subject (one person recently told me during a discussion about global warming that there wasn’t any evidence in favor of heliocentrism).

So in one short paragraph, Blackadder links skepticism about AGW (anthropogenic global warming) with heliocentrism, while using the bugaboo “anti-science,” which is an adjective often used by proponents of conventional wisdom to dismiss anyone who doubts said wisdom. Blackadder isn’t taking seriously the skeptical critiques of climate change orthodoxy, or even following the climate debate carefully. He’s just following conventional wisdom.

Notice that the post appeared on November 20, the same day the news broke of the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. Then, on November 29, Blackadder posted “Conservatives and Science: A Partial Retraction.” Here’s what he says:

Last Friday I wrote a post, Are the GOP and/or Conservatives Anti-Science, in which I described what I felt was a growing anti-scientific sentiment among certain segments of the conservative movement and the Republican party. One of my examples was continued conservative denial of the reality of anthropogenic global warming. In a case of what you might describe as Really Bad Timing, my post happened to coincide with the release of a lot of climate science’s dirty laundry.

I’ve now taken a little time to digest the materials from CRU, and I have to say some of the stuff their strikes me as being pretty damaging. If I had to bet, I’d still say that human activity was a major cause of recent warming, and I still maintain that some of the arguments advanced by conservatives on this subject display a mix of scientific ignorance and/or anti-scientific bias (in fact, in some cases conservatives I’ve argued with have admitted as much). Nevertheless, based on the CRU material, I have to say that it was wrong to lump all climate skeptics into the “anti-science” camp.

Mea culpa.

Blackadder and others at American Catholic still need to study the substance of the issue, since they’re still appealing to the fake “consensus” on climate change; but this is progress. I’m hoping millions of religious Americans are also considering retractions, if only in the way they think about this issue.

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