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Recruiting Young Evangelicals for Climate Activism

Posted By Mark D. Tooley On July 26, 2012 @ 12:04 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 9 Comments

Although global warming, which has morphed into climate change, has receded as a hot button issue, a new “Young Evangelicals for Climate Action” has emerged.  Spawned by the Evangelical Environmental Network, it aims to capture a new generation for climate scaremongering.

Ostensibly, the YECA has already met “many evangelical leaders, as well as senior officials at the White House,” according to a report from Jim Wallis’ Sojourners. So it’s off and running.  Evidently not confident that compassion for the planet itself is sufficiently motivating, the new emphasis is on global warming’s impact on the “least of these,” as Jesus called the poor.  Ostensibly poor people are or will be the chief victims as, according to lore, the earth increasingly boils thanks to SUVS driven by gas guzzling Americans.

As the Sojourners announcement frankly admitted, popular concern about the “climate crisis” has been declining. The article cites a 2006 Evangelical Climate Initiative, backed by prominent clergy, as the “high water mark” for evangelical climate worriers.  “Regrettably, over the last several years, the climate crisis has largely dropped off the radar across the evangelical Christian community, just as it has within much of American politics,” Sojourners regretted.  It pointed the finger at the “climate deniers” who have been “all too effective in spinning concern about this crisis into a politically toxic and culturally controversial issue.”  So YECA has arisen to ensure “things need to change.”  After all, “There is no time to lose.”

It’s not explained why the nefarious “climate deniers,” so reluctant to join the panic, have been successful.  Perhaps it’s due to increasing members of the scientific community, which never spoke uniformly, questioning the apocalyptic neuroses of the worst climate fear peddlers.  And it’s perhaps due to 4 years of economic stagnation, which disinclines the public from indulging boutique causes that villainize economic growth.  YECA presumably will target idealistic young people anxious for a cause and maybe unaware that global warming as a leftist crusade has been around for 20 years now, having superseded the New Ice Age panic of 35 years ago.

A major study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology earlier this year revealed that today’s young people, the “Millennials,” are actually less captivated by or even interested in environmentalism than were their preceding generations, the Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers, at similar ages.  The study was conducted mostly before the 2008-2009 economic melt-down, whose high unemployment among new college graduates almost certainly will accentuate the trend.  So YECA has a large job reversing what is for climate activists an unwelcome trend.  More fear about the climate is urgently needed!

The YECA manifesto declares the “climate crisis” a “pressing challenge to justice and freedom,” without providing details.  But the kind of global economic regimentation required in the attempt to affect the climate almost certainly would reduce freedom.  It also calls for “advocating on behalf of the poor and marginalized.” Of course, it does not acknowledge that the massive reduction in economic growth and in living standards necessary for significant reduction in carbon emissions would most of all hurt the world’s poor and deprive them of any meaningful possibility of escaping chronic poverty for the middle class.

It’s presumably not coincidental that YECA was formed in a presidential election year.  “As young evangelicals, we are looking for a President who will lead our country and Congress in overcoming the climate crisis, through comprehensive climate legislation that centers around putting a price on carbon pollution.” They are demanding that presidential candidates prioritize “comprehensive climate legislation in the next administration.”

So YECA is essentially lobbying young evangelicals to support President Obama, though even he, having mostly remained silent about the climate over the last 4 years, is unlikely to resurrect it as a major theme in the future.  The YECA website celebrates that Obama has “finally” mentioned global warming, in a recent Rolling Stone interview.  YECA is pledging to target electoral swing states like Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida.

So much for post-partisan evangelicals seeking to transcend the culture wars. The Evangelical Left, despite its verbiage, largely wants to persuade evangelicals to switch sides in the culture wars, abandoning marriage and abortion in favor of Big Government.

At a launch event in Washington, D.C. early this month, YECA activists met with the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, and Greenpeace, or much of the main secular environmentalist priestcraft.  As YECA noted, the summit was a “seemingly ironic swap of stereotypical roles,” since evangelicals were now encouraging environmentalists to “work harder for climate action.”  Is there the implication that even professional environmentalists are weary of the global warming theme and ready for greener pastures elsewhere?

A YECA video warns of “powerful interests that profit from holding us back.”  Who are these dark forces?  Surely they are no more powerful than the billions of dollars that governments globally continue to expend in homage to global warming, not to mention millions of dollars from leftist philanthropies.

Despite all the dollars and genuflections, very few governments are meaningfully choosing curtailing carbon emissions over economic growth.  Despite the West’s economic stagnation since 2008/2009, the global economy continues to grow, and the global south is the biggest winner.

Hundreds of millions globally have escaped poverty thanks to economic growth.  And evangelicals who really care about the poor should pray their numbers increase no matter the increased carbon emissions. The grim message of global warming alarmists, based more on ideology than science, privileges a mythological climate ideal over higher living standards for the world’s poorest.  That message is a loser, and thankfully so.

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