Inside the “Christian” Anti-Climate Movement

August 9, 2017


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Long article, excerpted here is worth a full read if you want to understand this dynamic.


In 2005, at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C., the National Association of Evangelicals was on the verge of doing something novel: affirming science. Specifically, the 30-million-member group, which represents 51 Christian denominations, was debating how to advance a new platform called “For the Health of a Nation.” The position paper—written the year before An Inconvenient Truth kick-started sense of public urgency around climate change—included a call for evangelicals to protect God’s creation, and to embrace the government’s help in doing so. The NAE’s board had already adopted it unanimously before presenting it to the membership for debate.

At the time, many in the evangelical movement were uncomfortable with its close ties to the Republican anti-environmental regulation agenda. That year, a group called the Evangelical Alliance of Scientists and Ethicists protested the GOP-led effort to rewrite the Endangered Species Act, and the NAE’s vice president of governmental affairs Richard Cizik pushed for the organization to endorse John McCain and Joe Lieberman’s cap-and-trade bill. “For the Health of a Nation,” which Cizik also pushed, was an opportunity to draw a bright line between their support of right-wing social positions on abortion and civil rights and a growing sentiment that God’s creation needed protection from industry.

“Evangelicals don’t want themselves identified as the Republican Party at prayer,” the historian and evangelical Mark Knoll said at the time in support of the platform.

He was wrong. The rank-and-file membership rejected the effort. Like the oil and utilities industries, they decided that recognizing climate change was against their political interests.

Conservative groups, funded by fossil fuel magnates, spend approximately one billion dollars every year interfering with public understanding of what is actually happening to our world. Most of that money—most of the fraction of it that can be tracked, anyway—goes to think tanks that produce policy papers and legislative proposals favorable to donors’ interests, super PACs that support politicians friendly to industry or oppose those who are not, or mercenary lobbyists and consultants, in some instances employing the same people who fought to suppress the science on smoking. In terms of impact, however, few investments can rival the return that the conservative donor class has gotten from the small cohort of evangelical theologians and scholars whose work has provided scriptural justifications for apocalyptic geopolitics and economic rapaciousness.

The pull of fossil-fuel interests and the religious right is so strong that even conservative politicians who privately believe climate change is caused by humans have kept that view secret. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, has said that he knows of at least a dozen Republicans in the Senate who accept climate science and want to take action, but feel they can’t do so for fear of the political repercussions—despite the fact that recent polling shows a majority of Republican voters believe that the United States “should play a leading role” on climate action. Half a dozen politically connected evangelical Christians who are active on Capitol Hill backed up Whitehouse’s claim to Splinter, saying they have either first- or second-hand experience with politicians who admit in private that they accept climate science even as they oppose regulations and reforms in public.

Bob Inglis, a former GOP congressman from South Carolina who lost his seat to a primary opponent during the Tea Party surge of 2010, told Splinter that there are Republican senators and representatives who want to take climate action but are “terrified” to do so. Reverend Mitch Hescox, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, estimated that there are as many as 20 senators who would take action for climate and clean energy—but only if there were grassroots support to do so. Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech and an evangelical Christian who believes in climate change, suspects that the “vast majority” of those who dismiss climate science in Congress are secret believers. “We don’t have a lot of years for these people to come out of the closet,” Cizik, the ousted NAE board member, said.

The “evidence” against climate change, as Beisner and the Cornwall Alliance’s network of scholars interpret it, indicates that whatever fluctuations are happening in the global climate are insignificant—that to whatever extent the climate is changing, the consequences of those changes are not catastrophic. “We think that an infinitely wise God designed, and an infinitely powerful God created, and an infinitely faithful God sustained the Earth and its various subsystems for the benefit of all the living creatures in the Earth,” Beisner told me.

Cafeteria Creationist: Above, Coal/Oil funder Preacher Cal Beisner invites an audience, (at 1:46 if you’re rushed) to freely interpret climate data in light of young-earth creationism.

“It could of course always be the case that the all-wise, all-powerful, all-faithful God has so designed the system as to react to abusive action in a manner that expresses God’s judgement on that abuse,” he said. “We abort millions of babies every year. Maybe God will express his judgement of that through the climate system. We have millions of people killed in unjustified wars. Maybe God expresses his judgement of that through the climate system. Or God doesn’t like our pulling coal and oil and natural gas out of the Earth, so he’s going to make the climate system react in a way that would not seem likely on our prior thinking basis.” He added later: “One experimental way of trying to test that would be to end the abortions and see if the climate change ended.”

In 2015, Beisner wrote a position paper on economics and the environment for Acton with Michael Cromartie, a Cornwall advisor and longtime courtier of the secular media. Free markets encourage both competition and stewardship, they argued paradoxically, and are “essential to human welfare.” Therefore, capitalism must have “a moral priority on our thinking about how society ought to be ordered.” The influence of the Coalition on Revival’s Economics “World View” from nearly two decades earlier is clear: “A free market economy is the closest approximation in this fallen world to the system of economy revealed in the Bible.” So concludes nearly four centuries of Calvinist thought, decades of fundamentalist resentment, and several billion dollars in political spending.

Those billions are paying off. Not only have the people who funded Cornwall successfully stopped the government from pursuing policies that might make the lives of people who are living with the consequences of climate change a little bit better, but under the Trump administration their lackeys are actively working to dismantle what little progress has been made. When Drollinger teaches that God’s covenant with Noah means that the consequences of climate change not only will not but in fact cannot be as devastating as scientists believe, he echoes a lengthy essay published by the Cornwall Alliance in 2009 that lays out the same argument. Typical of the organization’s style, it appears to the casual observer like any policy paper drawn up at one of D.C.’s many think tanks and nonprofits; in reality, the document blends quotations from scripture with pseudo-scientific data—citing, for example, the Mercer-funded Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. During Pruitt’s confirmation hearing, Republican Sen. John Barrasso favorably cited Beisner and the Cornwall Alliance’s support for the Oklahoma attorney general.

“A guy who has given full-throated defenses of coal has told me privately, ‘Coal is dead. We know that. We’re just trying to figure out how to move on.’ Meanwhile he keeps on talking about coal,” Rep. Inglis told me. “Members of Congress are afraid of the people they represent, but they’re terrified of the activists within their own party, because that’s who takes you out in a primary.”

The former congressman recalled visiting Paul Ryan’s district with RepublicEn, his new climate lobby group, to talk about climate change with the House speaker’s constituents. A pair of vocal, anti-environmental activists disrupted the bipartisan event. “At the end of the night, one of my guys said, ‘You realize those are two of the most important activists in Paul Ryan’s district? These two ladies, you sit them in a phone bank, they would wear out multiple cell phone batteries destroying Paul Ryan if they thought he’d gone soft on them.” (When I asked whether he cited that example because Speaker Ryan has privately expressed support for climate action, Rep. Inglis demurred. “Better not go into that,” he said with a laugh.)

16 Responses to “Inside the “Christian” Anti-Climate Movement”

  1. Whacky stuff.

    Still, if you believe a non-existent, all-powerful creator, it’s easy to deny the reality of climate change, or science in general. Some I suspect are just waiting for the Rapture or whatever they call it to arrive and scoop them up before the shit hits the fan.

    • climatehawk1 Says:

      Makes total sense, because climate change is the greatest threat to everything you love, unless you only love Jesus.

  2. ubrew12 Says:

    Beisner: “One experimental way… to test that would be to end the abortions and see if the climate change ended.” I’m all for experimentation, as its very scientifical. Lets also take a look at ending the use of chopsticks, and ending the picking of noses. These could also result in the end of climate change, if I understand Beisner’s logic here, and also considering this advice: “For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.”

  3. If a hard-core Evangelical denier hits you with one of the many long-debunked denier talking-points, don’t be shy about quoting Scripture in response.

    I’d recommend Proverbs 26:11.

    • redskylite Says:

      I think nearly all religions urge that we exert good stewardship of our planet, some where in archaic writings. Like just about everything else over-zealous people interpret to their own personal preference, and are deaf to reason.

      Genesis 2:15New International Version (NIV)

      15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

    • But eventually folks will clobber “caerbannog666” with the Commandment about bearing false witness against your neighbor, to which none of you yet can dispute with evidence proving skeptics are paid industry money to spread lies.

      • So the dog returneth with some more vomit….

      • So you are saying deniers are spreading “false witness” for free? Geez, how dumb is that? There’s so much money sloshing around available to those spreading industry friendly propaganda, why not have your nose in the trough?

      • redskylite Says:

        Russell – You have already aired your contribution to the site “” on July 18th under the post of “Al Gore with Colbert: New Climate Movie out Soon”. Have you set up an “internet bot” to auto respond to key items or have nothing more original to discuss. ?

        • Luv you guys, I truly do. Peter says he allows me to comment at this blog (unpermitted comments about your favorite evangelical AGW scientist notwithstanding) as an example of what the opposition is, but can’t lift a finger to define what that is. Meanwhile, you guys are a showcase for what AGWers are, folks who excel psychological projection. “Redskylite” brings up the ‘bot’ notion, but as those of you who actually read my blog know, I detailed exactly where such bots are found. Keith brings up the notion of us supposedly swimming in illicit money despite the persistent joke among skeptics being “Where’s my Exxon check”, and in a nod to “caerbannog666”, which side has been doing all the regurgitating of unsupportable talking points for the last 25+ years? It’s your side.

          Again, the reality of the situation is I showed up here to see if any single one of you gents and female Russian agents could point anybody to evidence proving a pay-for-performance arrangement exists between any skeptic climate scientist and industry people. Big goose egg from y’all so far, but more funny than that, not a single one of you has even tried to dispute specific details at my blog or in my other writings. All I’ve seen is paranoid conspiracy theory from one commenter in particular, and utterly predictable material like what’s above from the rest of you. Is there a chance anytime in our future that one of you will dive into the vast archive holdings of Greenpeace and Desmogblog to show me and all of the rest of you real evidence that will stand up in a courtroom evidentiary hearing proving your otherwise worthless ‘crooked skeptics’ accusation??

          • Andy Lee Robinson Says:

            Special place in Hell being reserved for you, assuming they’ll let you in.

          • Gingerbaker Says:

            “… proving a pay-for-performance arrangement exists between any skeptic climate scientist and industry people. ”

            Russell spouting his most persistent and preposterous claim, once again, as if repeatedly being paid to write lies about climate warming and RE, would not be convictable.

            If there is any justice in this world, Russell, you and your ilk will have your day in court, and you will be imprisoned or executed for Crimes Against Humanity. We will see how supercilious you will be about “proof” when records are subpoenaed, and you are finally made accountable for the blood and misery on your hands.

          • You are pathetic.

            The likely range of global temperature increase is 2.0–4.9 °C, with median 3.2 °C and a 5% (1%) chance that it will be less than 2 °C (1.5 °C).

            up to 4.9 °C by 2100.


            They’re saving a special place in hell for you and your fellow money-grubbing deniers, Russell.

          • Keith brings up the notion of us supposedly swimming in illicit money despite the persistent joke among skeptics being “Where’s my Exxon check”, and in a nod to “caerbannog666”, which side has been doing all the regurgitating of unsupportable talking points for the last 25+ years?

            I will freely acknowledge that most deniers (like you) aren’t in it for the money, basically because you guys *can’t* be in it for the money.

            You know why? Because you are all a bunch of sorry-a** bulls***ers who have no technical skills.

            You guys are a dime a dozen; you will do the FF industry’s bidding for a pittance because you are unemployable anywhere else.

            People with no skills except the ability to make s**t up, and who are also are unwilling/unable to do any real work are in plentiful supply. The Koch Bros and all the other bad actors in the FF industry are fully aware of that.

            So to get you to do their bidding, all they have to do is outbid Walmart. Actually, not even that — Walmart expects their employees to *work* for their paycheck

            The Koch Bros & FF industry don’t expect any real productive work from you guys. They just want you to spew bull***t. That it doesn’t take much talent to do, and the climate-denier funders know that. So they pay you guys accordingly.

            Bottom-feeders, the whole lot of you!

  4. redskylite Says:

    “Bots may be used on internet forums to automatically post inflammatory or nonsensical posts to disrupt the forum and anger users.”

    Just to remind you – the ninth commandment in the Catholic religion relates to coveting thy neighbors wife. I can’t believe you did not even bother to research that before posting your talk on the Catholic site. I can’t believe that you are not ashamed of it, or your masters at Heartland haven’t reprimanded you. That is just not professional, nor is that is responsible. What are you at ? I don’t believe that you are just putting your side to the debate.

  5. bobinchiclana Says:

    This feature last night on UK Channel 4 was hilarious and troubling at the same time! Not sure if the video will work outside the UK,

    Climate change: The community putting their faith in Donald Trump
    By Inigo Gilmore

    “The US decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Change agreement has pitted America against the rest of the world. Tangier Island in Virginia is home to a community that’s been labelled America’s first climate change refugees.
    The inhabitants have a few decades left before they’ll have to abandon their homes. Their low lying community may be disappearing into Chesapeake Bay. But they believe they will be saved. By faith. By God. By Donald Trump.”

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