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Cornwall Alliance issues climate change agenda

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, a coalition of evangelicals focused on the issue of global climate change, has released a 16-point public policy agenda for balancing concern about global climate change with social responsibility for people who live in poverty.

The 19-page document, “The Cornwall Stewardship Agenda,” calls for governmental policymakers to focus on “firmly established risks” to the climate and respond “in ways that are cost-effective and have proven benefit.” Humanity’s “divinely ordained responsibility to exercise faithful stewardship” includes not only protection of the environment but also “meeting human needs (particularly those of the poor), cultivating human creativity and helping people flourish,” the document says.

Public policy in the United States and around the world is in danger of being made on the basis of outdated science, and the problem is made worse by mass media that are ignoring recent scientific findings that call the notion of human-induced global warming into question, said Barrett Duke, vice president for governmental affairs for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“This issue has significant implications for the entire world,” Duke said during an April 17 news conference announcing the release of the Cornwall agenda. “The decisions world leaders are about to make in this country, as well as around the world, have the potential to significantly affect commerce and the well-being of people who can least afford any hiccups at all in the world economy.”

Activists who warn about the danger of human-caused climate catastrophe focus on what may happen in 50 or 100 years if the climate forecasting models they use are correct, Duke said. On the other hand, he said, there is little question that if “draconian restrictions” are imposed on the global economy, poor people in the undeveloped world will be unable to improve their lives.

“We believe poor and vulnerable communities and the underdeveloped parts of the world should have access to the food they need to improve their health and well-being and should have access to affordable, abundant energy so they can work their own way out of their impoverished situations,” Duke said. “We do not believe it is appropriate to leave a vast proportion of this world’s populace in poverty — essentially in the Stone Age — simply because maybe, possibly, somehow humans might be changing the climate.”

A biblical worldview calls for Christians to use, not abuse, creation and also requires them to love both God and neighbor, said Stephen Livesay, president of Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn. By dictating restrictive policies on global energy use, wealthy nations that claim to be concerned for the poor in effect are condemning them to remain in poverty, Livesay said.

“It seems rather contradictory to me for wealthy nations to take advantage of our wealth to clean up emissions from various kinds of energy sources, yet not allow developing countries to have proper energy supplies so they can improve their own standard of living,” Livesay said. “How can we say we are loving others when we are not allowing them to have the opportunity to fulfill the great purpose God has for mankind to prosper, be fulfilled and give Him glory through their work?”

The executive summary of the Cornwall Stewardship Agenda says: “God calls us to steward creation, but presently much environmental advocacy and activism contradict sound theology and sound science…. This agenda is designed to flesh out the broad principles of the 2000 Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship … and answer the practical question of what public policy principles religious leaders and policymakers should support in their desire to achieve Biblically balanced stewardship.”

The document addresses two issues — “poverty and development” and “energy and climate change” — before outlining 16 public policy recommendations on climate change, fossil fuels and nuclear energy, new energy technologies and energy and economic development. The recommendations call for continued study of climate change science and reporting on new findings “even if they challenge prevalent opinions.” Opposition is voiced to Kyoto Protocol efforts to curtail use of fossil fuels and subsidize alternative energy sources such as biofuels, while research is endorsed for clean energy technologies.

The entire document is posted on the group’s website, www.cornwallalliance.org.
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor for Baptist Press.

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