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Faith and climate change

18 May 2005
An outstanding grasp of the science of climate change is not incompatible with strong religious faith. This is demonstrated by these comments by John Houghton, former Chair of Working Group I (science) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to the Evangelical Environment Network (John Houghton also kindly offered this text for publication on openDemocracy).

Faith groups in many parts of the world sometimes exert considerable political influence. This is certainly the case in the United States, which is why there was some attention this spring when – at around the same time as John Houghton spoke to the EEN – leading voices at the National Evangelical Alliance were reported to be expressing concerns about climate change (see here).

Back in March, openDemocracy asked Rich Cizik, the NEA’s Vice President for Governmental Affairs, to comment for this debate on the politics of climate change (which runs from 21 April to 10 June). Initially Rich Cizik initially expressed some interest but then decided not to comment.

openDemocracy has also approached other organisations from various faith traditions for comment and always welcomes relevant political insights from people of any faith or none.

So it is good to read comments in the forum from Costa Carras of the European Christian Environmental Network.

He takes issue with an observation by George Marshall in a roundtable of UK activists on openDemocracy that "there has been scarcely a peep about it from ... faith communities".

“Not so!” Costa Carras writes:

“There have been several statements by Christian bodies. The most recent example [was] made in early May 2005 at the Basel Assembly of the European Christian Environmental Network. There were about 150 participants at this meeting from all over Europe and of Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic persuasion alike”. (The Basel statement is here )

[Among others who have spoken out is Britain’s Archbishop of Canterbury. See here]

How great an impact, politically speaking, and of what kind are religious groups and individuals motivated by their faith having on climate policy?

Writing in this debate, Jim DiPeso of Green Republicans doesn’t list religious groups among four reasons (science, business, diplomacy and security) for what he argues is a slow but sure change in the US. By contrast (and as noted in this blog here), Andrew Sullivan speculates that “holies”, along with “hippies” (environmentalists) and “hawks” could effect a sea change in American policy.

Where, if anywhere will this all go next, and how will we know. From the National Religious Partnership for the Environment in the US and the Christian Ecology Network in the UK to their counterparts in other countries and other faiths and from none, comments on the political importance – or otherwise – of faith in this debate are welcome in the forum.

Caspar Henderson

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