I came of age politically in the age of William F. Buckley, Jr and Ronald Reagan, which means I escaped being indoctrinated into the progressive ideology behind John Maynard Keynes’ economics and Rachel Carson’s environmentalism. So I was baffled by a recent article in World Magazine discussing how many of today’s young “conservatives” embrace the ideas I avoided 40 years ago.
The article, Young Republicans embrace climate care, begins with a profile of the 24-year-old Andrew Eisenman, a recent graduate of Liberty University who has begun to vote Democrat because of the Republican Party’s position on climate change. According to World, he believes climate change is “an urgent threat that will increasingly disrupt weather patterns, causing severe storms, crop destruction, and other deadly disasters.”
World goes on to point out:
Eisenman is far from alone: Young people increasingly rate climate change as a top issue driving their votes. That includes young Republicans, and a growing number of them are demanding that the party make room for climate concerns. They say they’re trying to overcome partisanship, sway lawmakers, and tackle pollution and greenhouse gas emissions using conservative principles.
The rest of the article catalogues other examples of relatively young environmental activists who are promoting “conservative” ways to save the planet.
What the article does not do, however, is examine whether or not climate change is an “urgent threat” or if the policies the activists are pursuing are actually conservative.
There is a remarkable lack of curiosity in both World’s article and the young activists it profiles regarding the validity of the claims of the urgent threat we face because of man-made climate change. For instance, readers are told that Eisenman “opposes abortion but also considers opposing climate change to be a pro-life stance.” However, there is no investigation into the question about how we might successfully oppose climate change given the fact that the world experienced significant shifts in global temperatures during the Medieval Warm Period (950–1250) and the Mini Ice Age (1250–1850)—well before any meaningful man-made CO2 emissions. We are left with either the task of opposing Mother Nature or of dealing with yet another alleged man-made environmental crisis, like acid rain, global cooling, and many others.
In addition, there is, as Dr. E. Calvin Beisner has pointed out in his book How Does the Creation Care Movement Threaten the Pro-Life Movement?, a monumental ethical difference between whatever deaths might come from climate change and those that come from abortion. Those from climate change are unintended consequences of otherwise helpful activities—providing the abundant, reliable, affordable energy indispensable to lifting and keeping whole societies out of poverty. The improvement in health from that energy doubtless prevents far more premature deaths than does whatever climate change comes from it. Deaths from abortion, however—opposition to which is the central meaning of the phrase “pro-life,” which was coined by the anti-abortion movement—are intentional. Calling climate change a pro-life issue neglects the important difference between intentional and accidental killing.
Regarding how we are going to solve this current crisis, the article sets the right tone when it suggests there are “‘common-sense, market-based, and limited-government’ policies to combat climate change.” Yet the policies outlined fail to live up to these standards. These include “government [investment] in development of new energy technologies,” ensuring that “natural gas produced by fracking [is] eventually … phased out in favor of cleaner energy sources,” and the carbon tax, which “avoids regulation and incentivizes free-market solutions to climate change.”
What concerns me most about World’s article is the portrayal of a growing Christian movement that appears to see economic and environmental issues more through the lens of Keynes and Carson than one consistent with God’s Word. Yet I am optimistic that this will be overcome through the work of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and other groups and individuals seeking to apply the whole counsel of God’s Word to all aspects of life in God’s creation.
Bill Peacock is a teacher and consultant with 30 years of experience in public policy. He writes about faith, policy, and culture at ExcellentThought.net.