Land: Climate bill may get Senate push

WASHINGTON (BP)--The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is warning that Senate Democrats appear to be preparing to push climate-change legislation, which the ERLC says would further burden the economy.

If such congressional action occurs, it would take place despite being based on "questionable science," according to the commission.

ERLC President Richard Land issued the warning in a March 12 "action alert" to the entity's e-mail list, encouraging recipients to ask their senators to oppose global warming legislation that would place a cap on and tax firms for environmental emissions. Such a measure would result in increased costs to consumers, he said.

"It is our understanding that the Democrat Senate leadership is planning to move forward with a cap-and-trade bill, which would drastically limit levels of greenhouse gases that electrical, industrial and transportation sectors can emit, tax them for what they do emit and slap them with hefty fines if they exceed those emissions levels," Land wrote.

Such legislation would force "industries and businesses to slash jobs and to pass their taxes on to individuals and families in the form of price increases on commodities and energy," Land said. "This would make it even more difficult for America to climb out of its current economic troubles. Making this worse, the whole basis for the policy -- catastrophic human-induced global warming -- is not even settled among scientists, who are growing increasingly skeptical, especially since we have been experiencing a decade-long cooling trend."

Land said Christians "should take every reasonable step to care for God's creation. But rushing into environmental policies based on questionable science that will create greater economic hardships on every American, especially the poor, is the wrong approach."

The ERLC opposed a cap-and-trade bill last year that failed to gain passage. The measure, sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I.-Conn., and John Warner, R.-Va., would have required cuts in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. It would have established an annual cap on emissions through the year 2050 and allowed a trading system among energy companies and other organizations, permitting those that produce more emissions to purchase credits from those producing fewer.

Land's warning came a day after the Gallup polling company reported the American public's skepticism about the way the news media portrays the "seriousness of global warming" is at an all-time high.

Gallup said 41 percent of Americans believe the news media's portrayal is "generally exaggerated," while 29 percent think it is "generally correct" and 28 percent consider it "generally underestimated." In contrast, 38 percent said in 2006 global warming's seriousness was underestimated and only 30 percent said it was exaggerated.

The survey was conducted March 5-8. Gallup has been polling on the question since 1997.

The issue of climate change, its threat and its cause has produced division in the public, as well as in the evangelical Christian community. While many scientists and numerous evangelicals accept the view that human activity has had a dramatic effect on global warming, others contend such an assumption is questionable. Skeptics of human-induced climate change say a cap-and-trade law would have little impact on global warming but would inflict great harm on the economy and the poor.

The position of the ERLC's Land is reflected in the approach of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, a coalition of primarily evangelicals and scientists who say the cause of global warming remains uncertain.

An alternative evangelical coalition, the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI), contends human beings are the primary cause of global warming, which it says will have the greatest impact on those in poverty. ECI President Jim Ball endorsed the Lieberman-Warner legislation last year.

Messengers to the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution affirming humanity's responsibility to protect the environment. It called for government policies that strike a balance among environmental stewardship, economic effects and care for the poor most likely to be affected by such decisions, while urging caution in the debate over the human role in global warming.

Land's e-mail may be accessed on the ERLC's Internet site, www.erlc.com.


Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode.

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