Part Robertson's Sweaty Global Warming Epiphany Challenges American Environmental Movement
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Aug 05, 2006 at 12:38:17 PM EST
A few days ago, on a 700 Club segment going out on channels available to tens of millions of Americans - and as a record breaking US east coast heat wave apparently melted the pavement of his previous denial - a prominent and long time skeptic of Global Warming dropped a bombshell. Pat Robertson declared his newfound belief that Global Warming is real and a dire threat :
I tell you stay in doors ladies and gentleman. Stay cool. Get fans or whatever. And the poor, they need emergency fans and ice to cool down -- the number of people dead. I have not been one who believed in the global warming. But I tell you, they are making a convert out of me as these blistering summers. They have broken heat records in a number of cities already this year and broken all-time records and it is getting hotter and the ice caps are melting and there is a build up of carbon dioxide in the air. We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels. If we are contributing to the destruction of the planet we need to do manage about it. [ see the video of Robertson's historic reversal at Alternet ]

Some reaction from the left and the environmental movement, to Robertson's historic reversal, has inclined towards ridicule and Sierra Club director Carl Pope's sarcastic toss off, in an op-ed on the Huffington Post - was among the more restrained of the commentary ( "It's official. God believes in global warming. Or so says conservative religious commentator Pat Robertson" ). But, what of the political realignment underway as many American evangelicals come to see "Creation Care" as a religious and Biblical imperative ? 70% of American evangelicals see Global Warming as a threat to the planet. Judging by the starting absence of actual, hardheaded analysis on the significance of Robertson's shift - and especially from environmental groups and leaders - the environmental community has failed to exploit a rapidly opening wedge issue that could set off seismic shifts in the American political landscape.

But, the rare commentary ( see :  WorldNet Daily article ) to be found mentioning the possible impact of Robertson's startling shift on evangelical politics points toward  a yawning chasm of incomprehension on the part of the big inside-the -beltway environmental advocacy organizations which might seem to ask : "this religion stuff is relevant to us how ?"

In October 2005, Robertson's 700 Club featured Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe characterizing Global Warming believers as "far left" and Robertson - throwing in a sharp jab, presumeably directed at evangelicals - depicting those with environmental concerns as at risk of idolatry by worshipping "God's creation" rather than God. Strong words indeed.

Robertson's recent Damascus moment has increased the political isolation of Inhofe and other Global Warming denialists. Had Robertson's conversion occured earlier in the year, it might well have tipped the balance - in a hard fought battle [ link to AU story, see midway down page ] among the US National Association of Evangelicals - towards a vote advocating US government action on Global Warming [ link - Christian Century story, March 2006 ].

Given the importance of evangelical support as part of the Bush administration and GOP political base, an NAE vote advocating action on Global Warming might well have forced the Bush Administration to back off rom it's mendacious mumblings on the issue and take action, however tentative, to curb greenhouse gasses. The process would have at least begun. Well, that was not to be.

Was the American environmental community even aware of, or paying more than passing attention to, the pitched battle, in the NAE in early 2006, over Global Warming ? Relatively small resources directed in precisely targeted ways could possibly have tipped the vote had environmentalists had some detailed knowledge of the politics of the Christian right. But, what could have been was not to be. The moment came and went, and - for the time being at least - the NAE has backed off advocating action on Global Warming.

Will the American environmental community start to pay more attention to  how religion  - for better or worse - influences the US government position on Global Warming and other environmental issues ? Will environmentalists build stronger, smarter strategic alliances with growing evangelical environmental movement ?

Will the leadership of big American environmental advocacy organizations undergo "Damascus moments" of their own and learn how they can influence internal politics among American religious constituencies to force meaningful US government action on Global Warming and related, gathering environmental crises ? Will they be equipped and prepared to lobby for their interests prior to the next NAE vote on Global Warming ?  

Time will tell, but time grows short.

Talk To Action member Carlos has kept a keen eye on the internal politics of the Christian right. See:

The Evangelical Climate Initiative

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Aug 05, 2006 at 01:00:16 PM EST

Bruce, these are some excellent questions.

by Carlos on Sat Aug 05, 2006 at 01:14:19 PM EST
Now, I sense a teachable moment !

I've got some writing lined up behind this piece.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Aug 05, 2006 at 01:41:13 PM EST

I'm skeptical that Pat Robertson has really changed his mind about global warming.  In the statement you posted above, Robertson hedges a lot and says that "these blistering hot summers" are "making a convert out of him" (implying he isn't one yet) .  He also says "If we are contributing to the destruction of the planet we need to do manage about it", instead of the stronger claim that "we are".  All in all, it is pretty underwelming.

Besides that, this is just one statement.  If the heat from the Religious Right gets too hot for him, Robertson could just "flip-flop," reverse himself and apologize, just like he did with the Ariel Sharon incident.

Interested in what Robertson's network had to say about global warming/climate change, I searched the CBN website for "Global Warming" and "Climate Change".  Most of the articles written by CBN writers are either skeptical of global warming/climate change or give significant space to global warming/climate change skeptics.  A sampling:

All the articles on CBN that treat global warming/climate change as reality were written by the AP wireservice:

Pat Robertson's personal site did not have any information about global warming/climate change on it.

Additionally, I did also find two atricles on CBN that might interest Talk2Action members:

"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Sat Aug 05, 2006 at 05:34:22 PM EST

Global warming has already taken place. The average temperature of the planet is higher than it has been if thousands of years.

There are two separate issues which need to be dealt with.
First, is amelioration. That is we need to start taking steps to limit the amount of damage that climate change is producing. This includes restricting new construction in at-risk regions bordering the oceans. Rebuilding New Orleans which is already below sea level, is a perfect example of what not to do. The residential parts of the city should be rebuilt further inland. The historic parts that attract the tourists should be protected as best as possible. A good transit link between the two regions would make things run smoothly.
Other similar steps include restricting growth in desert areas like the US southwest. These are already using unsustainable levels of water and suffering from frequent droughts.

Second, is prevention. That is, taking steps so that things won't get even worse in the future. Even if the world was able to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, it would take close to 50 years for atmospheric concentrations to return to pre-industrial levels. Since this isn't going to happen it is clear that any steps which are being considered are going to take decades to become significant, and then further decades for their effects to be felt.

This shows the importance of starting to adapt now. Unfortunately this is not on any politician's agenda. As Reagan famously said "What has posterity ever done for me?" With people worried about their next paycheck how many are willing to invest in projects which will only affect their grandchildren?

-- Policies not Politics
by rdf on Sun Aug 06, 2006 at 03:58:46 PM EST

The topic of this site is not global warming. It is the religious right and what to do about it.

There has been some significant topic drift in recent weeks, and it is the intention of the site owners to maintain the focus of the site.

I am writing a series of warning notes at the moment to encourage people to think before posting.

This community can only work if people respect the focus of the site. Commenters and diarists  who do not respect the focus of the site will find their comments and diaries deleted. Repeat offenders will be banned.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Aug 07, 2006 at 10:43:53 PM EST

Nice article, Bruce.  I believe Jefferey Wismer has an article in the pipe about the history of the Christianist stance (since 2000) against the environment, and the green evangelical insurgency.

by Tom Neely on Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 08:58:49 PM EST

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