Good news on the climate front can be hard to come by—in Cancun or on Capitol Hill. So here’s something: At least we know, as of last week, that John Shimkus of Illinois won’t be chairman of the powerful House energy and commerce committee. At a subcommittee hearing last year the GOP congressman— a contender for the gavel that will now go to Michigan Republican Fred Upton—invoked the Bible to justify a do-nothing approach to climate change. “Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood,” the congressman intoned.
Shimkus’s theology “doesn’t hold water,” says Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good and former top lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals. “Let’s be clear,” he told me, “the idea that we can’t irreparably damage this planet by our actions runs contrary to all that’s taught in the scriptures.”
Cizik, a prominent advocate for climate action, spoke with me as he returned from the U.N. conference in Cancun. At the forefront of a growing evangelical “creation care” movement, he was instrumental in launching the Evangelical Climate Initiative, which turned a lot of heads in February 2006. Originally signed by 86 evangelical leaders—the tally is now more than 350—the ECI states that human-caused climate change is real, that the impact will be felt disproportionately by the world’s poor, and that Christians are called to take action. Pushback was fierce, and it still is. (In late 2008, Cizik’s more conservative brethren used his climate advocacy, along with his shifting position on same-sex unions, to have him ousted from the NAE.)
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