Matt Frei, the BBC’s American Correspondent, writes today that fewer Americans than ever believe in Climate Change. He opens the argument thusly:
Despite Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and a photo album of environmental horrors, fewer Americans are convinced today that the planet is in peril because of human behaviour…
Or perhaps it is because of these things? Americans, especially those who do not live on the East or West coasts (at least the ones I know), seem to me to be very sceptical of big government and of causes which are promoted vociferously but which have very little in the way of something solid in their experience to back them up. For example, it is well know that Al Gore (the failed presidential candidate) is set to become the first “climate change billionaire” by the end of this year. I suspect it is hard for many hardworking, conservative Americans to stomach being told that they have to pay more for gas and other energy, by such a person. The money may be part of the ‘American Dream’ but that dream usually also includes hard work and some positive abilities either in business or arts or whatever. It also implies a certain freedom from being told what to do by the high-falutin (indeed it was just that reason that the American’s gave us Brits a bloody nose in the days of George III).
At any rate, Frei reports that many American evangelicals are ready to support some measures to cap carbon emissions, but not at the expense of their other principles. It is difficult he says to find a conservative politician in America who is “pro-life and pro-planet”. As will be apparent to readers, I am very sceptical about the amount of human impact on climate change. But it seems to me you cannot be “pro-life” and “anti-planet” without getting caught in the same sort of difficulty as those who, say, are against abortion but in favour of the death penalty (this is not clear cut) or indeed the last Iraq war (which is much more straightforward, since no ‘just war’ can be preemptive). One must see it as one’s duty to act in accordance with the law of the creator and act as faithful custodians of this planet for which our First Parents were given responsibility for and rights over. The question is then quite serious: how far is it responsible to try to reduce emissions? If they are indeed likely to cause catastrophic climate change, giving to very serious problems not just for humans but for other life too, then we have a clear Christian duty to act. But there is another moral question too: how far do we do in the road of reducing emissions to avert some possible, though as yet future and unrealised disaster, if it begins now to impact on the lives of real, living human beings? The fact is that developing countries need to develop: China and India and much of Africa and parts of Latin America still face grinding poverty and appalling health conditions and they, as Nigel Lawson points out in his book An Appeal to Reason, need energy, and the cheapest most available energy possible to combat these conditions before they can begin seriously to think about “green energy”. And alas, as has been recently shown by the controversy over the secret texts distributed among Western governments at the Copenhagen meeting, despite their honeyed words the rich countries like ours are as unwilling or unable as ever to pick up the tab for the developing world (and neither should they, but that is whole other question).
The whole area is a minefield. It is tempting to sit on one’s hands.