Religion & Liberty Online

Do Leaders of the Religious Left Really Care About Climate Change?

eparulesA few weeks ago I wrote about how some leaders of the religious left were supporting the EPA’s proposed new regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units. At the time I wrote, “While there may be some religious liberals who have been duped into thinking the new proposals will actually affect climate change, most are just signaling their allegiance to the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.”

After I wrote that sentence I wondered if I had been too harsh. Was it possible that these liberal religious leaders had looked at the actual evidence and concluded that the changes would indeed affect climate change? It turns out that the answer must be “no.” There is simply no reason to believe the regulations will have an impact. In fact, using a climate model emulator that was in part developed through EPA support, researchers at the CATO Institute found that the new regulations’ effect on climate change is so minuscule as to be almost immeasurable:

Knappenberger and his colleague Patrick J. Michaels crunched the numbers using an EPA-developed climate-model emulator. They found that the regulations would somewhat affect the climate — by eighteen-thousandths of a degree Celsius by 2100.

“We’re not even sure how to put such a small number into practical terms, because, basically, the number is so small as to be undetectable,” Knappenberg and Michaels wrote when they released their findings. “Which, no doubt, is why it’s not included in the EPA Fact Sheets. It is not too small, however, that it shouldn’t play a huge role in every and all discussions of the new regulations.”

Omitting that statistic is purposefully misleading. The EPA must know about that minuscule number — after all, it’s part of the agency’s Social Cost of Carbon calculation, which itself involves some dubious math: It attempts to assess the per-ton dollar cost of emissions based on the impact of hypothetical future events, such as hurricanes and flooding, supposedly caused by climate change. That highly subjective calculation is then used to justify the purported savings for reducing emissions.

The one factor that is not really disputable is the cost. The EPA itself estimates the total compliance costs of this proposal to be approximately $5.5 billion by 2020 and $8.8 billion by 2030. And even the supporters of the proposal admit the average monthly electricity bills are anticipated, according to the EPA document, to increase by roughly 3 percent in 2020.

It’s fairly easy to discern the reason why the Obama administration would support the regulations knowing they won’t actually affect climate change (think: cronyism). But what possible reason could the leaders of the religious left have for supporting these unnecessary and costly regulations? Is it that they were duped by their secular friends or do they know the truth and are, as I previously claimed, merely signaling their allegiance to the Obama administration and the Democratic Party? If that’s not the reason, then why aren’t they advancing meaningful changes that might actually solve what they believe to be a climate problem?

Perhaps it’s time their religious progressive supporters asked their leaders if they really care about climate change at all.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).