Falwell dismissed scientific evidence on global warming, evangelical efforts to address issue

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In a March 12 sermon, Rev. Jerry Falwell claimed that "scientists who are not on the payroll of the government" believe that "the jury's still out" on the existence of human-caused global climate change. Similarly, in a March 5 sermon, Falwell said of global climate change, "I don't think the science supports it." In fact, it is a small minority of scientists who dispute findings that global warming is caused by human activities.

In his March 12 sermon at the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he serves as senior pastor, Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder and chairman of the Moral Majority Coalition, claimed that "scientists who are not on the payroll of the government" believe that "the jury's still out" on the existence of human-caused global climate change. One week earlier, in his March 5 sermon, Falwell similarly said of global climate change, "I don't think the science supports it." In fact, contrary to Falwell's claim, it is a small minority of scientists who dispute findings that global warming is caused by human activities.

In his March 5 sermon, Falwell cited his skepticism of scientific evidence of global warming as the basis for his opposition to the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI), a project partially funded by the Hewlett Foundation and backed by a group of 86 evangelical Christian leaders who are concerned about the effects of climate change. As The New York Times reported February 8, the group -- including "the presidents of 39 evangelical colleges, leaders of aid groups and churches, like the Salvation Army, and pastors of megachurches, including Rick Warren, author of the best seller 'The Purpose-Driven Life' " -- signed a statement that "climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians." According to the Times, the statement also calls for, in the newspaper's words, "federal legislation that would require reductions in carbon dioxide emissions through 'cost-effective, market-based mechanisms.' " In his February 11 weekly column, Falwell wrote of the initiative: "Many of the people who signed this document are my friends -- some are dear friends. Nevertheless, I have felt compelled to oppose their effort because I believe that global warming is an unproven phenomenon and may actually just be junk science being passed off as fact."

Falwell is not the only evangelical leader to oppose the ECI, as Media Matters for America has documented, and the Times also noted. According to the Times:

Some of the nation's most high-profile evangelical leaders, however, have tried to derail such action. Twenty-two of them signed a letter in January declaring, "Global warming is not a consensus issue." Among the signers were Charles W. Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; and Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Their letter was addressed to the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group of churches and ministries, which last year had started to move in the direction of taking a stand on global warming. The letter from the 22 leaders asked the National Association of Evangelicals not to issue any statement on global warming or to allow its officers or staff members to take a position.

As Media Matters has previously noted, numerous studies by scientists inside and outside of government contradict Falwell's assertion that nongovernment scientists believe global warming is not caused by human activities, and that global climate change does not have scientific support. In its 2001 "Third Assessment Report," the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that it is "very likely" (defined in the report as a 90-percent to 99-percent chance) that "the 1990s was the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in the instrumental record (1861-2000)." Moreover, it is "likely" (defined as a 60-percent to 90-percent chance) that "[t]he increases in surface temperature over the 20th century for the Northern Hemisphere" were "greater than that for any other century in the last thousand years." Further, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change website notes: "The scientific community has reached a strong consensus regarding the science of global climate change. The world is undoubtedly warming. This warming is largely the result of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from human activities." In addition, a National Academy of Sciences report, authored by 10 academic scientists and one government scientist stated that "because climate change will likely continue in the coming decades, denying the likelihood or downplaying the relevance of past abrupt [climate] events could be costly."

In claiming that "scientists who are not on the payroll of the government to do these studies are saying the jury's still out," Falwell failed to mention that some of the purported "scientists" to which he apparently referred are on the payroll of companies that have a clearer agenda of their own. For example, at least one prominent climate change skeptic is partially funded by Exxon Mobil Corp., as Media Matters has noted.

From Falwell's March 5 sermon:

FALWELL: Then there's the myth of global warming. Recently, 86 religious leaders, some of them evangelicals, signed an environmental document for the government, calling upon the government to stop all the carbon emissions and so forth. I mean just, they didn't mean, some of the guys are real good guys, just naïve. We found out last week that the study was funded by the Hewlett Foundation, which is the Number 1 funder of pro-abortion organizations in America. They give Planned Parenthood millions of dollars every year, and they got some of our guys to sign on.

When they called and said, "Will you sign this?" I said, "No". Why? I said because I don't believe in global warming in the first place, and I don't believe we caused it, and I don't think the science supports it. And Number 2, I don't want to put my name on the same thing Ron Sider [president and founder of Evangelicals for Social Action] has his name on, and some of these other left-wing people, and that reminds me I'll preach Sunday on the myth of global warming. And a lot of my friends signed it, and now they're embarrassed about it.

From Falwell's March 12 sermon:

FALWELL: And then there's global warming. We're worried about everything melting, and our carbon emissions bringing the temperature up. The world is going to flood, and everybody's going to die. I remember in the 70's when those same people were saying we're in for global cooling. It was getting so cold. The fact is this whole thing is cyclical, and the scientists who are not on the payroll of the government to do these studies are saying the jury's still out -- there's no such evidence there. But there are many who want to break the economic back of America by making us sign the Kyoto protocols while China, India, and half the world have said they would not do it.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Person
Jerry Falwell
Stories/Interests
Religion, Religious Broadcasting
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.