When pragmatism works better than the culture war model: America’s success on climate change

The majority of conservative American Christians are skeptics about climate change, although younger Christians tend to be much more worried about the environment and global warming than are older Christians. Richard Cizik tried to move the National Association of Evangelicals into action on the global warming issue, spawning such strident opposition that he was eventually ousted from the organization (though some things he said about civil unions for gay couples was the immediate catalyst for his resignation). David Gushee has made combating climate change a central focus in his effort to carve space out of a polarized American political spectrum for a faithful Evangelical witness.

Most Americans refuse to be either climate alarmists or full-fledged climate-change skeptics. They seem to want to use common sense and pragmatic policy changes to curb the worst producers of carbon emissions without killing the American economy and doing far more damage than climate change ever could. Of course, no one knows who will turn out to be right on all of this in the long run, but there is evidence that this approach is working. Pragmatic, compromise-based approaches to basic problems, it turns out, often works better than the culture war approach. Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus write at NewGeography:

It wasn’t that long ago that the U.S. was cast as the global climate villain, refusing to sign the Kyoto accord while Europe implemented cap and trade.

But, as we note below in a new article for Yale360, a funny thing happened: U.S. emissions started going down in 2005 and are expected to decline further over the next decade, while Europe’s cap and trade system has had no measurable impact on emissions. Even the supposedly green Germany is moving back to coal.

Why? The reason is obvious: the U.S. is benefitting from the 30-year, government-funded technological revolution that massively increased the supply of unconventional natural gas, making it cheap even when compared to coal.

The contrast between what is happening in Europe and what is happening in the U.S. challenges anyone who still thinks pricing carbon and emissions trading are more important to emissions reductions than direct and sustained public investment in technology innovation.

Read the whole thing.

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About Matthew J. Tuininga

Matthew J. Tuininga is the Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Posted on May 8, 2012, in Two Kingdoms and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on When pragmatism works better than the culture war model: America’s success on climate change.

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