A group of 85 evangelical Christian leaders Wednesday backed legislation opposed by the White House to cut carbon dioxide emissions, kicking off a campaign to mobilize religious conservatives to combat global warming.
WASHINGTON A group of 85 evangelical Christian leaders Wednesday backed legislation opposed by the White House to cut carbon dioxide emissions, kicking off a campaign to mobilize religious conservatives to combat global warming.
The group which included mega-church pastors, Christian college presidents, religious broadcasters and writers, also unveiled a full-page advertisement to run in Thursday's New York Times and a television ad it hopes to screen nationally.
"With God's help, we can stop global warming for our kids, our world and our Lord," the television spot declared.
The campaign by evangelicals coincided with a call Wednesday by a leading U.S. think tank for the United States to take immediate steps to fight global warming, including working with other nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Pew Center for Global Climate Change said in a report that America has waited too long to seriously tackle the climate change problem and spelled out 15 steps the United States could take to reduce emissions it spews as the world's biggest energy consumer and producer of greenhouse gases.
"This transition will not be easy, but it is crucial to begin now," the Pew Center said. "Further delay will only make the challenge before us more daunting and more costly."
The campaign by the evangelical leaders represented a possible split in President Bush's political base, in which Christian evangelical voters are heavily represented.
However, the names of most of the president's most influential Christian political backers were notably absent from the list of signatories joining the campaign. Possibly the best-known signer was Rick Warren, author of the best-selling book, "The Purpose Driven Life."
Specifically, and mirroring a proposal by the Pew Foundation, the leaders called on Congress to pass laws to create a trading system that would spur companies to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, which scientists say is a major cause of global warming.
One such bill, The Climate Stewardship Act, first introduced in 2003 by Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and Connecticut Democrat Sen. Joseph Lieberman, would require that U.S. emissions return to their 2000 levels by 2010.
The United States, with around 5 percent of the world's population, accounts for a quarter of its greenhouse gases and U.S. emissions rose by 2 percentage points in 2004 alone, according to government figures.
The McCain-Lieberman bill has failed to win passage twice in the Senate, although a majority there did adopt a non-binding resolution to cap emissions. The issue has not come up for a vote in the House of Representatives.
The Bush administration opposes imposing mandatory limits and backs voluntary efforts by companies. It has also refused to join the Kyoto Protocol, an international accord signed by the European Union, Japan and most other industrialized nations that sets hard targets for cutting emissions.
The Christian leaders said they were impelled by their faith to launch the campaign out of a growing realization that the threat of global warming was real and that the world's poor would suffer the most.
Paul de Vries, president of New York Divinity School, said: "However we treat the world, that's how we are treating Jesus because He is the cosmic glue."
The leaders said a poll they commissioned of 1,000 evangelical Protestants showed that two thirds were convinced global warming was taking place. Additionally, 63 percent said the United States must start to address the issue immediately and half said it must act even if there was a high economic cost.
The Pew Foundation also recommended boosting renewable fuel output and providing financial incentives to farmers to spur absorption of greenhouse gas emissions on farm lands.
U.S. government weather forecasters reported Tuesday that the nation's January temperatures were the warmest on record, beating the average for the month by 8.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Two weeks ago NASA scientists confirmed that 2005 was the hottest year ever recorded worldwide.
(Additional reporting by Tom Doggett)