Ed Stetzer, a renowned evangelist and church planter with 100k followers on Twitter, made two tweets today on the IPCC report on global warming. In one he said that "... I'm sure they are all lying." In another, he referred to a poll on how prevalent such skepticism was among US protestant pastors, whom he claimed, "aint buying it."

My question is, what are the reasons for such a widespread skepticism? What are theological and/or sociological roots?


2 Answers 2


In addition to his evangelism and church planting, Ed Stetzer conducts surveys of pastors for LifeWay. One of the survey questions he asks from time to time is:

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: I believe global warming is real and manmade.

Stetzer has asked the question in 2008, 2010, and 2013.

In 2010 Stetzer found that the number of American Protestant pastors agreeing with the statement dropped sharply compared with 2008. This matched a trend seen in polls of the American public at large.

Source: New Research: Protestant Pastors & the Environment, Shifting on Global Warming and Teaching on the Environment

Earlier this year, Stetzer found that the number of pastors agreeing with the statement is beginning to trend upward again, but has not yet reached 2008 levels. Again this corresponds with the public at large.

Source: New Research on Protestant Pastors' Views of the Environment

Stetzer further broke down the latest poll results by region, denomination, and political party.

Pastors identifying as Democrats are the most likely to strongly agree (76 percent) in the validity of man-made global warming, followed by Independents (20 percent). Just 7 percent of Republican pastors strongly agree. Conversely, Republican pastors are the most likely to strongly disagree (49 percent), followed by Independents (35 percent) and Democrats (5 percent).

• Pastors in large cities (32 percent) are more likely to strongly agree with the statement than pastors in small cities (20 percent) and rural areas (18 percent);

• Southern pastors are less likely (18 percent) to strongly agree with the statement than pastors in the Northeast (30 percent) and West (25 percent);

• Self-identified mainline pastors are more likely than self-identified evangelical pastors to strongly agree (35 percent vs. 15 percent) with the statement.

Although there is a difference between Mainline and Evangelical pastors, it is much smaller than the difference between Democrats and Republicans, and it is nearly identical to the gap between urban and rural areas. The data suggest the difference is political rather than theological.

A 2009 survey of the general public by the Pew Center seems to confirm this, showing that political party affiliation is the dominant factor affecting views about climate change, and that the economy and the weather may have a small influence.

Also, despite Stetzer's tongue-in-cheek tweet, "I'm sure they are all lying," he points out in his blog that "the consensus in scholarly papers is clear.…A survey of thousands of peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals has found 97.1% agreed that climate change is caused by human activity."


First of all, many Christians believe global warming to be true, while many other Christians believe it to be false. Thus, this is not a test of Christianity. I will say that many who read this will adamantly oppose my position on global warming and may be offended by what I say. Thus, this is a dangerous question to answer. I fear that I will receive a lot of downvotes, not because the answer is unjustified, but because people disagree with my position and conclusion.

I also should note that there is a difference between rising CO2 levels and global warming. Rising CO2 levels can be measured scientifically, and there is no debate about that. The debate is all on the cause of this rise and of the impact that it will have on the climate. Global Warming believers hold that it is all caused by man and it will be catastrophic. Global Warming skeptics believe mankind has a small impact, but that the results will be by no means catastrophic and perhaps not even detectable.

However, I do believe that there is a theological basis for skepticism, so I offer this for consideration.

Global Warming Skepticism

In a biblically-based perspective, mankind is the whole purpose for creation. The earth was first and foremost the dwelling place of man. Mankind is the crown of God's creation, as he (and she) alone bear the very image of God. Still, God is sovereign over the earth. He is in control, and He has a plan. In His plan, He reveals no warning of us messing up the climate and burning ourselves to death.

He specifically has promised there will never be a time where the world is destroyed by a flood. Thus, the Christian need not worry about the ice caps melting and all the land being submerged. God has specifically promised that this will not occur.

We believe, therefore, that God is not going to allow mankind to thwart His plans. He is not surprised by the invention of the automobile or the gases released by livestock. In fact, God created a whole kingdom that thrives on the very CO2 that we breathe out--it's the plant kingdom. I wonder if plants may even respond to increased CO2 by growing and thriving more, eventually bringing it back into balance.

Additionally, this planet is not going to last forever anyway. God speaks of a new heaven and a new earth, so we should be good stewards of this planet, but still understand that it exists for us. The world will definitely end, to be sure, but it will be an act of God, and mankind will not be able to stop it.

Global Warming Theology

In contrast to this perspective is the Global Warming believers. There seems to be a prevalent notion in perhaps the most vocal members of this crowd that mankind himself is a cancer on this planet. The idea is that mankind is not special in any regard. All life has an equal right to exist. Mankind should not be preferred. It's almost Buddhist in philosophy.

So, in one way, it diminishes the dignity and honor of mankind that God gave to us. Yet, at the same time, it assumes a godless universe where mankind is elevated to the status of godhood. The climate depends wholly on us. We have to take care of it ourselves, and we apparently can control everything.

Also, there is the idea that this earth is all we have, so we have to take care of it at all costs.


So, Global Warming Theology seems to devout biblical-based Christians to be man-centered in its perspective, hostile to the dignity of mankind, and earthly-oriented. Our theology is God-centered, holding to the dignity of mankind created in the very image of God, and oriented toward heaven as our eventual home.

Finally, skepticism without any science would not survive. The rise in CO2 levels is not debated--only the projected impact that this will have. But these projections are anything but scientific. They merely represent the "beliefs" of those who make them, but they are just that--"beliefs" or "faith".

In fact, the scientific models, while accurately projecting the fears of Global Warming believers have failed to accurately predict actual warming or the melting of sea ice.

So, Global Warming skeptics are not science deniers. The skepticism is only in regard to the "beliefs" or "faith" of those that project catastrophic warming as a result.


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