Should the CRCNA Lobby in Favor of Federal Carbon Tax Legislation?

  648 views

The CRCNA’s Office of Social Justice (OSJ) recently communicated its unequivocal support for proposed federal legislation that would impose an array of assessments (taxes) against carbon (CO2) emissions, both directly and indirectly.

OSJ’s explanation of the legislation it is advocating, also sent out by email blast, is here: http://justice.crcna.org/energy-innovation-and-carbon-dividend-act-action-alert-background-and-rationale, and its invitation to you and me to personally lobby our respective congressional representatives, complete with the text of an OSJ suggested email to do so, can be found here: https://p2a.co/hMhDs8I

For anyone interested and wanting to spend the time and effort, the actual text of the proposed federal legislation can be reviewed here:

Presumably, OSJ’s support of this legislation is in response to its sense of a mandate from Synod to advocate about “creation care.” OSJ claims this legislation, if passed, would “drive down American’s carbon pollution,” but also “unleash[] American technology innovation,” “put money in the pockets of Americans,” and be “revenue neutral.”

But would the legislation in fact do all of that?  I don’t think so, as to any of the claims made.  Why?  Although explaining my disagreement in detail would require a very long article (or short book), here is a summary: The proposed legislation suffers from a fundamental misunderstanding about a variety of energy issues, about tax policy, about the bureaucratic nature of government, and about the economic realities generally involved.  The central misunderstanding is about energy, in particular, renewable energy.  Those who support the legislation assume that existing renewable energy sources like solar or wind will become much more abundant—to the point of making carbon based energy sources unnecessary—if the price of carbon based energy like oil or natural gas is increased (as this legislation would artificially do, on an annually increasing basis).  That assumption is wrong.  Even if renewable sources of energy increased some, they could not be increased anywhere close to the level required to supply American energy needs (and thereby replace carbon based energy sources).  It is a near unanimous scientific consensus that renewables cannot come close to replacing carbon energy sources in the near future. The only non-carbon emitting source that could come close to filling the “energy gap” that reducing carbon sources would leave is nuclear.  But the current political opposition (and regulatory disincentives) to nuclear energy are impediments that will keep that from happening.  Ironically, the same people who generally favor this kind of legislation also oppose building any, let alone a lot of, new nuclear power plants.

Thus, the likely (even if unintended) consequences of this kind of legislation would be a significant contraction in the economy without meaningful reductions in CO2 emissions.  The carbon based fuels will still be bought and used because there would be no choice (and the increased costs thereof resulting from this legislation passed on), but the artificially increased price would negatively impact the economy generally, in some ways that are predictable and others not.  When all was said and done, I firmly believe the intended “cure (this legislation) would be worse than the disease.”

I suspect the OSJ, ‘spokesagency’ for the CRC as to such matters, would disagree with my assessment.  My point in this blog is not so much to persuade anyone that I am right on this issue and OSJ is wrong, but rather to suggest three things: First, this proposed legislation involves an “economic fundamental” (energy) and so would may significantly impact (I think negatively) the US and world economies; Second, competently predicting the effects (bad and good) of this kind of legislation requires significant expertise in multiple fields; and third, the CRCNA doesn’t have the expertise required to competently predict the effect of such legislation.  And so it shouldn’t lobby for it (or against it).

Should Christians (whether individually or via groups they associate with) talk about this sort of proposed legislation?  Of course.  Should CRCers (by themselves or with others they choose to associate with) politically advocate about this kind of legislation, whether for or against?  Certainly, although to be responsible, a serious amount of time should be invested in understanding the many issues involved, or at least one should defer to the judgment of an organization who has their confidence and has the expertise to evaluate these issues.  If a voter doesn’t do that, he or she just becomes a pawn in someone’s lobbying strategy.

Finally, should the CRCNA, as a denomination (essentially, in behalf of its members) politically advocate—whether for or against—about this legislation?  I think not.  Aside from the reason of the matter not being ecclesiastical (see Church Order Article 28), the CRCNA doesn’t have the expertise needed to responsibly do so.  I don’t know of any church denomination that does.

Posted in:

The Network hosts user-submitted content.
Posts don't necessarily imply CRCNA endorsement, but must comply with our community guidelines.

Let's Discuss…

We love your comments! Thanks for your help upholding the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

You're exactly right, Doug. Thank you. OSJ, please pay attention. 

Doug, I agree that it is not the Church's area of authority to wade into the topic of CO2 taxes. But let me play devil's advocate here...

Synod 2018 was overtured by 2 different classes to stop CRC agencies from political lobbying. (You have very close knowledge of that...your overture was extremely well written, by the way).

Synod 2018 chose to allow CRC employees & agencies to keep using CRC funds to do political lobbying. Thus the employees at OSJ essentially have a blank check to support or oppose any legislation they decide to, correct?

Community Builder

Dan.  Good question.  Here's my take.

First, I'm not hesitant to say that much of the reason the CRC has become as political as it has is because Synods have chosen to act in contravention to Church Order rules.  It has disappointed me that, to my knowledge at least, when Synod declared as it did about climate change, not one delegate stood up to say, "point of order, the question before synod should not be answered because it is outside the Church Order rules that constrains Synod, that being CO Article 28."

So when OSJ says they have a mandate from Synod to do what they do, they have a good point.  But even then not always.

Which brings us to my second point.  Mandates have to be carefully examined and fairly construed to determine what the mandate is and what it isn't.

In the case of it's lobbying for this legislation, OSJ assumes I'm sure they have a Synodical mandate to do so, but I think they stretch that mandate.  I have a hard time finding Synodical resolution language that would include a mandate to lobby for this kind of legislation.  I think you have to stretch the language to get there.

But let's assume the Synodical language does create a broader mandate than I think is does.  Even if one has the mandate doesn't mean one has the ability.  I can't see where OSJ has anything resembling sufficient expertise in climate science, economics, or law to decide this proposed legislation should or should not be passed.  What I think OSJ does--because it has to--is rely on what people or organizations they politically favor say about this proposed legislation.  But then of course we have to ask the questions: who are they and what expertise do they have, and then who is really deciding for CRC members what their denominational agencies are going to politically do in behalf of their members?

These are the difficulties necessarily encountered when organizations step beyond their jurisdiction.  For good reason, they don't have expertise in those extra-jurisdictional areas.  And to boot, members of that organization didn't become members because of the position the organization might take on questions outside its jurisdiction.  And so taking on these issues will invariably create division within the organizational membership.

And this is why Church Order Article 28 exists: to define the jurisdictional boundaries of the denomination known as the Christian Reformed Church.  One could say that Article 28 rather succinctly embeds the Kuyperian concept of social sphere sovereingty, as that concept relates to the institutional church, into the CRC church order.

 

So...until and unless Synod starts applying CO Article 28 to these issues, the reality on the ground is that CRC employees are permitted to use CRC resources to support (or oppose) specific, one-sided political policies.

As you correctly point out, "permitted" does not equal "required." Given this reality, denominational EMPLOYEES have 3 options available to them:

1) The "99% Agree Option"

2) The "50% Disagree but Get Along Option"

3) The "Divided Option"

The "99% Agree Option" would work like this...when it comes to socio-political topics, CRC employees would use CRC resources to support policies that 99% of CRC members generally agree on. Example...on the topic of environmentalism, they would support policies toward reducing objectively harmful pollution, good stewardship of natural resources, conservationism, and thankfulness for God's creation. They would avoid controversial, one-sided policies like CO2 taxes.

The "50% Disagree but Get Along Option" would mean CRC employees DO use CRC resources to support controversial, one-sided policies, but only in a very GENERAL manner, and they emphasize PERSONAL action as a matter of personal conscience. Going back to our example of environmentalism...CRC employees could encourage individuals who believe in Global Warming to reduce their personal CO2 production, but not go so far as to support CO2 taxes. 50% of the members of the CRC might disagree with the position, but the soft-sell approach allows us to still get along.

Finally, the "Divided Option" would mean that CRC employees go all out in supporting controversial, one-sided policies. The issues are very complex & nuanced, allowing for TONS of differing viewpoints, all vying for supremacy. Following our example of environmentalism, this would mean CRC employees use CRC resources to support CO2 taxes, and encourage members to contact politicians to ask them to pass specific CO2 tax legislation.

We seem to be leaning toward Option 3, correct?

Community Builder

Dan: I do think the OSJ is often permitted (that is, authorized by Synod) to do the political activism they do.  Not always I don't think (sometimes I believe they stretch the authorization), but certainly sometime and possibly usually.

Your three options description is a pretty good description of OSJ's options, I would say, even if there may be more.  And yes, I find that OSJ too often takes on very complex topics that are highly divisive and then gets politically active on legislation (that is certain to be divisive as well) related to that.  This article is about one of such, but there are more.  It's pretty regular.

What I would personally like to see OSJ do is "advocate" by advocating what we might directly do, as opposed to what we might want to tell the government to do.  For example, OSJ could advocate that CRC members think about opening their homes and church communities to immigrants and refugees, without getting into the weeds of what government policies are that got them here.  OSJ could provide contact information for how to "volunteer," supplemental information about best practices for sponsoring immigrants and refugees, connections to others who have done so and done so well, etc.  In doing that, OSJ would be advocating for immigrants and refugees but not wading into the kind of political activitism that will cause division (and which is probably much less within OSJ's expertise anyway).

I think Association for a More Just Society (AJS) does great work in Honduras.  While one side in the US might like to keep all Hondurans out of the US, and another side might want to let all Hondurans into the US who want in, AJS works in Honduras, with Hondurans, to help them improve their society, including its government structures.  AJS doesn't get into the US political border fray.  They are too busy doing things that are real.  Ironically, to the extent AJS accomplishes what it intends to accomplish, the American divide would become moot, since fewer Hondurans would have cause to leave Honduras.

OSJ could point more to organizations like AJS as examples of doing and less pitching politicians to do something.  There are other organizations like AJS.  Building a catalogue of them (without political prejudice) would be something OSJ could do for the benefit of all CRCers.

 

Doug, your suggestions related to how offices & employees of the CRC could approach immigration are great examples of what a "99% Agree" approach would look like.

When our CRC employees take one of the other approaches, the tens of thousands of CRC members who do not support the policies being promoted are left with 2 options:

1) Say nothing (which I believe is a form of denying one's own conscience, as it implies endorsement), or

2) Speak up and risk being charged with "undermining the ministry of the church" (which often leads to being blocked & banned from the discussion).

In other words, intentionally using CRC resources to lobby for controversial policies (such as CO2 taxes, de-facto open borders, expanded government welfare programs, acceptance of pagan religious practices, etc.) will inevitably lead to disagreement in the CRC. And to get "upset" at, and attempt to silence, those who disagree seems disingenuous, right?

Community Builder

Couldn't have said it better Dan.  Obviously, I've chosen path #2, as have you if I'm not mistaken. :-)

Could you please provide references to support your assertions:

" Even if renewable sources of energy increased some, they could not be increased anywhere close to the level required to supply American energy needs (and thereby replace carbon based energy sources).  It is a near unanimous scientific consensus that renewables cannot come close to replacing carbon energy sources in the near future."

 

Community Builder

Herb: I'd probably start by pointing to an article by James Hansen, at http://science.sciencemag.org/content/sci/353/6299/547.full.pdf?ijkey=7....

In case you aren't acquainted with Hansen, he is the former head of NASA who got the concern about global warming (then called) on the world's radar via his testimony to Congress (in the 1980s) and his subsequently detailed work and advocacy in the area.  Hansen is indisputably the godfather of all things that represent concerns about climate change.

Hansen believes the Paris Accords will get us nowhere (he uses the word "fraud" to describe the Paris Accords), because he does the math.  What Hansen proposes is that only a lot of new nuclear power can replace the energy needs of the US, or the world for that matter (whose energy consumption is growing rapidly, e.g., China and underdeveloped countries), while also sufficiently reducing CO2 levels.  Hansen's problem is that when he proposes nuclear, his otherwise fan base goes silent, because they are opposed to nuclear (irrationally in Hansen's opinion).

The reason for the heavy push to reduce the CO2 footprint of everyone and everything is because of the recognition that renewables can't come close to replacing the energy we now use.  Hansen insists we are fooling ourselves.  Those opposing him suggest we can get there by a combination of increasing renewables and cutting our footprint.  Hansen's further response is that even if that were possible in the United States (and he says it isn't), there is the entire globe to consider and the rest of the world's energy consumption is going to go up, not down.  Thus, Hansen wants those new energy demands met by the only non-CO2 source that can provide great quantities of it: nuclear.

I'll decline providing you with an exhaustive list of scientists to back the claim that "renewables can't replace fossil fuels" but would suggest that you won't find those scientists in any significant numbers, and if you do, you will find scientists who are in unrelated areas, or who haven't actually run the numbers, or have been highly politicized, or are expressing a hope rather than a fact (like the current "Green New Deal," which is a political proposition that admittedly, see AOC's comments, relies on hope and not the current state of facts and technology).

It seems to me that Hansen's article is another argument against your thesis. The carbon tax legislation would make renewables AND nuclear more feasible. Both are "wedges" that help us reduce our use of fossil fuels. And both are more feasible if we fold the externalized costs of carbon into the consumer price.

Community Builder

Herb: Well maybe, but lets drill down.

The alternate fuels that are now receiving the political advocacy (including from institutions like the CRC) are wind and solar, and are NOT nuclear.

Wind and solar cannot sufficiently expand to come anywhere close to replacing carbon sources because of physics.  Can't be done.

Nuclear could (that is, not a physics problem) but the generalized current political support is behind non-nuclear and against nuclear.  This comes from too much political lobbying that is uninformed.  In my view, the CRCNA has hopped on that bandwagon.

So unless the political posture against nuclear doesn't change, the only realistic tool for replacing or even significantly reducing fossil fuel sources isn't an "allowed option."  And given that reality, the passing of the proposed carbon tax legislation will simply result in generally economic damage, and not help with claimed fossil fuel issues.

Admin

Doug, But isn't the person you cited - James Hanson - in fact, a strong proponent of the legislation that OSJ is bringing to our attention? See:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hansen#Cap_and_trade

https://citizensclimatelobby.org/laser-talks/energy-innovation-and-carbo...

 

Community Builder

Tim.  Good to hear from you. :-)

Hansen might support it, but only if their was an emphasis on nuclear (it would be a sine qua non condition, because that's the only way it would work as designed), which to date isn't happening.  In which case Hansen would say the effort is doomed. 

Which is what my article says, actually.

This illustrates how nuanced this political lobbying business is.  Is the CRC/OSJ ready to also pitch nuclear?  It hasn't so far.  Without it, by Hansen's thinking, the carbon tax effort is doomed.

Lobbying that produces real and constructive results can't be done on a piece of legislation here or there.  It requires constant and long range planning subject to dynamic changing, and lots and lots and lots of resources (multiple kinds of expertise, people power of multiple kinds, and a lot of money). 

If the CRCNA wants to do that--be a real and constructive lobbyist--, it has to go all in, not just do it as a hobby.  Understand I'm not saying it should, firstly because our CO (our covenant) says we won't (or do a lot of other things), but if we do decide to lobby (that is, change the CO and thus let members know their church is taking on a new endeavor), it needs to do it properly, competently, with the required dollars and staffing.  

Look at it this way:  Imagine that the US Chamber of Commerce decided to start a denomination, or even  just a theological seminary, so that it could have a real voice in the American religious community.  If they then assigned a handful of lawyers and political science majors to do that job, and asked their corporate officers to periodically sign theological position statements, the Chamber wouldn't get much respect. 

Calvin Sem and other seminaries would no doubt laugh at the, even if perhaps not to the Chamber's face.  The other problem the Chamber would have is with their own members, all of whom had been faithfully paying their annual membership fees  (read by analogy, "ministry shares").  Unlike Calvin Sem professors, Chamber members wouldn't be laughing, even if they would readily see the mismatch.

Of course the US Chamber of Commerce would never do that.  So why is the CRCNA doing that in the other direction? 

Admin

Doug,

You raise many issues. So last night I picked one piece - your citation of James Hansen - and spent some time reading up on it. And I have to agree with Tom that is seems you are misrepresenting Hansen's position.

I've come across no evidence to support your claim that Hansen would be against this legislation, and against a carbon tax, unless they're accompanied by nuclear. Quite the opposite.

On the Wikipedia page about Hansen, as well Hansen's own writing cited in the footnotes, it's quite clear that Hansen supports renewable energy, and supports a carbon tax with a dividend to citizens (the legislation at issue here), among other solutions. He also believes nuclear is a critical piece. He supports an all-of-the-above approach, which is very different than a nuclear-or-nothing approach. Furthermore, the Citizens Climate Lobby - where Hansen serves on the Advisory Board - is very much in favor of the legislation.

I don't have time to read up on all the issues you raise. But I am troubled that when I did pick one to read up on, I found a picture at odds with what you have presented here.

In contrast, OSJ's recommendation seems sound. And I'm grateful that they check into these things carefully, because I don't always have time to research every issue.

 

Community Builder

Tim: OK, I'm not sure I can directly quote Hansen, although referring to Wikipedia as you have done is hardly a primary source for that either.

But what I can do is point to Hansen's own clear and unequivocal statements  -- his own words -- about the sine qua non need for nuclear power to solve what he considers the climate problem to be.  See at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/03/nuclear-power-paves-...

And that was my point.  And in making it, I'm applying Hansen's own words, which have not been withdrawn to the best of my knowledge.  My argument was and still is that any carbon tax plan that is not accompanied by a really aggressive nuclear program is doomed to failure, for reasons clearly clearly articulated by the Hansen's own words.  No, Hansen does not oppose renewables.  Neither do I.  But sans nuclear, what Hansen wants -- demands -- be done can't be done.

BTW, did you notice the newly release "Green New Deal" resolution.  Apparently the anti-nuclear sentiment continues and even increases (the plan is to dismantle existing plants as well).  And this has to make Hansen groan (although OK, I can't quote him on that and Wikipedia may at some point suggest otherwise), given what he has clearly said.  

So if you take Hansen's own clear words (see link above), how would a carbon as proposed and support by OSJ possibly fill the energy gap?  Why would the result not merely be a tax on current energy sector that would compress our economy but not significantly reduce fossil fuel use (except to the extent a compressed economy will reduce demand)  because those products would still be needed for lack of options (again, see Hansen's article)? 

Doug: It seems to me you're letting the "perfect be the enemy of the good" (or maybe the "very good" be the enemy of the good).

Unless we have a very good lobbyist, we shouldn't send a good lobbyist. 

And unless we have an energy solution that can replace 100% of carbon fuels, we shouldn't have an energy solution that can replace <100% of carbon fuels.

Herb, "good" is a bit of a stretch, as far as tens of thousands of CRC members are concerned. A quick survey of the Council members at my church would reveal that none of them support a tax on CO2.

Even if we give OSJ the benefit of the doubt on their Synodical mandate from 2012, wouldn't it be more unifying and more effective to encourage individual CRC members who believe in climate change to voluntarily commit to paying their own climate tax?

Every utility company (where I live it is Consumers Power and DTE Energy) offers a green energy program where people can voluntarily pay more for their energy, to support wind & solar. You who believe in global warming should do that! Individual church congregations who have signed up as Climate Witness partners should do that too! And OSJ should give both individual members and church congregations the ability to "sign their names" to a public document saying they have done so.

There are other things you can do too...most airlines and travel agencies give people the chance to purchase Carbon Offsets when they book their travel. Or better yet, sign a public pledge not to use air travel at all. What kind of message would it send if the CRC ended the policy of paying for air travel for employees, but instead required all employees to travel by bus or train?

Dan: You said: "wouldn't it be more unifying and more effective to encourage individual CRC members who believe in climate change to voluntarily commit to paying their own climate tax?"

I don't think it would be more effective. More people pay a tax if it's not voluntary. 

Hi Herb. I placed "unifying" ahead of "more effective" for a very good reason. What are your thoughts on the best way to promote unity in the CRC while fulfilling the 2012 decision on global warming? Wouldn't it be more unifying for CRC employees to encourage those who believe in global warming to take action (i.e. to do things like join Consumers Energy's green energy program)? Even though I wouldn't personally take such action (because I do not believe in global warming), I fully support you taking that action. Thus, unity.

As for effectiveness, which is more effective? Lobbying for a new tax that may or may not pass sometime down the road, which may or may not actually reduce CO2 emissions? Or believers in global warming taking action now that reduces their own CO2 emissions, and funds green energy programs?

Dan: Why are you prioritizing unity? Can you say more? Not sure if promotion of unity would be my first criteria when making a decision on whether or not to advocate for a carbon tax. But, since you asked my thoughts on how to promote unity, I guess I'd focus on the unity that we have in Christ. So we would want to take an actions that are Christ-like. I think we can be unified on that principle.

As for effectiveness, I think you're presenting us with a false choice. If our goal is to reduce the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere, we can encourage people voluntarily buy offsets etc., and we can pursue a tax on carbon. It might be just silly to argue about which one is more effective. (This analysis also applies to the false choice between nuclear and renewable, btw.)

 

Unity is a command that comes from Scripture. Reducing CO2 production is not. So the prioritization seems pretty simple there.

As for effectiveness, it's not a false choice. The reality of a CO2 tax is that:

1) The earliest it could possibly go into effect is 2021 (as the current Senate and President are not in favor of it).

2) It does not reduce CO2 production...it simply makes coal, oil, and natural gas more expensive, and hopes that higher price forces people to switch to other energy supplies.

On the flip side, if everyone who says they believe in global warming took drastic steps today to cut their CO2 emissions, and started putting as much money as possible into wind & solar, you would have a definite and immediate effect on CO2 emissions (which would clearly be more effective than a theoretical effect sometime in the theoretical future...which is what you get with a CO2 tax).

Which leads us to something that baffles me more & more, as I learn more about global warming ideology. Perhaps you can help me understand it. Why aren't believers in global warming taking more drastic steps in their own personal lives to curb CO2 productions? If it is true that CO2 is already causing devastation all over the world, and CO2 production is going to have catastrophic effects on life as we know it on planet Earth, where is the personal urgency?

A false choice is a claim that you have to do one thing or the other (maybe because one is more effective, as you assert); when in reality you can do both. I see no reason why we can't do both.

I think some people do have personal urgency and are taking drastic steps. Others enjoy money and comfort too much to voluntarily pay extra.  

I'm running into many people who say they believe in global warming, but they've done nothing in their personal life to drastically reduce their CO2 emissions. This includes people who would be considered "sold-out" global warming evangelists. I like to ask people about this, from a standpoint of pure curiosity, but people get very defensive about it.

8 - )

I wouldn't say "personal CO2 reductions" and "speaking out in favor of a CO2 tax" are either/or. Certainly people who believe in global warming should do both. I'm just saying one is a guaranteed way to have an effect now (but will cause the person some minor discomfort in their personal life), while the other will not be happening anytime soon (but causes no personal discomfort).

And it fascinates me that people who proclaim the immediate and catastrophic destruction of life as we know it won't do the former, but will do the latter.

Makes sense, Dan. I'm definitely in favor of both. Hoping to see you at the Cooler/Smarter meeting on Feb 21. I'll give a brief overview of the chemical evidence of climate change (I'm a chemist) and then get into ideas for personal reduction of CO2 (including anecdotes from my family's efforts). 

See you then!

Doug,

I find no small irony in your citation of Jim Hansen. In 1988, Jim testified before the US Congress that the hot summer weather of that year could be attributed to increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. In subsequent years (including during the period in which the CRCNA Taskforce on Stewardship and Climate Change was writing and submitting its report) you spent considerable time arguing that the science associated with global warming was wrong, that climate scientists were biased, etc. And now I see you commenting favorably on Jim's writings, which suggest you have had a change of heart. 

So, please confirm that for me. Are you now convinced that we have a global warming problem? That would be a good first step to having a discussion about what to do about the problem. (If you are not convinced that there is a problem, then of course you would argue against a carbon tax, but on a completely different platform.)

Let me assume that your answer to my question is "yes". The next question is what do we do about it? At this point, we really have three possible answers: mitigation (reducing carbon emissions), adaptation (allowing our planet to warm and then try to figure out how to deal with the consequences), or climate engineering (trying to find ways to cool the planet down). So what do you propose that we do about the problem? I personally find choosing adaptation only to be repugnant for many reasons, not the least of which is that we, the adults in the room, are simply kicking the can down the road to children and grandchildren and hoping that they can deal with it. Climate engineering is a temporary solution if that. So let's think hard about mitigation. 

A carbon tax is one small step towards mitigation. Granted it is a small step and an inadequate step, but a step. We have spent over a hundred years developing a civilization highly dependent on fossil fuel energy. We are not going to dismantle the fossil fuel infrastructure in a year or even a decade, but there is an urgent need for us to begin doing so now. We should have started this process 30 years ago and, in fact, we made some small steps that were subsequently destroyed. I agree with JIm (and maybe you?) that nuclear power is part of the answer, but so are renewables, conservation, carbon dioxide removal, etc. I think that it is quite clear that there is no single answer because no single technology will solve all our energy needs. The Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton University discusses the solution space in terms of "wedges" - a broad spectrum of technologies that each accounts for a wedge of carbon emissions (https://cmi.princeton.edu/wedges). I think their arguments are quite compelling. 

Lastly, but certainly not least, I disagree with your statements about the role of the church on issues of social justice, including global warming. There is no stronger message in the Bible than our requirement as God's people to seek justice and to love mercy. Laying waste to our environment is neither just nor merciful. So let's agree that we have a problem and we need to do something about it now and that doing something about it may even have a cost. And then let's talk about how to start taking small steps in lots of different directions to reduce carbon emissions and stabilize climate. And let's see clearly that the church has the moral obligation to lead, not to be continually dragging up the rear, kicking and screaming. 

 

Community Builder

Tom. Thanks for discussing.  No, I don't agree with Hansen on everything at all.  As I think you know, I have been and still am much more of a John Christy fan.  I do think Hansen was demonstrably wrong in his predictions, but he's not entirely wrong on everything (no one is, or is right about everything), and I've never thought otherwise.  I think CO2 emissions will increase global temperatures (always have) but the significant question is how much.  Predictions largely depend on assumptions about positive feedbacks, and the net of that is still not well known.  As you know, the IPCC still qualifies its predictions by a statement of likelihood.  Everyone agrees CO2 will cause temperature increases.  Where the great disagreement remains is about how much, and also about how much of a net positive feedback exists (assuming there is not a net negative feedback, e.g.., an "iris effect"), and thus how much warming there will be.  The "how much" question is not a small disagreement by any means.

On the other hand, I always try to look for common ground (especially) when an issue like this becomes so politicized, and this is the mother of all issues in terms of having been hyper-politicized. 

Nuclear is that common ground, or at least the best that we have.  And Hansen pushes hard for it.

BTW, I am not opposed to renewables at all but greatly in favor of them where they otherwise make sense.  My oldest son has solar panels on his house and two electric cars.  But he lives in a place in California where all of that makes sense.  There are relative advantages to renewables but also disadvantages, as there are for fossil fuels.

I don't disagree with you that Christians should care for the creation, but I don't want my institutional church to take a position of the details of a law like a carbon tax for me because (1) it has agreed not to (CO Art 28), and (2) it isn't equipped to.  Why should the CRCNA take my favored position on a specific complicated law in behalf of you, or your position in behalf of me?   You and I can take positions and join with others, Christians or otherwise, in taking those positions.  I really don't see what is gained (but it is clear what will be lost) if any of us succeeds in getting our church to become a megaphone for our own position.  Certainly, no one in Congress respects the CRC's climate science expertise, do you think?  Yes, folks in Congress are looking for votes but those votes belong to citizens, not the denominational CRC.  Who says so?  The CRC (again, CO Art 28).

Finally, a carbon tax such as that here proposed will have economic consequences, possibly (probably in my thinking) very large ones.  Again, does the CRC have the expertise to know what they will be such that the CRC can responsibly advise on that, decide on that in member's behalf, megaphone for some CRCers?  If so, exactly who Is it in the CRCNA that has it such that they should speak for you or me?

To be clear and to respond to your last paragraph, no, I don't think the CRC should take the lead on pushing or opposing legislation like this carbon tax legislation.  Assuming the CRC was a climate expert (which it is not), it also needs to be a legal and economics expert (plus more)  to competently -- translated, responsibly -- claim the right to lead.

Can the CRC talk about our obligation to steward the creation?  Sure (but there is really no disagreement there among CRC members).  Can it bring legislation like this to CRCers attention?  Sure (although I certainly don't need the CRC to tell me about such things). 

But be my proxy (or yours if my perspective prevails in a subsequent Synod)?  No.  We have another CO rule about that, prohibiting "lording over."  Archaic language perhaps but still a good rule.

 

Doug,

My earlier point (and current point) is that you cherry-pick from Jim Hansen's writing. Jim advocates for nuclear energy because (1) he sees a climate emergency that needs to be addressed now (this decade) and (2) nuclear is the only readily available option to do that. If you don't accept the need to reduce carbon emissions immediately, then you don't need to advocate for nuclear power, but can take a slower path to reduce carbon emissions. And suggesting that John Christy is an intellectual alternative to Jim Hansen is laughable. The entire climate science community, with a mere handful of exceptions, has clearly and unambiguously spoken out on this issue and, by and large, agrees with Hansen's conclusions. Yes, there is a range of expected warming, but even the lower end of that warming, assuming continuing rates of greenhouse gas production, will be disastrous by the last decade of this century. The larger end of the range will be disastrous by the middle of this century. Yes, there is some uncertainty surrounding climate sensitivity (the rate of temperature increase per increase in greenhouse gas climate forcing, the latter being related to increasing concentrations), which will determine the actual increase in global temperatures. I will spare you my inclination to write a treatise on the subject, which is fascinating to me, but will simply say that this uncertainty is well on its way to resolution based on research over the past half dozen years and long-term climate sensitivity is on the large end of the range, not the small end. If you want to know more, please ask.

In any case, I think that a prudent person and a wise steward of the resources we have given should take a more aggressive stance towards averting a looming disaster and work hard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Arguing that the problem isn't bad enough yet or that it is too hard for us to solve strikes me as being very close to saying that I am willing to take the easy way out and pass the problem down to my children and grandchildren. Every CO2 molecule that we put into the atmosphere has a lifetime measured in centuries, so these molecules will still be in the atmosphere warming the planet in a hundred years. And, while the end of the century may seem a long way away, I expect that my children will be alive at mid-century and my grand-children (particularly the 1 year old and 2 year old) will be alive in last decade of this century. This, in part drives, my sense of urgency (and Jim Hansen's as well). I suggest you take a look at this article (sorry for the long link address): 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/everything-is-not-going-t...

I can imagine that you find the WaPo not to your liking and I don't particularly like arguing by anecdote but this article collects a number of observations about our changing climate that are very sobering. 

To conclude, you and I may have different opinions about whether a carbon tax is the best way of addressing the problem that we have, but that is not the real issue here. From my reading, your opinion is that we should do nothing about the problem. If that is not the case, then please tell me otherwise and offer some constructive suggestions about what to do. If I am correct about your opinion, then why don't you just say that we should do nothing and stop arguing a strawman position that our church shouldn't advocate for specific proposals because we don't have the expertise. 

 

 

Tom, your cherry-picking accusation is very odd.

Are you saying that in order to accept any conclusion made by someone, you must accept all conclusions made by that person? That does not make any sense. Please explain.

I too have strong reservations about global warming theories. But at the same time I encourage anyone who does believe in global warming to take actions that match the level of seriousness they assign to global warming.

And I have to admit, one of my greatest reservations regarding global warming is the disconnect between the words of the people who say they believe in it, and their personal actions.

Community Builder

Tom: I'll skip responding to your ad hominem criticism of John Christy (declaring him laughable, and indirectly, me as well I suppose), but I will respond to the thrust of your claim that I am cherry picking (which presumably is bad?).

Your cherry picking accusation essentially suggest that must either (1) side with Hansen in all that he says and promotes, or (2) reject Hansen in all that he says and promotes.  If extended to everyone as well as me, that formula is, in my view, one that will result in unresolvable polarization (and is that not where we are?).

I may not agree with Hanson as to his climate change predictions (which to date have not turned out to be accurate as historic unfolds), but I do find Hansen to be an honest broker, by which I mean my sense of him is that he believes what he says and says what he believes, politics be damned (even those politics on the political left of center which have fought nuclear power is decades past).  I admire Hansen for that, even if I still think he has rather badly "over predicted" on climate change effects.

My perspective on this is in part based on the science (where I'm relatively weak) but also, and in larger part, on the the politics, which is the greater challenge on this issue, and where I'm actually quite experienced.  I'm a lawyer.  I listen to, examine, and cross-examine expert witnesses on cases (in this one, as to a particular bundle of science topics), but at the same time, I am constantly looking for "solutions" by which I mean this: how can the opposing parties come together to find agreement that significantly satisfies everyone, thereby avoiding a trial court decision that will likely be (as they tend to be) very much winner take all and loser take nothing.  And indeed, isn't exactly what competent political lobbyists do as well?  But doing that on climate change issues can be as complicated, perhaps even more so, than the science itself (which is itself extremely complicated).  And wouldn't (at least shouldn't) doing that (finding the "come together to find  agreement), be the point of OSJ (or anyone else) lobbying for legislation relating to climate change?

Forgetting for the moment the CO2 emissions issue, wouldn't more nuclear power be the best bet for filling the energy gap left by significantly reducing or eliminating (as the now touted Green New Deal would do) fossil fuel use?  And wouldn't those whose views on climate change more reflect that of John Cristy be relatively warm to the idea of increased nuclear?  And wouldn't the views on someone so highly regarded in the climate alarmist camp (that is Hansen) be a good authority to cite to persuade those on that side of the science to also warm to the idea of increased nuclear?  I'd suggest that a "yes" to all three of those questions is far more the case than the oft made assertion that the "debate is over" as to the science of climate change. 

As I said in my original blog article, my point was not to convince the others that I'm right about climate change science.  In fact, I've not here even laid out my overall views about the science questions, assuming they carried any scientific weight anyway (and they really don't).  You misread me rather badly when you say "From my reading, your opinion is that we should do nothing about the problem."  To the contrary, I have argued that, if we assume (for the sake of argument) that the climate change alarmist position (Hansen's) is correct, then promoting a carbon tax while at the same time failing to also promote the only alternative energy source that would be the key component of a strategy to significantly reduce CO2 is a poorly conceived, doomed to failure, lobbying strategy.  And my main point was that the denomination has not had, and doesn't have, what it takes to competently lobby for solutions on subject matters this complex (this particular lobbying strategy being evidence of that lack).  And so shouldn't.

That argument is not a "strawman" as you suggest.  Rather, it is  similar to Hansen's argument against the Paris Accords (which the CRCNA lobbies for).  The Paris Accords provide no solution at all, according to Hansen, so if folks think they do, climate change will have its way with the planet because people thought they had implemented a solution in the Paris Accords and so didn't find a real solution.  Likewise, passing this legislation without also enacting legislation that will promote a lot more nuclear power plants, is a mirage solution.  It cannot work, even if we assume the climate alarmists' perspective.

Lots of threads to pick up after a few days away. I will try to respond to a couple of these and let some others go. 

1. Predictions of climate warming. Hansen's predictions and those of the IPCC have held up very well. Please see the link below to an article in the Guardian published six months ago that shows a 30-year comparison. If you want to continue to claim that the projections were wrong, please supply some documentation. If this sounds a bit testy, I apologize (a little), but propagating distortions of the facts is not helpful. 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/20... 

2. My comment about John Christy is not, in my opinion, an ad hominem (and you did not ignore it - you dumped it out in your first sentence to make it clear that you are accusing me of it). I am a climate scientist. I and my colleagues have spent years trying to understand the complexity of the climate system and have come to solid conclusions about the subject. Jim Hansen has been one of the intellectual leaders of this effort and has a long and prestigious resume to his credit. John Christy is a bit player on the climate scene whose main research work on temperature reconstruction from microwave satellites has been discredited and re-worked (references available on request). His scientific resume is weak. I am a baseball fan. Suppose I told you that the I prefer the Mariner's pitching staff to that of the Astros. You could say that I have taken a laughable position, and you would be completely correct. The resumes of the two pitching staffs make it clear that this is a laughable comparison.  In the same way, I as a climate scientist am telling you that suggesting Christy is a better climate scientist than Hansen is laughable. And, by the way, for what's it worth, I know both Jim Hansen and John Christy and have for 30 years.

3. On an related point, you have no problem with labeling Hansen as a "climate alarmist". Isn't that an ad hominem statement? I certainly don't think that you are using that term as a positive descriptor. But, perhaps, Jim and I should take that label as a compliment because somebody needs, like Paul Revere to raise the alarm "To every Middlesex village and farm". 

Now, on what I consider to the important issue, let me back up a little and try to understand your broader position. Please put aside the carbon tax question for a moment. Do you think that the Church in general or the CRCNA in particular can speak legitimately in any way on the climate change issue? As I recall (and my recall might be incorrect), when we brought out Taskforce Report to the CRCNA, you made this same argument that the church lacked expertise and therefore shouldn't adopt the report. In that report, we did not take a position on particular solutions, but we did take a position on the reality of the problem and the implications for justice in our world. You found this unacceptable, just as you find speaking out in favor of a carbon tax unacceptable for lack of expertise. What would you consider expertise in this case? Does the church have expertise on other issues of social justice, such as civil rights, immigration, human trafficking or abortion?  Does the church have expertise to advocate particular political approaches to these questions? How do you define when the church has expertise and when not? 

I realize these are broad and complex issues, not likely to be answered here. I think, however,  based on past history, that the church is far more likely to not speak than to speak on issues of social justice. Sins of omission are just as bad as sins of commission. 

 

 

 

 

Hi Tom. I'm a CRC member from Jenison, Michigan. I'm currently attending the Cooler/Smarter events being sponsored by OSJ and the Climate Witness project. I'm trying to learn as much as I can on the subject, so I find this discussion fascinating and productive.

After the 1st Cooler/Smarter session that I attended (at CRC world headquarters), the leader of the session loaned me a book by Katherine Hayhoe called "Climate for Change." It was published in 2009, so it was probably written in 2008 or even 2007. This 10 to 12 year difference from the current day makes some of Hayhoe's predictions very interesting.

You said global warming scientists' predictions have held up very well. In this book that was loaned to me, Hayhoe says that scientists predict the Arctic will be free of summer sea ice by 2015, and that there is no way to stop it. That prediction was totally incorrect.

Dan,

I do not have Katharine's book at hand because I am on travel, so I cannot look up the section in question. I would think that Katharine, in discussing the fate of Arctic sea ice, said that there was a range of possible outcomes in the climate models, including the extreme projection of an ice-free Arctic Sea occurring in late summer as early as the next decade. I would think that she also said that climate models have difficulty with predicting sea ice because of the complex processes involved, the coarse resolution of models in the sea ice area, and high interannual variability. 

My earlier comment, which I could have made my clearly, was primarily directed towards Doug's comment that projections of global warming made around 1990 (about the time of the first IPCC report) have not held up well. That is in fact not the case as the article I linked in my comment shows. For reasons that I am happy to discuss, climate projections of large-scale, integrated quantities such as global surface temperature, global water vapor amounts in the atmosphere, etc., can be made with substantial confidence. We understand global energetics well and the laws of thermodynamics allow us to make these projections. Smaller scale (although still large) features of the climate system such as ice extent and monsoon variations are much more difficult to project because of the complexities of the system. 

With all this said, however, it is very clear from the data that the amount of land and sea ice on our planet is in substantial retreat. Arctic sea ice extent is steadily decreasing. The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting at accelerated rates, and almost all mountain glaciers are retreating at accelerating rates. The only ice system that is more or less holding its own is the Antarctic sea ice, although it took a big hit in the last couple of years as well. These changes are driven by global warming and, in aggregate, agree well with averaged model projections. As with daily weather forecasts, it is easy to find some place where the forecast did not do well, while the overall forecast of temperature and precipitation is very good. I suggest that you focus on the big picture of climate change and climate change projections to understand what our future looks like. 

 

Tom, Chapter 15 ("On Thin Ice") of Katherine Hayhoe's book "A Climate For Change" (again, I'm reading it as part of my involvement in OSJ's Cooler/Smarter series says (page 97):

"Today, scientists suggest the summer Arctic will be ice-free as soon as 2015. There is no way to stop it."

The only range of possible outcomes Hayhoe gives is:

"Just a decade ago, scientists were speculating that the summer Arctic might be ice-free toward the end of the twentyfirst century. A few years ago, the best projections were showing an ice-free Arctic as early as 2040. Today scientists suggest the summer Arctic will be ice-free as soon as 2015. There is no way to stop it."

In other words, things are getting dramatically worse! Except these "scientists" prediction was wrong by 1,700,000 square miles. Whoops.

Okay. I don't think Katharine phrased that well or provided a good summary of the position of the climate community at that time. 

What's your point?

Tom, 

It would seem that the issue Doug raises is that the church *has* advocated particular solutions, whether that was the intent of your report or not. I don't see how the advocacy of wind and solar power subsidies to the exclusion of Nuclear, Natural Gas, Hdyro and other power sources is an intellectually honest path if the issue we are attempting to address is Carbon emissions. 

As to the issue of competency, I would say that there is no way that anyone previously undecided on the issue takes the CRCNA's conclusions on climate science seriously. Personally, I *do* respect the NSF and other reputable organizations. The only reason for the CRC to take a position is to empower some of the ministers in our denominational employ who wish to do political activism on these matters. Put another way: had the CRC adopted a position contrary to that of the mainstream scientific establishment, would it change your mind? I would hope not. 

Broadly, I have no problem with the church speaking on topics or instructing members on biblical principles to approach topics whether creation care and poverty or sanctity of life and marriage. I do object when we begin to advocate policy specifics. Some years back a handful of churches in West Michigan engaged in something called "Justice Sunday". The purpose was to encourage members to lobby Senators to confirm then President GW Bush's judicial nominees ostensibly because they were more likely to rule favorably on abortion issues. While sympathetic to the cause, I would object strongly to my church engaging in such an event as Christians of good conscience can have any multitude of reasons for not supporting specific federal judicial nominees. It is one thing for the church to denounce elective abortions as it has for millenia. It is quite another to endorse nuanced policy positions.

Unfortunately, the denomination seems to have gone down this road in recent decades of arbitrating nuanced policy positions, largely ignoring Calvin's views on the 2 Kingdoms. This is the route that many denominations like the PCUSA went decades ago with disastrous results institutionally. It is my hope that the CRCNA doesn't follow this path, but it may already be too late. 

 

Community Builder

Tom.  I'll not respond to most of that except for your question regarding 'when the church has expertise.'  That question is at the core of this blog article.

My answer is that the church (by which I mean the institutional church known as the CRC) has expertise to declare on whatever the subject is when (1) it's own rules say it does (this is a jurisdictional considrration) and (2) when it, institutionally, actually has the expertise to responsibly do so.

To elaborate, the CRC has a seminary, and a great number of theologians it has produced who pastor it's churches, all of whom are persons the CRC hires/engages (and who have formal and informal education and experience in certain matters) to teach, opine about, and declare relating "ecclesiastical" issues (using the word used by CO Art. 28).

Thus, the CRC is competent to declare about creeds, confessions, hermeneutics, Biblical translation, church education materials (relating to the aforesaid), etc.

Certainly, therefore, the CRC, again as institution, can and should, e.g., declare that people should be stewards of creation.  This declaration draws from that about which it has expertise (and is within that which the local churches have agreed to "do" together).  Synod 2012 declared that I would support that (even if the CRC has said that before).  It was within Synod's jurisdiction and expertise.

In contrast, if the question is: "what percentage of scientists say this or that about climate change?" (which Synod 2012 also did), we should be asking, "what is it in our denomination's expertise and our agreed upon denominational jurisdiction that would justify that declaration?"  Is that the kind of thing the churches (via church order) agreed to do?  Does the denomination have staffers who are experts in polling and statistical analysis such that its opinion on the question would be more authoritative than anyone else's?  And if CRC did have that expertise (although it doesn't), did it in fact do a scientific analysis of the claimed basis for that specific statistical claim? I think the answers to all three questions are clearly "no."  And I've never encountered anyone claiming otherwise, as to any of those three questions.

The same questions should be asked of course if the denomination declares that the federal government should pass certain legislation that imposes a variety of taxes and creates a variety of other regulations relating to fossil and other energy sources.  And I think it clear that the answers are clearly the same: it lacks both jurisdiction and competence.

Different question: should Christians (individually or togethers in organizations they aggregately create with jurisdictional boundaries of their choice) advocate, declare, push, lobby, whether for or against such legislation? Of course, although I'd never say it is the obligation of every Christian to so engage.  And Christians in fact do just that, individually, with other Christians, and with non-Christians.

I understand that some people would like to have their institutional church megaphone their own opinions about all kinds of things.  Whenever we feel strongly about something (e.g., I think the US should abolish its income tax and replace it with a value added tax) we are inclined to use whatever we might have at our disposal to "push" that idea and "push against" contradicting ideas.  The problem for me and my idea about income taxes and VAT schemes (and thousands of other ideas) is that my church, the institutional CRC, is not "at my disposal." It is not mine, nor my instrument, even if I think a VAT is more just (and beneficial in other ways).  It is also not the instrument of CRC members (plural) who might comprise a majority of CRC members, or even a majority of delegates at a particular Synod.  Questions about government imposed tax systems may be within my expertise (and others I groups I may join), and pushing for or against them may be within my jurisdiction (and that of the groups I join), but they are not within the expertise or jurisdiction of the CRC.

 

It's one thing to responsibly exercise stewardship. However, there are political factions opposed to coal, oil, gas, LNG, hydro (British Columbia), as well as, nuclear (Ontario). To complicate matters, the NIMBY movement is also opposed to wind and solar energy in various parts of the country (Ontario). 

Quite apart from negatively affecting the economy,  the question arises what impact these actions will have on not only the fully employed (Alberta); the marginally employed; and those who live in poverty. Forced subsidization of wind and solar energy will only not only make the poor poorer; but add others to their ranks where power agencies cut off hydro power to those who cannot no longer pay their bills (Ontario). 

Even if OSJ is stepping outside the boundaries of Church Order, Article 28 - there is a further scriptural concern with respect to acting justly where the poor are concerned, especially by those who lead  relatively affluent lives within and outside the denomination.

 

 

Community Builder

I've been convinced for quite some time that if the US (or the world) intends to replace CO2 emitting energy sources with other energy sources, nuclear is the only realistic option (that that it can't be supplemented by other sources).

A guy named Michael Shellenberger has researched and written about this quite a bit.  You can find a Forbes article of his at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2018/05/15/solar-and-w...

and a TED talk by him at: https://www.ted.com/talks/michael_shellenberger_how_fear_of_nuclear_powe...

James Hansen is convinced of this; guys like Bill Gates are convinced of this (and putting their money where their mouth is); and many others (like Michael Shellenberger) are convinced of this.  And yet, neither Synod 2012 nor OSJ pitch this (or even talk about this) at all.  Rather, OSJ pitches the Paris Accords, which Hansen calls a fraud that will accomplish nothing.

Again, my point is that responsible political advocacy requires expertise (competency).  If the CRCNA wants to get into the political fray on very important (and incredibly complicated) issues like this, it needs to:

    (1) modify its rules (CO Art 28) so that the CRC members buy into this significant institutional mandate shift, and

    (2) gear up for doing responsible political advocacy by acquiring (hiring people) who have substantial (professional/occupational) expertise in the areas chosen for CRC political advocacy.

Any other capable institutional organization would do just that (these two points).  Why shouldn't the CRC?

Doug, you may also consider the Pickens Plan: http://pickensplan.com/

It utilizes more natural gas, but also nuclear and hydro-power. Part of the problem with the Institutional Church taking sides on policy specifics is it assumes that the binary, partisan positions are the only realistic alternatives. 

Community Builder

Indeed Jason, this is not binary or even close.  If one considers the facts about climate change, the possible solutions (assuming a solution is required), and the (international) politics involved in of it all, there are thousands of different permutations of perspectives as to what is and what to do, and at least a dozen (probably more) kinds of expertise required to deal with all the issues.

The saying, "it isn't rocket science" should be changed to "it isn't climate change," the former perhaps being exponentially simpler than the latter.

dvg

And there we have the real problem. Climate change is difficult, far more difficult than rocket science (and I say that as a former NASA scientist). But the real problem is not the difficulty. The real problem is in the parentheses ("assuming a solution is required" and "international" politics). A carbon tax does not assume a binary solution. It is a starting step because we recognize that there is a problem and we need to reduce emissions. The market will not save our environment. I think this is a generally true statement but the market will certainly not take appropriate steps unless we begin to assess the market for its externalities. We did this for acid rain and it worked really well. We did if for air quality and it worked really well (if you think that car companies added catalytic converters out of the goodness of their hearts, guess again). A carbon tax provides incentive and funding for other solutions. 

The only advocates of a binary solution are those who advocate no actions, no solutions.

Community Builder

But you side-step the point, Tom, or at least mine.  You assume that "taking action" is done when an institution that institutionally has no competence in the area of concern takes positions on the questions.

My perspective is that when institutions that have no competency in the area of concern they lobby about (for or against), the result is in fact counterproductive.  Larger political players see such institutions as pawns to be swayed, ultimately resulting in society wide political polarization based on political gamesmanship.  The two sides resist resolution because their positions are largely based on having picked a general political inclination side, not on knowledge about the issues themselves, which is a key to have the ability to change one's mind as evidence develops. 

I'd argue that the EPA was in fact created (under Nixon no less if I recall) because there wasn't then such a high degree of political politicization.  I don't think the CRCNA lobbied for or against it the proposed legislation to create the EPA, did it?  I doubt many other churches did either.  Still, it was created (that is, "action was taken").  If churches had lobbied for or against the EPA back then, they may well have lobbied against it, for lack of competency as to the actual issues involved.  Same with acid rain and catalytic converters.  Churches (certainly the CRC) didn't lobby for or against that legislation either.

Do you really want institutions who have no institutional competency about whatever the proposed legislation to lobby about it?  Or is it just in this case? 

I wonder why you say "an institution that institutionally has no competence" ?

Who is the CRC's lobbyist on this issue? What have they written that makes you say they have no competence? Are they on the record saying nuclear can't be part of the solution?

Community Builder

Really good question Herb.  I would suggest those lobbyists are in three categories.  The first is OSJ staff.  You can find out who they are in particular by going to the OSJ website, and then by googling for information (education, experience, etc) of those staffers.

The second category is, although to a lesser extent, the ED and agency heads who every now and then makes public statements about current political issues.  Those names are also readily available, and can be googled as well.

The third category, and also to a lessee extent, is Synod itself, which sometimes declares on political issues.  Synod also authorizes/directs (often with ambiguous language) others, like OSJ, to "advocate" (does that mean political? -- answer unknown and debatable) about this or that.

The lobbying activity done comes in different categories as well.  One is direct lobbying with political representatives (legislators, etc).  Another is lobbying of CRC members, usually encouraging them to write to (email to) their legislators to take certain positions on particular legislation (OSJ will usually pressure the email text for you).  Another is making public statements that take political positions, ranging from general to quite specific.  Another is what could be called "communal" lobbying, by which I mean having CRC staffers participate in political conferences and the like (e.g., the Paris Accords), lend the CRC name to the supporter list for it), and/or then publically tout (by articles, email blasts, etc), to CRCers and otherwise, the results of them (again, e.g., the Paris Accords).

 

Ok. That sounds like a lot of people. So why do you say  "an institution that institutionally has no competence" ? All those people working together and there's no competence? Wow. Seems unlikely.

Community Builder

Herb.  You can gather together as many theologians as you want and they'll still not be competent at practicing law, running a dairy, operating a nuclear power plant, determining the causes of changing climate, or analyze the macro and micro economic impacts of carbon use taxes, nor the national ability to develop enough renewal energy to eliminate or substantially reduce the need for fossil fuels. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Those theologians can guess about all of these things I suppose, but why should their guesses be better than mine?  Why would their guesses should be endorsed and promoted by OUR ministry shares and not mine, or yours.  Whose guesses get to lord it over whose?

Doug: I don't think all the people you mentioned in your previous post (those doing the lobbying on my behalf) are theologians. I trust the denomination to hire competent people to do the work they've been tasked to do. Maybe you don't?

Community Builder

Maybe not all are theologians, Herb, but most are (probably more than the percentage of scientists said to agree with the alarmist climate perspective).

And frankly, I do not think the part of the denomination that hires the people who lobby in our behalf intends the expertise needed to analyze carbon tax legislation.  If you believe some of those the CRC has hired to lobby in our behalf has that competence, I'd like to know who they are.  Don't post names here, but I invite you to send by email: [email protected].

Doug: I don't think I'll do your research for you. Like I said, I trust the church to hire personnel with skills appropriate for their job description (why would they do otherwise?). If you want to assert that this isn't true, I'll let you go hunt for evidence that supports your assertion.

Community Builder

Herb: No, you don't have to do my research for me.  On the other hand, I have done that research and my conclusions are based on that research.  I appreciate that you "trust the church."  I guess I neither trust nor distrust but choose to look at what has been and is. 

Pages