Interview: E. Calvin Beisner Discusses the Ongoing Work of the Cornwall Alliance
[Editor’s Note: Heartland Institute Research Fellow H. Sterling Burnett interviewed E. Calvin Beisner after his speech at the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change. Beisner expanded on the main points in his ICCC talk.]
Q: What is your background, and how did you come to found the Cornwall Alliance?
Beisner: I have formal training and undergraduate and graduate teaching experience in philosophy (including logic), religion, theology, ethics, economics, and history, plus extensive study in environmental science and longtime experience in journalism. My interest in environmental and economic matters led me to write Prospects for Growth: A Biblical View of Population, Resources, and the Future (1988). Subsequently I was asked to write articles for various journals and to speak at various think tanks and conferences on population and environment related themes.
Eventually, I was asked to draft a statement of environmental principles to be finalized by a gathering of scholars in the fall of 1999, which became The Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship. In 2005, with cooperation from some of those scholars, I started what became in 2007 the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.
The Cornwall Alliance is a volunteer network of about 60 Christian theologians, scientists, economists, and other scholars who teach or do research at various universities and colleges around North America. As founder and national spokesman, I coordinate the work of these scholars in producing papers, declarations, and short articles for publication in newspapers, magazines, and online media. I also provide speakers for churches, schools, and conferences, and guests for talk shows.
Q: What is the moral dimension to the climate change issue, which you mentioned in your speech?
Beisner: Various moral elements enter the climate-change controversy. There is the simple matter of truth-telling. The honesty of a good deal of work related to climate change is at best debatable. There is also the question of due diligence: even when people are being honest, they aren’t always exercising due diligence to ensure they’ve understood the arguments pro and con and passed those on evenhandedly.
Another concern is the impact of policies on human and ecological wellbeing. We at the Cornwall Alliance are very concerned many of the policies offered to mitigate global warming would have serious harmful consequences for the world’s poor, and the Bible requires God’s people to consider the poor and protect them from oppression.
Q: Please discuss the Cornwall Alliance’s new publication, A Call to Truth Prudence, and Protection of the Poor 2014: The Case against Harmful Climate Policies Gets Stronger, and its new project “Protect the Poor: Ten Reasons to Oppose Harmful Climate Change Policies.”
Beisner: The declaration Protect the Poor: Ten Reasons to Oppose Harmful Climate Change Policies was released on September 18, 2014, initially endorsed by over 140 scholars, including 49 scientists (of whom 21 are climate scientists), 22 economists and policy experts, 51 theologians, ethicists, and pastors, 32 ministry leaders, and 13 media figures.
Based on our newest major study, A Call to Truth … 2014, it argues that human influence on climate change is small compared with natural influence; that reducing human influence by turning from abundant, affordable, reliable hydrocarbon energy sources to diffuse, expensive, intermittent wind and solar would make no significant difference in future temperatures or other aspects of climate; and that doing so would severely harm the world’s poor. It calls on Christians to practice creation stewardship out of love for God and neighbor; Christian leaders to study the issues and embrace scientifically, economically, and ethically sound policies; and on political leaders to abandon the fruitless and harmful policies to control global temperature and instead adopt policies that simultaneously reflect responsible environmental stewardship and make energy and its benefits more affordable and so help lift the poor out of poverty.
We encourage Christian leaders and laymen alike to read the declaration, endorse it online, share it with friends, and send copies of it to their political representatives at local, state, and national levels, stating that it represents their thinking on climate change and asking the representatives to pursue policies consistent with it.
Q: What does receiving the 2014 Outstanding Spokesperson on Faith, Science, and Stewardship Award mean to you and your work?
Beisner: It was a great honor to receive the award, but it really should go not just to me but also to the roughly 60 scholars in Cornwall’s network who, unpaid, volunteer vast amounts of time to advise me and to produce our major papers, declarations, and some other publications. The award confirms the value of our efforts to educate people on the interrelated religious, scientific, and economic aspects of environmental stewardship. We’re grateful!
Q: What one key point would you like our readers to take away from this interview?
Beisner: I think it’s the most important thing anyone can do with regard to pretty much every subject. It’s what the Apostle Paul instructed in 1 Thessalonians 5:21: “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” We must all, of course, seek to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8); we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves. But we cannot do those things effectively if our actions are predicated on false premises, so testing all things and holding fast what is good would be the takeaway.