Evangelical Christians, FORTUNE 500 execs and environmentalists band together to curb global warming.
NEW YORK (FORTUNE) - An unlikely coalition of evangelical Christians, FORTUNE 500 executives and environmentalists is coming together to press the U.S. government to take action to curb global warming.
The latest example: Evangelical leaders Wednesday announced a "call to action" asking government and business leaders to agree to "cost-effective, market-based" regulations to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, which are mostly caused by burning fossil fuels.
The new initiative, two years in the making, includes modest buys of print, radio and TV ads, with an initial budget of about $200,000. The TV commercial, which will run on Fox News, CNN and local stations, shows images of hybrid cars and windmills and says: "We can stop global warming for our kids, our world and for our Lord." Radio ads will run on stations owned by Salem Communications (Research), a Christian firm.
Among the 86 leaders who signed on to what is being called the Evangelical Climate Initiative include Rick Warren, author of the best-selling book, "The Purpose Driven Life"; the leaders of the Salvation Army and World Vision, two big Christian charities; and about 40 college and seminar presidents including Duane Litfin, the president of Wheaton College, which has been dubbed the evangelical Harvard.
"We will see tens of millions of evangelicals engaged in the work we are talking about today," said the Rev. Dr. Leith Anderson, former president of the National Association of Evangelicals and senior pastor of a Minnesota megachurch.
In its statement on climate change (available at www.christiansandclimate.org) the evangelical group went out of its way to praise big companies such as BP (Research), Shell, General Electric (Research), Cinergy (Research), Duke Energy (Research) and DuPont (Research) which, it said, "have moved ahead of the pace of government action" and "offered timely leadership." In response, Chad Holliday, the president and CEO of DuPont, congratulated the evangelical leaders "for adding their voice to calls for concerted global action on climate change."
The Rev. Jim Ball, who is executive director of the Evangelical Environmental Network, said a conference of business people and evangelicals will be held this fall at the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University. "We're going to be all about building relationships," he said.
There will be plenty to talk about. Business and environmental leaders, for example, have voiced concern about the growing cost of natural disasters.
Swiss Re, the world's second largest global reinsurer, is among the sponsors of a big coalition of institutional investors, called the Carbon Disclosure Project, that seeks to identify the business risks of global warming to investors. This month, the coalition (www.cdproject.net) of more than 200 institutions with assets of $28.9 trillion under management wrote to 1,800 of the largest quoted companies in the world by market capitalization, asking for the disclosure of investment-relevant information concerning their greenhouse gas emissions.
Meanwhile, W. Todd Bassett, the commander of the Salvation Army, said hurricanes in the Southeast, tornadoes in the Midwest and fires in the West have put enormous pressure on his organization, which is America's biggest charity. "Few doubt that there has been a significant increase in natural disasters, not just in the U.S. but around the world," Bassett said.
Much of this is designed to turn up the heat -- no pun intended -- on President Bush, who is both an evangelical Christian and an ally of business. So far, the Bush administration has resisted calls for government regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.
Of course, neither big business nor evangelical Christians are united on the issue. ExxonMobil (Research), the world's biggest oil company, has opposed government rules to control carbon emissions. So have some, but not all, coal-burning utility companies.
About 20 prominent, politically-active evangelical Christian leaders -- including Charles Colson, Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention -- recently urged the National Association of Evangelicals to stay out of the global warming debate. They wrote: "There should be room for Bible-believing evangelicals to disagree about the cause, severity and solutions to the global warming issue."
But with publications ranging from The Economist to Christianity Today urging action to curb global warming, there's little doubt about which way the winds are blowing, in both the business and evangelical worlds.