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article imageStudy: Christian end-time beliefs block climate change control

By JohnThomas Didymus     May 3, 2013 in World
A study claims that successive US administrations have failed to take aggressive policy action to curb climate change partly because a large number of Americans take a fatalistic stance on the future of the planet informed by religious doctrine.
According to David C. Barker of the University of Pittsburgh and David H. Bearce of the University of Colorado, biblical eschatology or "end-time" doctrine centered on the belief in the "Second Coming" of Jesus Christ is a major factor underlying the resistance to addressing global climate change issues in the US.
In the study entitled "End-Times Theology, the Shadow of the Future, and Public Resistance to Addressing Global Climate Change," first published in the May, 2012 issue of Political Science Quarterly, Barker and Bearce write:
... [the study] examines US public attitudes regarding global climate change, addressing the puzzle of why support for governmental action on this front is tepid relative to what existing theories predict. Introducing the theoretical concept of relative sociotropic time horizons, the authors show that believers in Christian end-times theology are less likely to support policies designed to curb global warming than are other Americans... authors provide empirical evidence to suggest that citizens possessing shorter 'shadows of the future' often resist policies trading short-term costs for hypothetical long-term benefits.
Using data from the 2007 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, the authors found that Christian belief in the "Second Coming" of Jesus reduced the probability of supporting government policies to curb climate change by 12 percent when controlling for a number of demographic and cultural factors such as political ideology and distrust of media information.
According to the study, many Christians hold the belief, based on biblical end-time teachings, that human actions to "save the Earth" are futile because the "end of the world" has been fixed by God.
Evidence that end-time beliefs have a powerful influence on the attitude of religious conservatives to climate change discussion can be readily gleaned from discussions of the subject in Web forums. A Christian writer counsels believers on
Likely the closest biblical examples of what could be considered climate change would be the end times disasters prophesied in Revelation 6–18. Yet these prophecies have nothing to do with greenhouse gas emissions; rather, they are the result of the wrath of God, pouring out justice on an increasingly wicked world. Also, a Christian must remember that God is in control and that this world is not our home. God will one day erase this current universe (2 Peter 3:7-12) and replace it with the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 21–22). How much effort should be made "saving" a planet that God is eventually going to obliterate and replace with a planet so amazing and wonderful that the current earth pales in comparison?
Saving the planet is not within our power or responsibility... we can know for certain is that God is good and sovereign, and that Planet Earth will be our habitat for as long as God desires it to be. Psalm 46:2-3, "Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."
According to Barker and Bearce: "[T]he fact that such an overwhelming percentage of Republican citizens profess a belief in the Second Coming (76 percent in 2006, according to our sample) suggests that governmental attempts to curb greenhouse emissions would encounter stiff resistance..."
The authors continued: "... it stands to reason that most nonbelievers would support preserving the Earth for future generations, but that end-times believers would rationally perceive such efforts to be ultimately futile, and hence ill-advised."
Raw Story notes that the attitude that takes inspiration on global climate change issues from biblical prophecy has been openly expressed by a number of Republican legislators. For instance, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), said in 2010 that he does not support action on climate change because "the Earth will end only when God declares it to be over." (see video below).
It is instructive to note that he is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy.
Although the two researchers said that their study should not be taken as a prediction of future policy directions, they said that for as long as there are a significant number of people holding positions of authority and whose evangelical Christian religious beliefs shape their views on public policy, it is unlikely that the US will take any actions on the pressing issues involved in climate change.
Barker and Bearce write: "That is, because of institutions such as the Electoral College, the winner-take-all representation mechanism, and the Senate filibuster, as well as the geographic distribution of partisanship to modern partisan polarization, minority interests often successfully block majority preferences. Thus, even if the median voter supports policies designed to slow global warming, legislation to effect such change could find itself dead on arrival if the median Republican voter strongly resists public policy environmentalism at least in part because of end-times beliefs."
A 2012 study by the Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with the Religion News Service also found that nearly four in 10 US residents believe that recent patterns of extreme weather activity such as Hurricane Sandy were evidence that the world is coming to an end as predicted in the Bible, compared to 6 in ten US residents who blame the patterns on climate change.
Reuters reported the study found that an interplay of political and religious belief factors shape the attitude of many Americans to severe patterns of the climate.
According to the study, while 60 percent of Catholics and 65 percent of white non-evangelical Protestants said they believe disasters such as hurricanes, floods are caused by climate change, nearly 65 percent of white evangelical Protestants said the storms are evidence of fulfillment of "end times" prophecies.
More about Jesus, End time, Second coming, Climate change, prophecy
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