Vail Daily column: Why deny human-caused climate change? |

Vail Daily column: Why deny human-caused climate change?

Jack Van Ens

Expect starkly different reactions when you ask Americans for their opinions on human-caused climate change. Respondents react to this query like voyagers on a rocking ship. Some seafarers soak up sunshine on deck. Others cry for barf bags as they hang their heads over rails. Similarly, causes of destructive climate changes are either accepted or scorned.

Since the 1970s, Republicans have denied that global warming is largely caused by increased human-produced carbon emissions which heat up the atmosphere. They don’t agree with reasons for global warming in a draft report from a United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This report concludes that increased amounts of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere cause “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts,” such as rising sea levels, forest fires, floods and searing heat waves.

In response, Republicans have proposed three simple answers for climate havoc: God’s Earth-plan causes climate change. Or, Mother Nature’s cycles cause it. Finally, human-caused climate change is power-grab to increase big government’s power, wielded by liberal politicians.


Some religious fundamentalists are resigned to doing nothing about climate change. Their convoluted piety tells them that God knows how he wants nature to operate. Aren’t we acting like arrogant creatures if we try to repair God’s torn creation? Such pious responses sound as if God would be affronted if humans adopt measures to correct climate warming.

God sends the good with the bad, say these climate change deniers. They treat some biblical texts as actual descriptions of how the world works. For instance, scripture declares that “fire and hail, snow and frost, and stormy wind fulfill God’s command” (Psalm 148:8). Why presume we can do better than what God has already done with a blend of good and bad weather? Climate warming is his responsibility.

Already a decade ago, Republicans accepted this fatalistic notion of doing nothing about climate change because God controls the good with the bad. Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe, former chair of the U.S. Senate’s committee on environment and public works, decreed that “man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”

Simple minds conjure up simple solutions and express them in pious platitudes.


Today, some Republicans grudgingly admit global warming brings havoc. However, the fault is Mother Nature’s, not ours. Uncontrollable natural cycles cause melting ice flows, rising oceans, hurricane winds and higher temperatures.

An estimated 35,000 walruses are packed on shore near Point Lay, Alaska. They normally spread out on sea ice that has melted this year because of global warming. The ice flows will return, say Republicans.

During the late 1970s, presidential contender Ronald Reagan excoriated environmental activists as “more concerned about nature than people.” Reagan recited a homely analogy for why the climate’s temperature rises. He compared this natural phenomenon to “home heating (which) is part of the environment, too.” When the furnace kicks on, temps rise in the house. Somehow, this simple answer satisfied Reagan, who got bored by scientific evidence about global warming.

His silly thinking survives. At a debate for the Colorado governor’s seat held on Sept. 30, former Republican congressman Bob Beauprez was asked: “Do you believe humans are contributing significantly to climate change?” His opponent, Gov. John Hickenlooper, replied with a resounding “yes!”

Bob wasn’t so sure. Yes, we must clean up environmental messes, but he didn’t believe humans are “contributing significantly” to climate change. Then he blamed Mother Nature for the havoc. “But are we going to end or alter the path that Earth’s evolution is going to take? I don’t think so,” he blurted out. “I think the Earth’s already figured that out and powers bigger than us (like God) have figured that out.”

Climate change deniers say we can’t fight God or Mother Nature. They are fatalists.


Besides pinning the blame on God and Mother Nature for global warming, Republicans say this is a liberals’ ploy to build big government. How so? If global warming is for real, then government will need to find remedies. Tax hikes will fund federal global warming projects. Government regulation will control the fossil-fuel industry. Such remedies are bad, say GOP ideological purists who deny human-caused climate change.

Back in the 1970s, Republican columnist Irving Kristol branded capitalism’s enemies as the “new class” of liberals who were “keenly interested in power.” Power for what?” asked Kristol. “Well, the power to shape our civilization — a power which, in our capitalist society, is supposed to reside in the free market. This ‘new class’ wants to see much of the power redistributed to the government, where they will then have a major say in how it is exercised” (The Wall Street Journal, May 19, 1975).

Republicans seldom waver from this “government power-grab explanation” for global warming. They refuse solutions for reduced carbon emissions if government provides them. Such ideological purity makes them stuck like dinosaurs in tar pits.

The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries (, which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive.

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