Video: Evangelical environmentalists

updated 1/15/2007 3:49:59 PM ET 2007-01-15T20:49:59

Some leading scientists and evangelical Christian leaders have agreed to put aside their fierce differences over the origin of life and work together to fight global warming.

Representatives met recently in Georgia and agreed on the need for urgent action. Details on the talks will be disclosed in Washington on Wednesday.

“Whether God created the Earth in a millisecond or whether it evolved over billions of years, the issue we agree on is that it needs to be cared for today,” said Rich Cizik, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents 45,000 churches.

Eric Chivian, director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, agreed, saying: “Scientists and evangelicals have discovered that we share a deeply felt common concern and sense of urgency about threats to life on Earth and that we must speak with one voice to protect it.”

Chivian and Cizik, both of whom participated in the talks, declined further comment.

In February 2006 , 86 evangelical leaders signed a statement to fight global warming, saying that human-induced climate change is real, that its consequences will hit the poor the hardest, and that Christian moral convictions demand an urgent response.

They argued that governments, businesses, churches and individuals all have a role to play. Signatories included presidents of evangelical colleges, aid groups, churches and pastors of megachurches.

The powerful National Association of Evangelicals, however, did not join the initiative. It is unclear whether Cizik’s involvement in the new campaign will lead the organization to adopt the environment as a central part of its agenda.

Evangelicals and scientists previously failed to launch a large-scale joint initiative, partly because of differences between evolutionary science and a literal interpretation of the Bible — a rift that dates back to Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

Those who met in Georgia, however, are expected to argue that the threat to life on Earth is too great to let the rift prevent them from working together to combat greenhouse emissions.

Speakers at the Wednesday announcement will include megachurch pastor Joel Hunter, who refused to take the leadership of Christian Coalition of America because the organization wouldn’t let him expand its agenda to include the environment and poverty.

Others are Harvard biologist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Edward O. Wilson and NASA scientist James E. Hansen, who came under fire from the White House after a 2005 lecture in which he called for urgent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to slow global warming.

“The evangelicals have a lot of clout on the conservative side of the political spectrum, and their voice would be a very welcome one,” said Jim Presswood of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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