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Last Updated: Monday, 10 March 2008, 13:15 GMT
Church to step up climate fight
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Fish skeleton in dry river. Image: Getty
Climate impacts such as drought may affect the poor first
Leaders of the influential Southern Baptist community in the US have declared their churches have a duty to stop climate change.

In a statement, senior figures in the movement said evidence of man-made global warming was "substantial". Southern Baptists are the largest protestant group in the country.

They follow other religious figures, including British bishops and leaders of US evangelical denominations, in backing action to curb climate change.

Southern Baptists are a loose confederation of churches grouped under the Southern Baptist Convention, and no-one speaks for the movement overall.

We can do better
Leaders' declaration
But the 40-odd signatories of the statement, A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change, include several of its most influential figures.

"We believe our current denominational engagement with these issues has often been too timid," they write.

"Our cautious response... in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed. We can do better."

Previously, the movement has questioned the validity of evidence for human-induced global warming.

How would Jesus vote?

The belief that Christians have a duty of stewardship to the planet is the main reason why religious groups are increasingly favouring climate action.

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It was articulated formally in a 1993 document from the US evangelical church network, the Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation.

A second factor is the belief that climate impacts will fall disproportionately on the poor, and that Christians in rich nations have a duty to prevent this if they can.

Some Islamic leaders have also warned that environmental issues threaten the natural world and the future well-being of human society.

How much influence these initatives have on the electoral process is another matter, although some religious leaders in the US believe Republicans can no longer automatically rely on getting the evangelical vote.

While the traditional Republican line on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage has great appeal for many churchgoers, religious leaders who preach involvement in environmental protection and global poverty believe their congregations may increasingly find policies to favour in the Democrat camp.

The Southern Baptist Convention has a membership of more than 16 million people.

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