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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 February 2006, 08:37 GMT
US evangelicals launch green plan
Reverend Jim Ball on a What Would Jesus Drive? tour (picture courtesy Evangelical Environmental Network)
The campaign against SUVs has brought plenty of publicity
A group of influential US evangelicals has launched a campaign to persuade Americans that being a good Christian also means tackling climate change.

The 86 leaders are running prominent adverts in newspapers and on TV urging Christians and the US government to do more to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Scientists say CO2 emissions are one of the main causes of global warming.

Evangelicals have been staunch Bush supporters but this push puts them at odds with presidential policy.

Presidential catalyst?

The president opposes the Kyoto protocol on climate change on the grounds that it would harm the economy and does not require developing countries to make cuts.

But the signatories say many Christians support their campaign and would be willing to back it even if there were an economic cost for the US.

With God's help global warming can be stopped for our kids, our world and our Lord
Evangelical campaign advert

The newspaper advertisement - signed by mega-church pastors like Rick Warren, author of the bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life, heads of Christian colleges and missionary organisations - puts saving "God's green earth" on a par with traditional evangelical concerns like abortion and gay marriage.

"With God's help global warming can be stopped for our kids, our world and our Lord," the advert says.

And it calls on Congress to do more to encourage companies to reduce carbon emissions, advocating a market-based approach to curb emissions through a cap-and-trade bill.

The evangelists who have signed up for the campaign do not include all of those most closely associated with the White House.

But the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says a vigorous debate among evangelicals would unquestionably be taken into account by President George W Bush and, more importantly perhaps, by those in the Republican party who would like to replace him in 2008.

Resistance within

The religious right has embraced environmental issues in recent years, most notably with a "What Would Jesus Drive?" campaign against sports utility vehicles.

A Sports Utility Vehicle at a US gas station
The US accounts for a quarter of the world's greenhouse gas emissions
But the latest move has prompted a backlash from some of the most influential conservative Christians. James Dobson's Focus on the Family called it a "distraction" from abortion and family values.

And Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, a friend of Mr Bush's, says the science on climate change remains inconclusive.

"Among American evangelicals there is no consensus about the causes of global warming, severity of global warming, or the solutions to global warming," he said.

Mr Land was among those who sent a letter to the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) - which claims to represent 30 million Christians - calling on it to distance itself from this campaign.

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