20 Calvin professors sign letter to Congress urging action on climate change

File photo.
File photo.

For a full list of professors who signed the letter, see the bottom of this page.

20 Calvin professors joined 200 evangelical professors from across the country in writing a letter to Congress urging action on climate change.

The letter said that failure to pass legislation on the issue is incompatible with Christian faith.

Calvin had the most signatures of any other school represented by the letter, which also included professors from Cornell University, Ohio State University and Gordon College.

Six professors from Wheaton College and three professors from Hope College also signed the letter.

“Our changing climate threatens the health, security, and well-being of millions of people who are made in God’s image,” the letter states. “The threat to future generations and global prosperity means we can no longer afford complacency and endless debate.”

Many evangelicals have long held a skeptical view of climate change, but that isn’t stopping the Calvin professors, said chemistry professor Larry Louters.

“As long as we keep denying it, keep pushing the ball down, the more difficult the problem will be — and it will finally be recognized,” Louters remarked.

“Within 20 years, nobody is going to look back on this and say we were really dead wrong on this thing,” he said. “So the question is ‘how soon do you act?’ — and the sooner the better.”

A 2012 poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute revealed that 69 percent of white evangelicals do not believe that the earth is getting warmer and that those changes are caused by human activity.

Louters said that the contrasting views on climate change are linked to how people view and understand information on the issue.

“There is some apprehension of climate change. People don’t judge the science very effectively — not just Christians, but all folks have this schizophrenic view of science,” he said.

“We have this apprehension about judgment of the quality of the data,” he continued. “In other words, a single opinion can bear as much weight as quantified data that has been reproduced and in many people’s minds it bears the same weight.”

An example of this was a story Louters recalled in which his mother would negate all arguments on climate change by stating that “Russ Limbaugh says global climate change is a hoax.”

Eventually, Louters became exasperated and asked “Mom, I’m a scientist. Why don’t you believe me? Why do you choose that voice as the one that’s believable?”

In a statement to the national press conference, Louters explained that “this inability of the public to judge the voracity of scientific evidence is couple to a real inability of the American public to judge risk. If the risk is personalized, for example, the diagnosis of cancer, we willingly, and at personal expense, address that risk.”

Louters also believed that governments have nothing to lose by taking precautions towards mitigating climate change.

“As far as I know in terms of global warming, there is no model that doesn’t predict there’s going to be some change and no model that predicts it’s going to be better because of the changes we are making in [carbon dioxide] emissions. All of them predict some sort of not good outcome. If that’s true, why don’t we do something?”

Louters said that while this one letter probably won’t make a major difference, it will help add one more group of voices to people calling for change.

“I don’t think there is anything magic about this one compared to any of the other initiatives, but it’s a matter of accumulating voice. The more of these you have, the more names that get circulation. The more voices we get out there that other people trust, I think the better chance we get at people saying we do need to act.”

As some evangelicals have emerged preaching against climate change, Louters has expressed his bewilderment at their resilient viewpoints.

“That one amazes me: why would you preach against it? It doesn’t quite register for me,” said Louters. “So you’re telling people you have to be careful about environmental care and there’s something anti-Christian about that? That one mystifies me a lot: why people wouldn’t simply resonate that we would have creation care as part of our Christian duty.”

On the other hand, Louters says duty compels Christians to take action on climate change.

“As Christians we need to be the image bearer of God, reflect God’s love in the way we care for things. That has to include the way we care for each other, but it has to be the way we love the environment as well,” he said.

“God calls us to be caretakers of what he has created and that runs the whole gambit. You take care of creation, yourself and others and that’s creation care. It starts with our surroundings,” Louters continued.

A full list of Calvin professors who signed the letter can be found below:

  • Carolyn Anderson
  • Curt Blankespoor
  • James Bradley
  • David Dornbos
  • Herb Fynewever
  • Roger Griffioen
  • Loren Haarsma
  • Matthew Heun
  • Larry Louters
  • Clarence Menninga
  • Kenneth Piers
  • Darren Proppe
  • Kumar Sinniah
  • Ralph Stearley
  • Randall Van Dragt
  • Douglas Vander Griend
  • Steven VanderLeest
  • David Warners
  • Davis Young
  • Uko Zylstra

About the Author

Alden Hartopo

Alden Hartopo is the Chimes Online Editor for the 2014-15 school year. He is a senior from Jakarta, Indonesia studying Economics and International Relations. Alden believes that campus journalism is key to maintaining transparency and communication between the college and its stakeholders. He has previously served as the Campus News Co-Editor for the 2013-2014 school year.

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