The one Catholic priest and three Protestant clergy criticized Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) in an op-ed published by the Missoulian Thursday for failing to understand climate change’s role in a widespread fish kill in Yellowstone National Park last summer.
“We cannot remain silent while a U.S. senator from Montana chooses willful ignorance of the greatest threat this state has ever faced and which is already causing extreme damage to our cherished Montana environment,” said the church leaders ― the Reverends Amy Carter and Laura Folkwein of the United Church of Christ in Missoula; the Reverend Susan Barnes of the St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Billings; and Father Robert Grosch of the nearby St. Patrick Co-Cathedral.
“The simple moral truth is that United States is by far the world’s largest historic contributor to the climate crisis and therefore bears the greatest responsibility for addressing it,” they added.
The church leaders slammed Daines for having the “audacity” to challenge the overwhelming scientific consensus that emissions from farms and burning fossil fuels are trapping heat in the atmosphere and causing the planet to warm. Not unlike the years of public skepticism over smoking’s role in lung cancer, many people still doubt the science behind global warming thanks to a decades-long campaign to seed doubt funded by companies with money at stake.
Daines, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering before entering politics, received a paltry 3 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters, which ranks lawmakers by how they vote on environmental legislation. He did, however, earn a 16 percent score for last year. In 2012, he told Montana Public Radio he believes the climate is changing, but doubts how much humans are effecting it.
“Daines has said that he cares about Montana’s environment. He has also stressed how important his Christian faith is to him,” the church leaders wrote. “Daines can prove both of his convictions by immediately and publicly declaring that he accepts the scientific fact that currently unfolding climate change is caused by human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels.”
We view science as a way to deepen our appreciation and wonder at the majesty of God’s creation, including the complex, beautiful and life-sustaining planet earth. Revs. Amy Carter, Laura Folkwein, Susan Barnes and Father Robert Grosch
Christian leaders have become increasingly vocal about advocating against climate science denial. In recent years, some Evangelical pastors have preached “creation care,” presenting scriptural evidence that God compels Christians to maintain the environment. Nonprofit groups such as the Evangelical Environmental Network, Restoring Eden and Care of Creation have sprung up. Pope Francis has repeatedly called for action to halt climate change, and urged President Donald Trump ― who rejects global warming as “a hoax” and moved to increase greenhouse gas emissions ― to reverse course on his climate policies.
Latino Catholics remain among the most likely to believe the Earth is warming due to human activity, according to a 2015 Pew poll. About 64 percent of religiously unaffiliated people and 56 percent of black Protestants also say climate change is man-made.
White Evangelical protestants, in contrast, remain the biggest skeptics of major religious groups. Just 28 percent said they believe the planet is warming because of human activity, while 33 percent said the Earth’s warming is mostly due to natural patterns. Another 37 percent said there is no solid evidence that climate change is even happening. The numbers aren’t much higher for white mainstream Protestants, of whom 41 percent said humans are causing climate change.
For the Montana church leaders, there is no doubt.
“We view science as a way to deepen our appreciation and wonder at the majesty of God’s creation, including the complex, beautiful and life-sustaining planet earth,” they wrote. “We see no conflict between our religious faith and the findings of science.”