IRD’s Mark Tooley Takes Issue With McKibben on Climate Change

Mark Tooley
The Institute of Religion and Democracy president Mark Tooley, a longtime “opponent” of Sojourners’ Christian mission and also a faithful brother in Christ, has taken issue with my article Why Bill McKibben is the New Noah.

IRD is a conservative religious thinktank noted for its critique of  progressive religious groups as well as for advocating a strong defense of Christian freedom and traditionalist view of scripture as well as a conservative political perspective. Mark has worked at IRD for many years. He’s also a proud Methodist – as is Bill McKibben.

Mark writes:

McKibben’s plan is for all enlightened investors to divest from oil, gas and coal companies, to levy special taxes on energy firms, and to demonstrate against the Keystone Pipeline and development of tar sands oil. Berger admits these acts may not “completely reverse climate change.” But “we’ve got to listen to Noah this time.” After all, remember last time.

It’s nice that Rolling Stone readers were momentarily excited. But getting arrested at anti-pipeline demonstrations will not affect global temperatures. If prophets of climate apocalypse are anywhere near accurate, the global industrial economy would have to grind to a virtual halt before there’s any appreciable impact.

McKibben’s counsel may help stifle economic growth, keep poor people poor, and help corrupt overseas tyrants retain their energy monopoly. It will not affect climate. But it will help yuppy environmentalists feel virtuous at minimal cost to themselves. Didn’t the real Noah demand more?

For Mark, I’d have to say this is as close to a plea for help as I’ve ever heard from him. I agree with him completely that a blip in Twitter after Bill McKibben’s Rolling Stone article does not reverse climate change, nor does risking arrest in front of the White House. But I firmly believe that “acting in hope” and choosing to act “for life,” rather than withdraw in cynicism, will be honored by the Holy Spirit and is a faithful expression of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As for Mark targeting the emotional life of “yuppy environmentalists” … well, I also agree. People don’t like to sacrifice – especially when they don’t see others around them doing it. And for the U.S. to seriously reduce our dependency on finite energy resources, we need to all sacrifice–starting at the top of the economic pyramid–rather than just making the poorest and the weakest sacrifice.

Besides, if there is one thing that Bill McKibben has made clear, it’s that we can’t get ourselves out of this climate mess by buying a Prius or or recycling. There has to be an international sea change in how we do business or there will be … well, an international sea change.

Mark speculates that the strategy McKibben and others around the world are putting forward to reverse climate change may “stifle economic growth, keep poor people poor, and help corrupt overseas tyrants retain their energy monopoly.” Gee. I sure hope not. But since the current system is doing these things anyway, I’m not sure what we have to lose.

And I’m very clear what we stand to gain: A planet where God’s word can take root in fertile soil and where the rains come in due season; a planet where “they will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). Thanks, Mark, and peace.

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