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Mr. VanEngen, a member of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hull, Iowa, is a practicing attorney.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.”

Psalm 24:1

We hear much discussion in the world today about the “global warming” that many scientists claim man is causing. The “green,” or environmental, movement is even becoming a substantial factor influencing elections and political candidates. Automakers are producing more and more “hybrid” or “flex-fuel” vehicles in an attempt to lower emissions of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse” gases. In June of 2009, the United States House of Representatives passed its version of a bill aimed at reducing emissions, known as “cap and trade” legislation. An international climate conference is scheduled to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009. Discussion of the “cap and trade” bill, as well as discussion of the United States’ involvement at Copenhagen, has been overshadowed to a large extent by the debate over health care reform and the economic recession. However, believers would do well to pay attention to the developments taking place in this area of the law.

Let us begin by noting that there is merit in being good stewards of the environment. This includes avoiding needless pollution that destroys the world and resources our heavenly Father has provided us. At times, men motivated by sinful greed have caused pollution that harms the health of their neighbor, all for the sake of making an extra dollar or two. Obviously we cannot condone such behavior. We should also be good stewards in the sense that we do not needlessly consume excessive amounts of natural resources, such as fossil fuels, in a wasteful way. The problem is not the notion of preventing pollution or preserving resources, but in the motivations and methodology of many in the “environmentalist” movement today, as well as the effects on the autonomy of the United States and other Western countries. These effects will be discussed in some detail later.

The history of the environmental movement as it pertains to international law began its development many years ago. For the past couple of decades, scientists have noted a warming trend in the earth’s climate. Warming and cooling trends have been noted as long as history records such information, but some scientists became concerned in particular about so-called “anthropogenic,” or man-initiated, warming. Scientists throughout the international community theorized that greenhouse gases from man’s activities, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and sulphur hexafluoride, were causing the warming trends.

These concerns precipitated the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, which is an international treaty designed to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations to prevent anthropogenic interference with the climate system.¹ To implement the goals of this treaty, many nations signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol, under which a number of industrialized countries agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions based on the benchmark year of 1990. In lieu of actually reducing emissions, these nations can purchase “carbon credits,” or pay for new projects that will reduce emissions, often constructed in developing nations such as China. Any action that would reduce man’s contribution to greenhouse gases has potential to qualify as a carbon credit. China has suggested that its one-child-per-family policy has helped fight global warming, and should be eligible for carbon credits.² This is the same one-child-per-family policy that has been widely criticized for its use of forced abortions and sterilizations for enforcement.³

A system of exchanges much like a stock exchange has been established to handle the trade in carbon credits. China in particular has benefited from the influx of funds from foreign countries for its massive hydroelectric dams, as well as the revenue generated from the trading in carbon credits themselves.4 Also, countries like China benefit be cause, as developing countries, their caps on emissions are tied to their growth, so that if their economy grows 10 percent, but emissions increase by 9%, it is credited to them as a reduction in emissions.5 Since the UNFCCC treaty was first adopted in 1997, carbon emissions in the U.S. have increased by 7%, while carbon emissions in Japan have increased 9%. During the same period, carbon emissions in China have doubled.6

The United States has never ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution stating that it would not ratify a climate treaty that would seriously harm the U.S. economy or that didn’t hold developing countries to the same standard as industrialized countries. President Bush reiterated the same reasons when he announced in March of 2001 that the United States would not implement the Kyoto Protocol.

However, “cap-and-trade” legislation designed to require caps and trading of credits like that anticipated by the Kyoto Protocol was introduced in the United States Congress this year. With the change of political climate over the past several elections, proponents were able to get House bill HR 2454, known as the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009,” passed in the House of Representatives. The Senate, which is more evenly divided between the two parties, has not yet begun to address the Senate version of the bill as this article goes to print.

As this article goes to print, an international climate conference is scheduled to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, from December 7-18, 2009. Since the United States has the largest economy, and therefore has the largest carbon emissions in the world, the international community had exerted immense pressure for the U.S. to pass cap and trade legislation before the conference took place. President Obama has indicated that he will push for the United States to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.7 We will have to wait to see what decisions are made at the Copenhagen conference, whether the Senate passes cap and trade legislation, and ultimately whether Congress ratifies the Kyoto Protocol.

Many different reasons are given for opposing the Kyoto Protocol and cap and trade legislation. Many insist that the science behind the theory of global warming itself is flawed. Recently, hackers published emails from scientists studying global warming that seemed to indicate that data had been “doctored” to produce calculations supporting the theory of man-made global warming. Many object that such restrictions will damage the economy. Others object to the unfairness that developing countries are not subject to the caps on emissions. As believers, our main concern with climate change legislation should not be the economic effect on our pocketbooks.

Regardless of these arguments, there is an aspect of the current direction of United States policy with regard to climate change legislation that is especially noteworthy. That aspect is the movement towards subjugating the United States economy to those of other countries. The United States is a sovereign nation. Its internal affairs become subject to the treaties of the world as a whole only if it ratifies those treaties, and voluntarily places itself under them. Once the United States has placed itself under that law, it is bound to do what the international community dictates. If the international community decides that China should be given carbon credits for aborting and murdering its children, as China has argued, the United States will pay to abort those children when it pays to purchase carbon credits. That is just one example, but one can easily see how the United States economy becomes tied to the actions of other nations. Will the day come when we are taxed for leaving too large a “carbon footprint” by having too many children? Articles in this rubric have before noted the changes in the law that occur as traditional Christian values are abandoned. How much faster will this occur as we couple our laws to those of countries that have not traditionally been influenced by Christian values?

The area of climate change may be the first in which such extensive action is being taken, but it isn’t the only area being targeted for greater global cooperation. Individuals from several nations have called for global regimes to address terrorism. Some, including President Obama, have called for greater global cooperation as the only solution to the current global economic crisis.8 In such a political climate, it is easy to see that the day could soon come when the legal framework is in place for a world power that can control every aspect of the economy, with the accompanying police power to reach into any nation on earth. The Lord has revealed to us in Revelation 17:12-14 that the ten kings of earth will one day turn over their power to the beast. But as believers, we can take comfort in knowing that victory already belongs to the Lamb, and that all things are done in accord with the will of our heavenly Father.


¹ Article 2, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

² Alister Doyle, “China Says One Child Policy Helps Protect Climate,” Reuters, August 30, 2007.

³ Simon Elegant, “Why Forced Abortions Persist in China,” Time, April 30, 2007.

4. China Benefits from Rise in Carbon-Credit Trading, Marketwatch.com, January 8, 2007.

5. Eugene Robinson, “The Copenhagen Conundrum,” Washington Post, December 1, 2009.

6. Ibid.

7. Elisabeth Rosenthal, “Obama’s Backing Raises Hope for a Climate Pact,” New York Times, February 28, 2009.

8. Foon Rhee, “Obama Says Global Cooperation Needed on Economy,” The Boston Globe, March 24, 2009.