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US scientists, evangelicals join global warming fight

By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent


WASHINGTON, Jan 17 (Reuters) - U.S. scientists and evangelical Christian leaders joined forces on Wednesday to protect the environment from the ravages of global warming, calling on President George W. Bush and others in power to help.

"We believe that the protection of life on Earth is a profound moral imperative," the new coalition said in a statement sent to Bush, the leaders of the House and Senate, and potential presidential candidates including Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois and Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican.

"We agree not only that reckless human activity has imperiled the Earth -- especially the unsustainable and short-sighted lifestyles and public policies or our own nation -- but also that we share a profound moral obligation to work together to call our nation, and other nations, to the kind of dramatic change urgently required in our day," the group said.

The group was organized by the National Association of Evangelicals, which has led an environmental Christian movement in the United States, and the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School.

Bush is expected to offer a policy change on global warming in next Tuesday's State of the Union address, but the White House has discounted reports of a major shift. Sources familiar with Bush's plans have said he is likely to call for a big increase in U.S. ethanol use and tweak policy on climate change.

The president, long a skeptic on the human causes of global warming, acknowledged last year that human activities spur the phenomenon that has been blamed for more severe storms, rising seas, worse brushfires and longer droughts.

In last year's speech, Bush said the U.S. addiction to foreign oil was a serious problem.

American evangelicals have a tradition of social conservatism and helped Bush win the presidency, but in recent years have embraced such issues as the environment, the push for an end to the conflict in Darfur and the fight against worldwide poverty.

Dr. Eric Chivian of Harvard and Rev. Richard Cizik of the evangelical association announced the coalition and its "urgent call to action" at a news conference, held six weeks after a scientists and Christian religious leaders gathered in Georgia to discuss global climate change.

"There is no such thing as a Republican or Democrat, a liberal or conservative, a religious or secular environment," Chivian told reporters.

"Scientists and evangelicals share a deep moral commitment to preserve this precious gift we have all been given."

One hurdle was agreeing on a way to talk about the environment. The evangelicals called it creation, and the scientists "quickly became comfortable with the term," said Jim McCarthy, a biological oceanographer at Harvard.

The group plans to craft a "pastor's toolkit" including biblical references to the need for humans to protect the environment, said Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Orlando, Florida.

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