(The following is about the tactical use of the idea of hell that I believe is shared by conservative-fundamentalists as well as progressive-environmentalists. It is adapted from a letter I wrote to Brian McLaren.)
Fundamentalism makes hell the core issue in salvation, and the fear of hell was one of the core driving forces behind evangelism. “Without hell,” a preacher would say, “There’s be no reason to evangelize.” Hell is the destructive and damning result of people ignoring the warning and refuse to join Christianity.
From where I sit, environmentalists do the same thing with respect to Creation care. It seems as though catastrophic effects of global warming seem to be the driving force behind encouraging people to join the cause. Perhaps you see it as a necessary warning (as do fundamentalists with hell), but most of us who are unconvinced of the problem see it as a fear-based tactic. I’ve done plenty of research from both sides, and to the best of my understanding, I’m not convinced global warming is as problematic as you believe it to be. I’m even less convinced in the so-called “solutions” to the problem.
If I didn’t believe in the traditional view of hell, that still doesn’t change my commitment to a missional lifestyle and evangelism. In fact, in many ways a new view on judgment and restoration means an even deeper commitment to sharing my faith with others. Likewise with Creation care, I see the threats of global destruction and catastrophic calamity as functionally “hell” for environmentalists, and I’m equally disturbed by the tactic.
Regardless of my position on the global warming debate, I’m still adamantly committed to care for the creation. We don’t do enough nor do we think of this as a Christian responsibility. But I think the “hellish nightmare” scenario that global warming advocates depict should be abandoned with haste in favor of a more restorative and biblical call for the care of our environment. I think you’ll find that those Christians who are skeptical of global warming will be unable to use what they see as a fear-mongering lie as an excuse to do nothing. Instead they might feel compelled to listen.