News

A Spiritual Obligation to Act on Climate Change

September 30, 2009
By Rev. Nelson Bock
Denver Post

We leaders of Colorado faith communities urge Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet to work for the passage of strong clean energy legislation that addresses climate change. This is one of the dominant moral issues of our time.

Our religious faith deepens an awareness that should be clear to all people: The earth, our home, is a gift. We did not create it or earn it, and we do not own it. So we have a sacred responsibility to be good stewards of that gift.

Further, the earth's resources are finite, and with our technological prowess we have the ability to upset the ecological balance which supports our life on this earth. We must be attentive to the impacts of our activity on the environment, and not foolishly pretend that we are immune from those impacts.

We believe that our planet is in great peril from the threat of climate change. We believe it is real, and that it is to a significant extent human-induced. We accept the vast body of scientific evidence which forecasts severe consequences for the Earth and all its inhabitants if we fail to act.

Our thirst to consume the earth's natural resources, and our reliance on old energy sources which emit greenhouse gases, has led us to a crisis both spiritual and environmental. In view of this, for us as spiritual leaders to remain silent would be an abdication of our responsibilities.

Another consideration for us, and of primary concern, is that all of our religious traditions call us to serve and protect the poor and vulnerable, who contribute the least to this problem yet will suffer the most from the impacts of climate change.

We cannot expect to safeguard our own prosperity and security if we ignore or neglect the plight of the poor and vulnerable around the world, whose numbers will only increase as climate change disrupts lives and livelihoods.

A recent Pentagon report likewise concluded that increasing numbers of conflicts are sure to arise if people are displaced by climate change or forced to fight for dwindling resources such as water and arable land.

With the world's largest economy, and historically as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States has a special responsibility to help lead the way towards solutions to this global problem through the development of new clean energy technologies. The technologies can be adopted not only here but also by poorer, growing nations, so that their people can also enjoy the benefits of progress without further exacerbating the problem of climate change. We can ALL prosper and benefit from the "new energy economy."

While the legislation passed by the House of Representatives in June is a milestone in efforts to mitigate climate change, we would prefer more dramatic action in a few crucial areas:

1. We need to act more quickly in shifting U.S. energy production toward cleaner sources like wind and solar in order to ensure strong growth in the clean energy industries and new jobs that are key to solving both our environmental and economic crises. Therefore, we support higher targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as for the expansion of renewable energy and energy efficiency programs through stronger utility mandates;

2. We support restoring the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate coal-fired power plant emissions-one of the highest-contributing sources of greenhouse gases.

3. We support requiring polluting industries to pay for their carbon emissions, and using the revenue generated to provide protection for consumers, wildlife, and vulnerable communities. Therefore, we support auctioning a higher proportion of emissions permits, rather than giving them away free as is proposed in the House version of the clean energy jobs legislation.

We urge our Senators to help pass strong, comprehensive clean energy jobs legislation that incorporates the elements stated above. prior to the International Climate Change Conference scheduled to be held in Copenhagen this December.

We also pledge to do our part to change the way our own communities' behaviors contribute to the problem of climate change and other environmental issues. Future generations will thank us for doing so.

Rev. Nelson Bock is executive director of the Colorado Interfaith Power and Light. This guest commentary was also signed by: Rev. Peter Sawtell, executive director of Eco-Justice Ministries, Rev. Dr. Jim Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Council of Churches, Rev. Jann Halloran Chair of the Justice Commission for the Colorado Council of Churches, Rev. Mark Meeks, member of the advisory board of the Colorado Interfaith Power and Light, Rev. Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, Chair of the Public Policy Commission of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado; and Rev. Ambrose Carroll, coordinator of Green Jobs Interfaith Coalition.

http://www.denverpost.com/headlines/ci_13446139