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Global Warming: A Christian Response
The following is excerpted from a statement by the Pennsylvania Council of Churches’ Interfaith Committee on Global Climate Change. We thank Pat Hammann for sending it to us.
The Interfaith Climate Change Network’s brochure entitled “ The Cry of Creation: Global Warming and Global Justice” states:
The worldwide threat of global warming is a growing concern to religious leaders in America, raising serious issues of morality and justice. These leaders have recently proclaimed that “ . . . at stake are: the future of God’s creation on earth; the nature and durability of our economy; our public health and public lands; the environment and quality of life we bequeath our children and grandchildren.”
Global warming will harm people all around the world, especially the world’s poor. It is estimated that over 150,000 people die every year, most in developing nations, from the side-effects of global warming, ranging from malaria to malnutrition, and the numbers could almost double by 2020. The United States, with its great economic and technical strengths, has the ability to lead the global effort necessary to tackle global warming. We can develop solutions, but our failure to adopt an action program that recognizes the enormity of the problem keeps solutions on the shelf and puts millions in peril.
Others in the world community recognize that global warming is a very real threat. After a long period of international inactivity, the Russian Parliament recently ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and this action now brings the number of countries that have ratified the treaty to the level required to make the agreement international law. Russia’s decision is a crucial move in addressing the problem of global warming, and it now places pressure on the United States, the world’s largest emitter of global warming pollution, to reconsider its position not to ratify.
Even the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania–the third-worst state in the union in terms of greenhouse emissions, responsible for more global warming pollution than 105 developing countries combined–has moved in a big way to address global warming through passage of the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act in November 2004. Pennsylvania has never before enacted a law before that will do more to clean up the environment and reduce air emissions, but its passage also puts Pennsylvania in the forefront of clean and renewable energy technology and development and calls for extensive energy efficiency and conservation measures.
Every faith tradition calls on its followers to protect what God has given us. Scripture tells us, “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Ps 24:1). Our energy resources are a gift from the God who created us all. Pat of God’s message to us at the time of creation was that we are to “till and to tend the garden” (Gen 2:15). What this means to us, as people of faith, is that we have a moral obligation to make responsible choices that protect and preserve God’s creation. Energy conservation and efficiency and production of clean energy are means of practicing faithful and responsible stewardship.
Unfortunately, the motivations of greed and acquisition of goods rather than concern for God’s creation continues to drive our economy–and much of our world. The prophet Jeremiah had words for those in his society who were counterparts to our more modern profiteers, saying, “From the least to the greatest of them everyone is greedy for unjust gain . . . . They have treated the world of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. They acted shamefully . . .” (Jeremiah 6:13-15). We are at a crossroads, and Jeremiah has more to say about how we can proceed from this point: “Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).
But stewardship means even more. We are responsible for protecting God’s creation because it is intended for the well-being of all creatures, as we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). People of faith are called upon to “defend the poor and the orphan: do justice to the afflicted” (Ps 82:3), to care for “the least of these” (Matt 25:35), and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Leviticus 18:19, Matthew 22:39). When we care for God’s creation, we practice justice by protecting the vulnerable. Ensuring a cleaner, safer environment means that we care for the elderly and the sick by not putting their lives at risk from harmful pollutants, and that we ensure a safer, more secure future for generations to come.
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