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Faith traditions have played significant roles in social movements throughout history. Following the “golden rule” — which permeates nearly all religions — people of faith were influential in the abolition of slavery, segregation, and apartheid. The Quaker tradition expresses a similar sentiment to the “golden rule,” striving for a community where every person’s potential can be fulfilled. Pope Benedict declared that “integral human development is closely linked to the obligations which flow from man’s relationship with the natural environment.” Today, many faith traditions express great concern about climate disruption, perhaps the greatest challenge facing our generation.
If humanity fails to reduce carbon emissions in the next 15 years, it will be virtually impossible to solve the problem of climate disruption with existing technologies.
The faith community’s concern for creation is galvanizing the kind of movement that is needed to inspire Congressional action on climate disruption today. It is grounded in a care for creation that will enable our children, the vulnerable, and future generations to thrive. Early in February, faith communities coalesced around the National Preach-In on Climate Change, hosted by Interfaith Power & Light, to mobilize the faith voice.
Consolidation of the moral call to action on climate disruption could not come at a more appropriate time. A recently leaked draft United Nations climate report issues a dire warning calling for immediate action on climate disruption: if humanity fails to reduce carbon emissions in the next 15 years, it will be virtually impossible to solve the problem of climate disruption with existing technologies.
This is but the latest of a myriad of alarming reports issued by respected institutions that have largely been ignored for years. The World Bank issued a troubling report in November 2012, which states a global temperature increase of four degrees Celsius — which where we are headed by the end of the century if we do not act — will have devastating impacts. The authors hoped that the report would shock people into action.
Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate disruption is real, human caused, and a grave threat to present and future generations. Based on this science, 141 nations, including the US, China and India, agree under the Copenhagen Accord that climate change is one of greatest challenges of our time, and that global temperatures rise must not rise above 2 degrees Celsius. Many U.S. corporations comprehend the risks. Yet, global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.
The majority of Americans are concerned about climate disruption and want action taken to reduce carbon emissions. Yet, in Congress, legislative solutions are obscured by a fog of partisanship.
Extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan, and droughts in California and the Middle East are causing unprecedented suffering and damage. Entire communities, like the Alaskan native village of Newtok and the town of Crisfield along Maryland’s Eastern Shore may soon be washed away by sea level rise.
Is this the future we desire for our children? The majority of Americans are concerned about climate disruption and want action taken to reduce carbon emissions. Yet, in Congress, legislative solutions are obscured by a fog of partisanship.
The American people, by exercising their democratic rights, have a simple yet powerful means for establishing the moral foundation for congressional action. Citizens speaking from their faith, moral, or ethical perspectives on climate disruption can urge their congressional representatives to publicly acknowledge — in a bipartisan fashion — the reality and threats of climate disruption, and the need to act. This modest yet critical first step reflects the first tenet of Alcoholics Anonymous: to solve a problem, you must first admit you have one. By engaging in supportive and uplifting conversations with congressional representatives on climate disruption, the faith community can foster the political atmosphere necessary for legislative solutions.
Seeking to consolidate the expression of these beliefs — and those articulated at the National Preach-In on Climate Change across the country — the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) is partnering with other faith- and citizen-based organizations on a call to conscience on climate disruption to affirm the moral foundation for action. We ask that multi-faith delegations share their thoughts on climate disruption with their congressional representatives, discussing their beliefs from the basis of their religious, ethical or moral perspectives. Consistent with the Quaker belief in the Light that exists within every person, we ask that such meetings be based on our shared purpose and uplifting paths forward.
We ask people of faith to meet with their congressional representatives and converse around the following questions: What is the shared legacy we seek to leave for our children and future generations on climate disruption? Will you acknowledge that climate disruption is human-induced, already happening, and a grave threat to both present and future generations? Will you take a leadership role and call upon your peers to join a public, bipartisan declaration of concern about climate disruption and the need for congressional action? What kind of actions should Congress take?
By replicating this action in grassroots districts across the country, people of faith can create authentic political and moral will for congressional solutions to climate disruption. The moral call will continue during the upcoming election season, enabling citizens who hold climate disruption as a voting issue to speak to all candidates running for congressional office. If successful, the next Congress will take action on the climate crisis. This is critical because climate legislation that dramatically reduces national greenhouse gas emissions provides the United States with the global credibility necessary to obtain international climate disruption commitments.
The seemingly simple action of communicating with your elected representative is powerful, vastly underrated, and accessible to all. For in a healthy democracy, the people create the political will to which elected representatives respond. If the faith community can come together to issue the moral call to conscience and action on climate disruption, we can work with optimism and resolve toward a thriving future.