I have served on the Arizona Ecumenical Council Earth Care Commission as both a committee member and as chairperson for about 15 years. Recently, I was asked to comment on the Environmental Protection Agency’s new carbon rule to curb the growing threat of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.
I know this is a controversial topic with some people as the standards could mean that coal-fired generating plants would have to make some expensive technological adaptations and retire some units and expedite transition to clean energy sources such as solar and wind in order to reduce carbon pollution. Ultimately, we must bear these costs, however. I believe that if I am going to be true to the mandate I have as a practicing Christian, I have no choice but to come down on the side of these new protections.
Let me explain. Christians (full disclosure — I am of the United Methodist persuasion) have a gospel duty to be good citizens. This is reflected in the 2004 United Methodist Church Book of Resolutions under the heading, “Environmental Justice for a Sustainable Future,” which states: “The scale of human activities has grown so large that it now threatens the planet itself. Global environmental problems have become so vast they are hard to comprehend. The vast majority of scientific evidence suggests that carbon dioxide from fossil fuels has already caused a measurable warming of the globe. Confronted with the massive crisis of the deterioration of God’s creation and faced with the question of the ultimate survival of life, we ask God’s forgiveness for our participation in this destruction.”
We are not the only Christian (or Jewish, or Muslim or Unitarian Universalist, for that matter) religion that understands that WE ARE THE SOURCE OF THE PROBLEM and are calling for action on climate change. This is a concern of many faith communities, and rightly so — because climate change is a moral issue. And when it comes to moral questions, the church is morally bound to weigh in.
A prime call for us in this present time must be to take an active role in changing the public discourse about climate change; to accept the catastrophic consequences of our deep-rooted unwillingness to be honest about what we know about human involvement in it — and to do whatever is necessary to mitigate the problems that stem from it.
It is the duty of the church to speak out boldly and forcefully on what many have said is the greatest challenge to human survival of our time. As we all know, it is the disadvantaged among us who will be disproportionately affected by climate change — the poor, the sick, the marginalized — the very populations that we as Christians have pledged to serve and protect.
We are already seeing the effects from coral reefs dying and threatening fish populations and a food supply for billions of people to extended droughts and less clean water available to a thirsty world.
For over 15 years, the Earth Care Commission’s unofficial motto has been: “If we don’t care, who will?” It is time to show that we care. It is time for people of faith to take the message of our wisdom writings seriously. That includes taking a firm stand on climate change by supporting the EPA’s stance on curbing carbon emissions. Our very future is at stake. These standards will go a long way toward cleaning up our air, improving public health, and moving us in the direction of cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy. The impacts will be felt not just locally and across the U.S., but will have global implications as others seek to use these standards as a model of what can be done on a worldwide basis.
— Sarah King is chair of the Arizona Ecumenical Council’s Earth Care Commission.