Many religious leaders back climate-change action

A desire to exercise stewardship over the environment is growing among evangelical Christians.

Religious groups in the United States and around the world have steadily adopted pro-environmentpositions. At Christmastime this shift has been particularly evident regarding global climate change.

The pros and cons of cutting down real Christmas trees (which absorb carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas) versus buying an artificial tree (which may contain pollutants) weigh on the minds of many, says an article in The Christian Post.

More than 100 influential evangelical leaders have signed the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI) to fight global warming, the Post article says. They're asking governments and individuals to reduce CO2 emissions.

The ECI concludes that global warming is real. The Post article quotes from the initiative's statement:

"Christians, noting the fact that most of the climate change problem is human induced, are reminded that when God made humanity he commissioned us to exercise stewardship over the earth and its creatures.... Climate change is the latest evidence of our failure to exercise proper stewardship, and constitutes a critical opportunity for us to do better."

Leaders from the US Catholic Conference of Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Council of Churches, and the Union of Reform Judaism are pushing Congress and the Bush administration to fund efforts for poorer areas to adapt to drought, flooding, and other effects of climate change. A blog at US News & World Report online quotes Paul Gorman, of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment:

"Poor and working-class people need advocates, and that is what the faith community traditionally does.... The single most striking thing about us and this issue is the degree of unity across the ideological spectrum. "

The human relationship to climate change was a key undercurrent to the recently concluded United Nations-sponsored talks in Bali, Indonesia. The Associated Press reported:

"The haves – which pump the lion's share of pollutants into the atmosphere – are arguing about emission targets and high-tech solutions. The have-nots – which contribute little to global warming but are disproportionately among the victims – need tens of billions of dollars to save [them]."

According to one recent poll mentioned in a story by The Economist, two-thirds of Evangelicals want immediate action on global warming. The story continues:

"The new mood reflects a generational change among evangelicals, says Andrew Walsh, a religion-watcher at Trinity College, Hartford [Conn.]. The younger lot wants to focus more on issues such as AIDS and the crisis in Darfur – a cluster of concerns that have more in common with climate change than with crusading against homosexuality."

This is not to say that all religious leaders have become born-again tree huggers. Pope Benedict XVI recently launched what Britain's Daily Mail called "a surprise attack on climate change prophets of doom." The Daily Mail piece went on to say:

"The leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics suggested [in his annual message for World Peace Day] that fears over man-made emissions melting the ice caps and causing a wave of unprecedented disasters were nothing more than scare-mongering. 'It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, [the Pope said,] uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances.'" [Editor's note: The original version did not clearly attribute all this material to the Daily Mail.]

Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Rabbi Julian Sinclair, of "Tikkun Olam," the Jewish initiative on climate change, voiced a more positive theological outlook, saying that "religion is uniquely able" to mobilize "far-reaching changes in individual behavior." He concludes:

"Let us kindle all our Hanukka candles this year, and see in their light the hope that together we can act to ensure a safe climate future for ourselves, our children, the world's poorest and most vulnerable people, and all the creatures with whom we share God's earth."
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