The Common Good

10 Reasons Climate Change Should Be An Election Issue

I’ll be traveling to New York tomorrow with a number of Christian colleagues. We’re having a rally — a Climate Action Prayer Rally!  And you can join us

I’m not sure about you, but I’m incredibly disappointed that our nation’s leaders – from all sectors, all parties, and all levels – continually neglect to take leadership on our climate and energy crisis. 

There are many reasons that climate change should be a top election issue, but here are just a handful of the most important ones:

  1. The poor and hungry.
    Extreme heat combined with natural drought cycles have led to one of the worst droughts since the Great Depression, and drought means increased food prices that have a disproportionate effect on our nation’s poor and vulnerable citizens.  
     
  2. Our health.
    Unusually hot and dry weather led to conditions even more ripe for an outbreak of the deadly West Nile virus. This outbreak is on pace to be the worst ever. Rates of asthma and other pulmonary diseases increase in frequency and severity with more air pollution and higher temperatures. Wildfire smoke and dust storms exacerbate existing lung conditions. According to the World Health Organization, climatic changes (including weather-related disasters) are already causing more than 150,000 deaths annually.
     
  3. The unborn and future generations.
    Record sea levels and loss of Arctic sea ice are signs that our planet is warming at an even faster rate than scientists thought. July was the hottest month ever recorded in U.S. history, and 2012 is on track to be the warmest ever in the U.S.  Our children will bear the consequences of our consumptive lifestyles and unwillingness to change course.
     
  4. Self-interest.
    While limiting carbon dioxide emissions from coal and oil is costly, the price of not doing anything is even higher because of deadly and extreme weather, the spread of disease, national security (defending oil-rich areas), and displaced communities due to desertification and sea-level rise (climate refugees). We will pay either now or later in taxes, energy prices, insurance premiums, disaster relief, food prices, water bills, and changes yet to be seen. 
     
  5. Economics.
    The costs of repairing damage due to landslides, hail damage, wildfires, floods, and blackouts have risen dramatically in recent years and will continue to rise.  Colorado alone had more than $450 million in damages from this summer’s wildfires, and that doesn’t include the costs to water and air quality.  Hail damage in Texas, Missouri, and Nebraska from the summer’s severe storms will likely exceed $1.5 billion
     
  6. Conflict
    Widespread global poverty and lack of access to potable water and arable land are exacerbated by desertification, drought, and extreme weather, causing more violent conflicts among people competing for already scarce resources. Dependence on foreign oil means the presence of American soldiers in conflict areas, leading to more deaths protecting fuel lines and fuel sources. 
     
  7. Americans WANT this to be a top priority.
    In a study published by Yale and George Mason University in August 2012
    a majority of all registered voters (55 percent) say they will consider candidates' views on global warming when deciding how to vote. Among these climate change issue voters, large majorities believe global warming is happening and support action by the U.S. to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs. Independents lean toward “climate action” and look more like Democrats than Republicans on the issue.  A pro-climate action position wins votes among Democrats and Independents, and has little negative impact with Republican voters. Policies to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels and promote renewable energy are favored by a majority of registered voters across party lines. These patterns are found nationally and among ten swing states. 
     
  8. Undecided voters say …
    that the presidential candidates’ positions on global warming will be one of several important factors determining how they cast their votes on Nov. 6. A new Yale/GMU national survey of likely voters finds that 7 percent remain undecided about their vote for president. These “Undecideds” are much more similar to likely Obama voters than likely Romney voters across a range of climate change and energy-related beliefs, attitudes and policy preferences.
     
  9. Big money, big influence.
    In just the first quarter of 2009 (when Congress was hearing legislation to limit carbon pollution), 34 companies from the energy industry spent $23.7 million lobbying members of Congress. That’s $260,000 per day. That’s just one example.
     
  10. Our faith.
    How can we truly honor the Creator, love our neighbors as ourselves, and follow Christ’s example if we are not being stewards of the resources God has entrusted to us (Genesis 1:26, 2:15)?

Join us tomorrow night. We’re going to pray for more faithful leadership from the presidential candidates and from the major parties, and we’re going to pray over the many harmful climate impacts currently being experienced and anticipated by communities in the United States and around the world. 

The rally is free and open to the public. Please RSVP here so we can plan accordingly. I look forward to seeing you!

 

Alycia Ashburn is the Creation Care Campaign Director at Sojourners.

Arctic ice, Volodymyr Goinyk / Shutterstock.com

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