A month ago, I concluded a six day stretch of climate change-related action in Washington, D.C. From the start, with the People’s Climate March, to the conclusion, with the Christian climate advocacy consultation, we were busy.
Despite significant efforts, the challenge remains for us all.
That includes anyone concerned about the livability of our common home – this planet we share. We must persist. We need to act and call for action. Despite objection and opposition by the current president's administration, climate change is happening, it’s serious, human caused, and, fortunately, something we can still address if we take bold action.
Friday, before the march began, my wife and I took a self-guided tour of the White House. While making our rounds, I had a brush with greatness. No, the president did not jump out from behind room dividers. Instead, none other than Mick Mulvaney, the administration’s Office of Management and Budget Director, rushed past me and the two Secret Service officers I was talking to.
Mulvaney, who infamously said, "Regarding the question as to climate change, I think the president was fairly straightforward, we're not spending money on that anymore.”
I doubt that glancing at my “Climate Action” t-shirt as he hustled to his destination changed his mind. Mulvaney's comment regrettably typifies one of this administration's disturbing patterns — denying the existence of a problem and then proposing to defund or discontinue programs that find the evidence to prove it.
The president had already escaped the metaphorically stormy weather of the nation's capital before we even got to the East Room. For the Saturday of the Climate March itself, he chose to cocoon himself in the reassuringly warm embrace of a campaign rally in Harrisburg, Pa. Scientists, students, indigenous people, pastors, rabbis, community organizers, children, young adults, retired people, and more marched to and around the White House. He did not see the people and hear their passionate concern and informed outrage over his opposition to climate change action and his decision to appoint climate dismissive Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
While giving voice to moral and faith issues that move us to call for climate change action, we Evangelical Climate Advocacy Day participants also asked for a specific policy solution: Revenue Neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend. This plan requires the fossil fuel industry to pay for the atmospheric pollution and damage it profits from.
Polling data has shown that a person’s political party is a greater predictor of their position on climate change than a range of other factors including income or education. On Capitol Hill, we — I and friends of mine involved in advocacy for climate protection — find that Democrats acknowledge climate change, affirm the need for action, and sometimes even express frustration and discouragement that there has not been more action. It is as if they need more hope.
On the other hand, we find that Republicans continue to minimize climate change as a problem or maximize the unworkable unaffordability of a solution. Yet sometimes, off camera and behind the scenes, we encounter Republicans who fear calling for climate action due to the risk of being “primary-ed” or knocked out of an election in a primary. It is as if they need more courage.
So, what do we need to do? If your faith allows, pray for precisely these two things — hope among congressional Democrats to persevere in pursuit of climate protection, and courage among congressional Republicans fearing political rejection by their base if they pursue climate protection. Whether prayer is part of your practice or not, persist in calling and writing your representatives.
Talk to friends and family about your climate change concerns. Recent research suggests that this restricts the ability to grow the political will needed for action. You can help people own the problem and own the solution by breaking through the climate of silence around the issue of climate. In addition to national activity, you can press local government to take climate friendly actions.
Persist. Whether locally and nationally, individually and collectively, immediately and continually, we need to take action. For the sake of our common home, to protect the climate and all who depend on it, we must persist in faith, courage, and hope.