Commentary
By Michael Mershon 10-13-2017

Unfortunately, the hardest-working person in the Trump cabinet seems to be Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

As the Trump administration continues its assault on nearly every aspect of the Obama legacy, this week Pruitt announced the end of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), an effort to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, particularly coal-fired plants. The CPP was one of the most far-reaching and forward-looking environmental policies of the last decade; it’s been tossed aside by an administration more concerned about the profits of fossil fuel companies than the health and wellbeing of the rest of us.

The decision came as drought-fueled wildfires raged in California. 85 percent of Puerto Rico remains without electricity in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Communities in the Caribbean, Southeastern Texas, and Florida continue to struggle to recover from one of the deadliest, most destructive hurricane seasons in history. More storms are in the forecast.

When natural disasters strike, faith communities are among the first to help — providing food, shelter and spiritual support for the victims. We tend to the sick and we bury the dead. Global climate change makes this work much, much harder.

God commands us to care for creation, to act as stewards of our planet and its resources. And Jesus calls us to defend the targeted and the vulnerable. All of those he calls us to protect in Matthew 25 — the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the stranger, the captive — all face a more dangerous future because of climate change. 

According to Politico, “When EPA finalized the Clean Power Plan, the agency estimated that by 2030 it would annually prevent 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 childhood asthma attacks and 1,700 heart attacks.” Without the CPP, 90,000 unnecessary childhood asthma attacks will occur. And this from an administration that professes to be friendly to the faith community.

Thankfully, leaders in that faith community are speaking out.

“Across the country young evangelicals are already standing up by the thousands and are taking creative, faithful climate action,” said Kyle Meyaard-Schapp of the Young Evangelicals for Climate Action.

“When it comes to responding to climate change, this administration continues to insist on leading from behind. So that is exactly where the rest of us will leave them.”

Environmental justice advocates have reacted as well. 

“The decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan is a direct attack on our health,” said Dr. Adrienne Hollis of WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

“In the face of this atrocity, our most vulnerable communities will suffer increased adverse health effects from power plant pollution.”

Mayors, governors, health groups, environmental activists — all have expressed their anger and determination to fight the decision to end the CPP.

Though creation groans, as Christians we are called to look for signs of hope. 14 states are moving ahead with their own effort, as part of the Climate Alliance, to curb emissions. Leaders in Congress are searching for ways to encourage innovation and growth in the renewable energy sector.

When progress we have worked so hard to achieve is being reversed, we must work to strengthen the partnerships between and among the faith community, communities of color, the environmental policy community, and the grassroots climate justice movement. We need to rebuild, inspire, and resource an American majority that recognizes the reality of climate change and seeks to stop it. The environmental movement must be more open to climate justice concerns and faith perspectives. Faith communities of color must be mobilized to view combatting climate change and building resiliency to climate change effects as central to their missions. And the resolve of sympathetic white evangelicals and Catholics — especially young people — who support action on climate change must be strengthened.

Those struggling with the devastating effects of climate change need and deserve our prayers. They also deserve political leadership that admits that climate change is happening, acknowledges its contributing human causes, and commits to addressing the crisis. Until that happens, climate injustice will prevail.

Michael Mershon is Director of Advocacy and Communications at Sojourners.

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