Global Warming

Climate Change and the Church

Expressing her opinion that climate change is no longer about energy efficient behavior but rather about national policy, spiritual leader Marilyn Sewell argues the importance of what it takes to preserve the Earth’s atmosphere. Expressing her concerns about the lack of community and church involvement, Sewell insists policy immersion is crucial toward resolving future matters surrounding climate change. The Huffington Post reports:

So where is the parish church in all of this? Mostly silent, it seems. Churches continue to be concerned with individual sin as opposed to systemic sin, even in regard to climate change. Congregants may be admonished to recycle and change their light bulbs, but not to become politically active. The fact is we're way beyond changing our light bulbs. We need to bring that unhappy, startling truth to the pulpits of our land.

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Obama Readying Emissions Limits on Power Plants

With hopes to reduce mass amounts of pollution, President Obama has begun forming a list of ideas to condense the amount of carbon dioxide entering earth’s atmosphere. He plans to act quickly as such a process could take years to accomplish. The New York Times reports:

The administration has already begun steps to restrict climate-altering emissions from any newly built power plants, but imposing carbon standards on the existing utility fleet would be vastly more costly and contentious.

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Climate Change Causing Longer U.S. Wildfire Season

Thomas Tidwell, the chief of the United States Forest Service, told Congress hotter, dried conditions produced by climate change are causing America's longer wildfire season and increasing the amount of land burned. Since 2000, the forest service has almost doubled its spending on fighting fires from $540 million to $1 billion last year. The Guardian reports:

"Hotter, drier, a longer fire season, and lot more homes that we have to deal with," Tidwell told the Guardian following his appearance. "We are going to continue to have large wildfires."

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Climate Research Nearly Unanimous: Climate Change Caused by Human Activity

An overwhelming 97.1 percent of peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals agree that climate change is caused by humans. This finding can be used as a rebuttal against those who believe the scientific community is still debating the causes of climate change. Public opinion is still mixed with only 42 percent agreeing that human activity is the main cause of climate change. The Guardian reports:

"Our findings prove that there is a strong scientific agreement about the cause of climate change, despite public perceptions to the contrary," said John Cook of the University of Queensland, who led the survey.

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Religious Belief In Second Coming Of Christ Could Slow Global Warming Action

A study published May 1 from two researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Colorado found the widespread belief in "end-times" and the "Second coming" of Christ could impact the environmental policy movement negatively. The Huffington Post reports:

A belief in the Second Coming reduces the probability of strongly agreeing that the government should take action by more than 12 percent. In a corresponding manner, a belief in the Second Coming increases the probability of disagreeing with government action to curb global warming by more than 10 percent.

Read more here.

General Motors Calls on Washington to Work Together on Climate Change

General Motors signed the Climate Declaration. The statement is part of a new initiative by businesses for greater action on global warming in Washignton. No specific recommendations are made in the declaration. The Guardian reports:

"We want to be a change agent in the auto industry," Mike Robinson, GM vice-president of sustainability and global regulatory affairs, said in a statement.

Other endorsers of the Climate Declaration include eBay, Ceres, Starbucks, and Unilever.

The short statement, endorsed by GM, leads off: "Tacking climate change is America's greatest economic opportunity of the 21st century (and it's simply the right thing to do)."

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Earth's Greenhouse Gas Levels Approach Milestone

The ratio of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is approaching with 400 parts per million. This amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has not been seen since about 2.5 million to 5 million year ago. Scientists are alarmed that CO2 levels are also rising in places far from pollution sources. The Los Angeles Times reports:

"The 400-ppm threshold is a sobering milestone, and should serve as a wake-up call for all of us to support clean-energy technology and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, before it's too late for our children and grandchildren," said Tim Lueker, an oceanographer and carbon cycle researcher who is a longtime member of the Scripps CO2 Group.

Read more here.

No Time for Arm-Chair Activists

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For God So Loved the World

NEW YORK CITY has been bombed at least twice in the past decade. First by al Qaeda and second by Hurricane Sandy.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States launched two ground wars and a worldwide "war on terror." Within two months, Congress federalized the Transportation Security Administration to secure airports. More than 263 government organizations were either created or reorganized. Some 1,931 private companies were put to work on counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence. Rightly or wrongly, America moved heaven and earth to stop terrorism in its tracks. It was seen as both an ongoing threat and a moral affront that had to be dealt with.

What about Climate Change?
In February, a New York State Senate task force on Superstorm Sandy compared the hurricane that affected 24 states to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "[On 9/11] there were more than 3,000 souls lost, but in terms of the geographic destruction, it was isolated to Lower Manhattan," said Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island). "[After Sandy] we have miles and miles and miles of destruction. Hundreds of thousands of homes affected, 60 ... New Yorkers killed, 250,000 to 260,000 businesses affected."

Hurricane Sandy killed 253 people in seven countries. It was the second largest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded—and the most expensive. It smashed into the East Coast with barely three days' warning. Like hurricanes Katrina and Rita before it, Sandy was a disaster of biblical proportions.

After 9/11, Americans knew in our gut that something was seriously wrong. Our moral intuition had been sucker punched.

Climate change—and its deadly implications—has been harder to grasp. There's a lot of complicated science involved. Instead of a single incident, we're inundated with seemingly disconnected events. And, despite the evidence, we often fail to see it as a "crime."

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The Next Great Moral Movement

Climate change illustration, B Calkins / Shutterstock.com
Climate change illustration, B Calkins / Shutterstock.com

In my last column, "Three Numbers that Predict the Future of the Planet", I wrote about the state of the climate crisis and focused on three key data points that reveal a bleak, though not altogether hopeless, reality for us and for the rest of the planet.

As promised, this column is forward-looking and moves from describing the problem to prescribing the solution. To this end, I continue to draw heavily from the wisdom of Bill McKibben, Jim Ball, and other climate prophets who understand the times and are faithfully fighting to get us on the right track.

The way forward is not easy, but it will be good in the long run. Essentially, we need to set and enforce a limit on all remaining global warming pollution on the national and international scale, which will, we hope, keep warming to within 2oC. This will include some sort of pricing mechanism so that polluters have to take responsibility for paying for the costs of their own pollution. The problem is that we have not yet been able to muster the socio-political momentum necessary to reach these binding agreements. Turns out the polluters (largely the fossil fuel industry) don’t want to have to clean up after themselves. They’re also willing to fight with billions of dollars in campaign contributions and lobbying money to keep the status quo.

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