My Turn: Climate change action is a moral imperative

For the Monitor
Published: 10/25/2020 6:00:26 AM

As we approach Election Day on Nov. 3, I urge New Hampshire voters to support candidates who pledge to make action on climate change their first priority – the health of our planet and our people demand it.

We have a moral responsibility that is far beyond our immediate concerns to bequeath a livable world to those who come after us. Concerns about climate change impacts and support for candidates who offer solutions that build community are motivators for faith voters.

Recent polling by Climate Nexus, Yale University Program on Climate Change Communication, and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication indicates that nearly 64% of faith voters want a multi-trillion-dollar federal economic stimulus to invest in clean energy infrastructure as part of COVID-19 recovery.

Climate change action is a moral imperative, actively engaging our humanity to act in our collective best interest for future generations. Faith traditions around the globe share a consistent ethos to protect our planet, calling to us to be stewards of creation. As we have seen in recent weeks, the impact of climate change constantly reminds us of our human and earthly vulnerabilities, from the unprecedented powerful and destructive wildfires in the Western United States to the deluge of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico.

The events that are occurring in the natural world are not unexpected, they are in fact predicted as a result of the increased warming of the planet caused in large part by human industrial activities and elevated carbon emissions.

The trajectory that we are currently on will continue to cause grave harm to our natural world and creation – we are not acting in good faith as the stewards of creation that we are called to unless we dramatically change course.

In many ways, we have become disconnected as a species to the reaction of the natural world to our actions. We are often rudely reminded by the cascade of natural disasters made worse by global climate change that we in fact are not apart from nature but intimately intertwined within it.

Here in New Hampshire, the impact of climate change on our moose population, maple sugaring industry, and agriculture have received a good deal of attention. The threat of sea-level rise, more frequent and powerful storms, and the current drought conditions across the state are all focusing our minds on our predicament.

The impacts of climate change are not limited to the impact on the natural world. Human suffering is compounded by the increase of natural disasters made worse by a warming planet. The National Academy of Sciences projects that 150 million people across the globe will be displaced by rising sea levels by 2050. Large waves of climate migration will occur as an increasingly narrow band of the Earth maintains optimum temperatures for food production.

The populations most affected by global climate change are the least equipped to respond and adapt, as they have access to the least amount of resources, monetary and otherwise.

Alleviating human suffering in the face of climate change demands a moral response, calling to us to act beyond our own concerns.

Here’s the good news – we have it within our grasp to truly improve the human condition while meeting the existential threat of climate change and responding to a higher moral calling.

If we act based on science to dramatically reduce carbon emissions and work to build a clean energy economy based on an aggressive transition to renewable energy, we will create a more just world where fundamental human values and dignity are taken into account.

Science and faith are not at odds – they can co-exist for the benefit of all, working hand-in-hand to create the future we seek.

As John F. Kennedy stated in his inaugural address, “with a good conscience our only true reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

We must choose leaders who will act as stewards of creation, willing to act on behalf of a planet in peril and the human family that depends upon its health.

(Rob Werner is a member of the steering team of New Hampshire Interfaith Power and Light and New Hampshire state director of the League of Conservation Voters.)


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