While giving a presentation this month to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican, it struck me just how fortuitous the timing was for this three-day meeting at the intersection of health, climate science, and faith.
On the day before, the U.S. federal government released a comprehensive report on climate science. Two days after, the world turned to Bonn, Germany, for the next round of United Nations climate talks. In both instances, the Trump administration’s denial and isolation stuck out like a sore thumb. While his own federal scientists laid out in exquisite detail the extent of how human activity causes climate change, his administration has operated under the opposite assumption and promoted fossil fuels at every turn.
They stand alone in that pursuit. Because while in Bonn, Syria announced that it too would join the Paris Agreement, solidifying global unity. This makes America's the only government resisting the inevitable clean energy future that protects public health and God’s creation.
That doesn’t mean, however, that America isn’t on board. Although Trump wants to exit Paris, over 2,500 governors, mayors, businesses, universities, and faith groups have declared "We Are Still In."
Which means that whether Trump likes it or not, America is taking climate action. And faith groups, including evangelicals, will be front and center in this fight.
Insofar as climate change hurts the least among us the most, flooding homes that folks can’t afford to replace, parching crops smallholder farmers rely on for food and finances, and scorching retirement communities full of residents particularly vulnerable to heat stroke, climate denial is anti-life and climate action pro-life.
Because when the Lord commanded us to care for his creation, I doubt he meant sacrificing pure air for industry profits. When the Bible tells us to protect and provide for the least among us, it is not referring to CEOs and stockholders. When spiritual leaders call on us to protect life, that doesn't mean subsidizing dirty coal that kills the men who mine it, the communities that burn it and the planet that must deal with its atmospheric pollution.
When the Trump administration rolls back public protections that prevent wasteful and toxic methane pollution, or unleashes fossil fuels with no regard to carbon pollution, or promotes coal at the expense of cleaner alternatives, the pro-life community should be up in arms.
And many of us are. Over the past few years, over 3 million pro-life Christians have joined to care for creation by transitioning to clean energy. That’s a lot of prayers, but more are needed to break through the White House’s fossil fueled denial.
Be it increasing cases of asthma, Lyme disease, and other ailments that grow more common as warming welcomes mosquitoes and other pests into new habitats, or the repeated flooding seen in Minnesota, or the record-breaking wildfires and heatwaves in California, there’s more to climate impacts than the deadly hurricanes seen in 2017. Unfortunately, as the National Climate Assessment makes clear, the impacts and threats are real, current, and will get worse. In other words the impacts are already here and threats are only going to get worse.
Fortunately, as the ongoing U.N. negotiations show, despite Trump’s denial the world is going all in on climate action. People of every faith, and those without, stand in agreement that letting public health suffer for the sake of private industry profits is unconscionable.
For anyone who values human life, which is arguably every human who is alive, taking action on climate change should be a priority.
Reverend MItchell Hescox is President and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network.
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