The nation’s most well-known evangelical climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University, speaks and writes often about climate change from the perspective of faith, most recently in a November 25 Scientific American essay.

“The diplomatic arguing has not been about the science, it has been about what we are willing to do to prevent that danger,” Hayhoe wrote. “And that has a lot more to do with the values in our hearts than the facts in our heads. For many of us . . . what is in our hearts is often directly related to our faith. And what is different about this year, leading into COP21, is how faith leaders have stepped up to the plate.”

With COP21 now entering its second and final – and critical – week in Paris, a review of public positions major religions and religious interests have taken on climate change and on the international efforts:

Black Church

“As leaders in the Black Church, we view climate change as a moral issue and one of the greatest public health challenges of our time, particularly for black and other marginalized communities. Breathing dirty, carbon-polluted air that causes climate change contributes to thousands of asthma attacks, hospital visits, and premature deaths every year. Black and lower income communities are often hit the hardest by climate change in the United States. In Genesis, breath is declared a God given right, yet, almost 40 percent of the six million Americans living in close proximity to a coal power plant are people of color.

We value responsible stewardship that provides healthy neighborhoods and connects people to jobs that promote vitality and economic security. We believe that President Obama’s Clean Power Plan can help address these issues by providing guidance for reducing carbon and other pollution in our communities; the plan also has the potential to encourage the development of cleaner industries to power our everyday activities that provide much-needed job opportunities for our constituencies.

We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind. We will work as leaders of the Black Church to educate and empower our own congregations. Similarly, we will work actively to engage and collaborate with other marginalized communities in our advocacy efforts. We urge our national, state and local decision makers to craft policies that strengthen black communities.”

– From BlackChurchClimate.org and Climate Statement. Statement drafters included Dr. Samuel Tolbert, Jr., President of the National Baptist Convention of America; Dr. Jessie Bottoms, Vice President of the National Baptist Convention USA; Bishop Seth Lartey of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AMEZ); Bishop Ronald Cunningham of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME); Dr. Carroll Baltimore of the Global United Fellowship; and Dr. Leonard Lovett of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC).

Buddhism

“Today we live in a time of great crisis, confronted by the gravest challenge that humanity has ever faced: the ecological consequences of our own collective karma. The scientific consensus is overwhelming: human activity is triggering environmental breakdown on a planetary scale. Global warming, in particular, is happening much faster than previously predicted, most obviously at the North Pole.

“. . . the threats and disasters we face ultimately stem from the human mind, and therefore require profound changes within our minds. If personal suffering stems from craving and ignorance – from the three poisons of greed, ill will, and delusion – the same applies to the suffering that afflicts us on a collective scale. Our ecological emergency is a larger version of the perennial human predicament. Both as individuals and as a species, we suffer from a sense of self that feels disconnected not only from other people but from the Earth itself. As Thich Nhat Hanh has said, ‘We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.’ We need to wake up and realize that the Earth is our mother as well as our home – and in this case the umbilical cord binding us to her cannot be severed. When the Earth becomes sick, we become sick, because we are part of her.

“. . . To survive the rough transitions ahead, our lifestyles and expectations must change. This involves new habits as well as new values. The Buddhist teaching that the overall health of the individual and society depends upon inner well-being, and not merely upon economic indicators, helps us determine the personal and social changes we must make.

“. . . We have a brief window of opportunity to take action, to preserve humanity from imminent disaster and to assist the survival of the many diverse and beautiful forms of life on Earth. Future generations, and the other species that share the biosphere with us, have no voice to ask for our compassion, wisdom, and leadership. We must listen to their silence. We must be their voice, too, and act on their behalf.”

– From “The Time to Act is Now: A Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change

Catholicism

“I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges. Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity.

“. . . The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.

“. . . Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change. However, many of these symptoms indicate that such effects will continue to worsen if we continue with current models of production and consumption.”

“. . . It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.”

“. . . The notion of the common good also extends to future generations. The global economic crises have made painfully obvious the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us. We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity. Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others.”

– From “Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of The Holy Father Francis On Care For Our Common Home,” June 2015. See also: Pope Francis Releases Encyclical on Climate and Environment: UN Leaders React and Reading Tea Leaves on Pope’s Coming Encyclical.

Church of England

“In the last 150 years we have burned fossil fuels that took one billion years to lay down in the earth. The earth cannot sustain this level of consumption. This is about our ‘reading the signs of the times’ and ‘seeking the common good’. . . . The science, economics and politics all point in the same direction. . . . Climate change disproportionately affects the poorest. They are most vulnerable to increased storms, rising sea level, changing patterns of rainfall, floods and drought. We live interconnected lives. What is bad for our neighbours is bad for us.”

– The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, the Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment, July 2015.

“We have unrivalled access to networks around the world. How are we going to use them and look beyond our own boundaries as the Church of England to draw in the resources of the whole Communion? This is a moment not for just looking inwards.”

– Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

Statements released on July 15, 2015 by the General Synod of the Church of England. See also: General Synod: Combatting Climate Change: The Paris Summit and the Mission of the Church, A Background Paper from the Environment Working Group and Church of England Issues Strong Call for Long-term Climate Action.

Hinduism

“. . . Climate change is a stark symptom of the deeper problem of humanity living out of balance with what Bhūmi Devi, our shared planet, can renewably provide.

“. . . Each one of us has a part to play in reducing climate pollution, by changing our inner and outer behaviour. As Mahatma Gandhi posited, ‘If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.’

“. . . Today we call on all Hindus to expand our conception of dharma. We must consider the effects of our actions not just on ourselves and those humans around us, but also on all beings. We have a dharmic duty for each of us to do our part in ensuring that we have a functioning, abundant, and bountiful planet.

“. . . We must base our response to climate change on a number of central principles, expanding on the truism that the Divine is all and all life is to be treated with reverence and respect: Internalising vasudhaiva kutumbakam (the family of Mother Earth), promoting sarva bhuta hita (the welfare of all beings), and acting with an understanding of karma and the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

“. . . Climate change creates pain, suffering, and violence. Unless we change how we use energy, how we use the land, how we grow our crops, how we treat other animals, and how we use natural resources, we will only further this pain, suffering, and violence. On a personal basis, we can reduce this suffering by beginning to transform our habits, simplifying our lives and material desires, and not taking more than our reasonable share of resources. Adopting a plant-based diet is one of the single most powerful acts6 that a person can take in reducing environmental impact.7 In doing all of this, we help maintain the ecological and cosmic order, an order that allows life and existence to flourish. . . .”

– From the Hindu Declaration on Climate Change, Nov. 23, 2015. See also: Hindu Religious and Civil Society Leaders Urge Climate Change Action.

Interfaith Statement

“As people of faith and belief we feel a personal and collective sense of love and responsibility for the wellbeing of our 7 billion global neighbours and for nature itself. This the heart of OurVoices. Make no mistake. Climate change is not just an environmental problem. It is a humanitarian and development emergency, and it’s already affecting many vulnerable communities. This is why, as people of faith, we believe that climate change is a moral issue.”

From “Our Voices: Bringing Faith to the Climate Crisis,” which describes itself as “the global faith & spiritual climate action network.”

Islam

. . . The pace of Global climate change today is of a different order of magnitude from the gradual changes that previously occurred throughout the most recent era, the Cenozoic. Moreover, it is human-induced: we have now become a force dominating nature.

. . . Our species, though selected to be a caretaker or steward (khalifah) on the earth, has been the cause of such corruption and devastation on it that we are in danger ending life as we know it on our planet. This current rate of climate change cannot be sustained, and the earth’s fine equilibrium (mīzān) may soon be lost. As we humans are woven into the fabric of the natural world, its gifts are for us to savour. But the same fossil fuels that helped us achieve most of the prosperity we see today are the main cause of climate change. Excessive pollution from fossil fuels threatens to destroy the gifts bestowed on us by God, whom we know as Allah – gifts such as a functioning climate, healthy air to breathe, regular seasons, and living oceans.

. . . An urgent and radical reappraisal is called for. Humankind cannot afford the slow progress we have seen in all the COP (Conference of Parties – climate change negotiations) processes since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was published in 2005, or the present deadlock.

“. . . We particularly call on the well-off nations and oil-producing states to –

  • Lead the way in phasing out their greenhouse gas emissions as early as possible and no later than the middle of the century;
  • Provide generous financial and technical support to the less well-off to achieve a phase-out of greenhouse gases as early as possible;
  • Recognize the moral obligation to reduce consumption so that the poor may benefit from what is left of the earth’s non-renewable resources;
  • Stay within the ‘2 degree’ limit, or, preferably, within the ‘1.5 degree’ limit, bearing in mind that two-thirds of the earth’s proven fossil fuel reserves remain in the ground;
  • Re-focus their concerns from unethical profit from the environment, to that of preserving it and elevating the condition of the world’s poor.
  • Invest in the creation of a green economy.

. . . We call on the people of all nations and their leaders to –

  • Aim to phase out greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible in order to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere;
  • Commit themselves to 100% renewable energy and/or a zero emissions strategy as early as possible, to mitigate the environmental impact of their activities;
  • Invest in decentralized renewable energy, which is the best way to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development;
  • Realize that to chase after unlimited economic growth in a planet that is finite and already overloaded is not viable. Growth must be pursued wisely and in moderation; placing a priority on increasing the resilience of all, and especially the most vulnerable, to the climate change impacts already underway and expected to continue for many years to come.
  • Set in motion a fresh model of wellbeing, based on an alternative to the current financial model which depletes resources, degrades the environment, and deepens inequality.
  • Prioritise adaptation efforts with appropriate support to the vulnerable countries with the least capacity to adapt. And to vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples, women and children.

. . . We call upon corporations, finance, and the business sector to –

  • Shoulder the consequences of their profit-making activities, and take a visibly more active role in reducing their carbon footprint and other forms of impact upon the natural environment;
  • In order to mitigate the environmental impact of their activities, commit themselves to 100% renewable energy and/or a zero emissions strategy as early as possible and shift investments into renewable energy;
  • Change from the current business model which is based on an unsustainable escalating economy, and to adopt a circular economy that is wholly sustainable;
  • Pay more heed to social and ecological responsibilities, particularly to the extent that they extract and utilize scarce resources;
  • Assist in the divestment from the fossil fuel driven economy and the scaling up of renewable energy and other ecological alternatives.

– From the “Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change,” issued at the International Islamic Climate Change Symposium, August 17-18, 2015, Istanbul, Turkey. See also: Islamic Declaration on Climate Change.

Judaism

“We come as Jews and rabbis with great respect for what scientists teach us – for as we understand their teaching, it is about the unfolding mystery of God’s Presence in the unfolding universe, and especially in the history and future of our planet. Although we accept scientific accounts of earth’s history, we continue to see it as God’s creation, and we celebrate the presence of the divine hand in every earthly creature.

“. . . In Leviticus 26, the Torah warns us that if we refuse to let the Earth rest, it will ‘rest’ anyway, despite us and upon us – through drought and famine and exile that turn an entire people into refugees. This ancient warning heard by one indigenous people in one slender land has now become a crisis of our planet as a whole and of the entire human species. Human behavior that overworks the Earth – especially the overburning of fossil fuels – crests in a systemic planetary response that endangers human communities and many other life-forms as well.

“. . . We acknowledge that for centuries, the attention of our people – driven into exile not only from our original land but made refugees from most lands thereafter so that they were bereft of physical or political connection and without any specific land – has turned away from this sense of interconnection of adam and adamah, toward the repair of social injustice. Because of this history, we were so much pre-occupied with our own survival that we could not turn attention to the deeper crisis of which our tradition had always been aware. But justice and earthiness cannot be disentangled.

“. . . The worsening inequality of wealth, income, and political power has two direct impacts on the climate crisis. On the one hand, great Carbon Corporations not only make their enormous profits from wounding the Earth, but then use these profits to purchase elections and to fund fake science to prevent the public from acting to heal the wounds. On the other hand, the poor in America and around the globe are the first and the worst to suffer from the typhoons, floods, droughts, and diseases brought on by climate chaos.

“. . . We believe that there is both danger and hope in American society today, a danger and a hope that the American Jewish community, in concert with our sisters and brothers in other communities of Spirit, must address. The danger is that America is the largest contributor to the scorching of our planet. The hope is that over and over in our history, when our country faced the need for profound change, it has been our communities of moral commitment, religious covenant, and spiritual search that have arisen to meet the need. So it was fifty years ago during the Civil Rights movement, and so it must be today.

Our ancient earthy wisdom taught that social justice, sustainable abundance, a healthy Earth, and spiritual fulfillment are inseparable. Today we must hear that teaching in a world-wide context, drawing upon our unaccustomed ability to help shape public policy in a great nation. We call upon the Jewish people to meet God’s challenge once again.”

– From the Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis, Oct. 29, 2015. See also: 300+ Rabbis Sign Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis and Rabbis: Scripture Says ‘If We Refuse To Let Earth Rest, It Will Rest Anyways’.

National Association of Evangelicals

“The last thing most people living in poverty need is climate change. In the developed world, we may not feel the immediate impacts, because most of us have the resources not to feel them: When it’s hot, we turn on the air conditioner. If we are thirsty, we turn on the tap or pour a cool drink from the refrigerator, even if hasn’t rained in weeks. Food arrives in our grocer’s shelves each week, and we can afford to buy it. But for people who live on less than a dollar a day, air conditioning is not an option. They may not even have shelter. Finding water that is safe to drink or enough food to keep their children healthy may take several hours of the day. Much of their time is spent struggling to survive.”

“. . . For those already struggling under the weight of poverty, climate change increases vulnerability to environmental shocks that are outside their control, and it decreases the resources that would help them cope.”

– From “Loving the Least of These: Addressing a Changing Environment,” a 2011 report of the National Association of Evangelicals.

World Evangelical Alliance

“. . . We love the world of God’s creation. This love is not mere sentimental affection for nature (which the Bible nowhere commands), still less is it pantheistic worship of nature (which the Bible expressly forbids). Rather it is the logical outworking of our love for God by caring for what belongs to him. ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.’ The earth is the property of the God we claim to love and obey. We care for the earth, most simply, because it belongs to the one whom we call Lord. The earth is created, sustained and redeemed by Christ. We cannot claim to love God while abusing what belongs to Christ by right of creation, redemption and inheritance. We care for the earth and responsibly use its abundant resources, not according to the rationale of the secular world, but for the Lord’s sake. If Jesus is Lord of all the earth, we cannot separate our relationship to Christ from how we act in relation to the earth. For to proclaim the gospel that says ‘Jesus is Lord’ is to proclaim the gospel that includes the earth, since Christ’s Lordship is over all creation. Creation care is thus a gospel issue within the Lordship of Christ.

“Such love for God’s creation demands that we repent of our part in the destruction, waste and pollution of the earth’s resources and our collusion in the toxic idolatry of consumerism. Instead, we commit ourselves to urgent and prophetic ecological responsibility. We support Christians whose particular missional calling is to environmental advocacy and action, as well as those committed to godly fulfilment of the mandate to provide for human welfare and needs by exercising responsible dominion and stewardship. The Bible declares God’s redemptive purpose for creation itself.

“. . . We lament over the widespread abuse and destruction of the earth’s resources, including its bio-diversity. Probably the most serious and urgent challenge faced by the physical world now is the threat of climate change. This will disproportionately affect those in poorer countries, for it is there that climate extremes will be most severe and where there is little capability to adapt to them. World poverty and climate change need to be addressed together and with equal urgency. . . .”

– From “The Cape Town Commitment,” drafted at the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa, Oct. 16-25, 2010. Copyright, 2011 The Lausanne Movement.

Also see: YCC Series on Climate and Major Religions

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