Two weeks ago, U2 lead singer Bono paid a visit to a packed auditorium at the World Bank. In an on-stage conversation with bank president Jim Yong Kim, Bono warned of “an ‘unholy trio’ of extreme poverty, extreme ideology and extreme climate” – which together threaten to stymie global efforts to alleviate poverty and human suffering.
|Tuckerton, NJ, awash during Sandy storm surge|
But our concern is much more basic: American policy is actively luring our citizens into harm’s way. Many of us have friends who are investing their retirement savings in attractive coastal properties, financed by mortgages that rely on Federal flood insurance. There should be no doubt as to whether these policies will still be available in ten or twenty years. They won’t.
|Not just projections: The sea is rising|
- Over the next decade, NFIP premiums should gradually increase to reflect the full cost of coastal and flood zone risk – to levels that would be supported by private insurers.
- Over a very short time, the NFIP should impose a moratorium on policies for new development in zones that will be flooded by a 5-foot rise in global sea levels.
- No new policies should be issued for development on barrier islands.
- Vacation homes should be phased out of the NFIP program as soon as is practicable.
- After major losses, NFIP should provide incentives for claimants to relocate out of floodplains, rather than rebuild in harm’s way.
- Repetitive-loss properties should be carefully examined for immediate exclusion from the program.
The Lausanne Call to Action arose from two fundamental convictions:
- Care for the creation is a core element of the gospel, seen in creation, in the resurrection of Christ, and in his mission to reconcile all things to God. As such, it is a necessary element of the Christian response to God’s grace, and would be a core component of Christian life and mission even if the earth were not presently in crisis.
- In fact, however, the world is in crisis, brought on by global climate change, deforestation, pollution, loss of species to extinction and water stress. These threats place a heavy burden on the poor, on vital ecosystems and on vulnerable species of animals and plants.
In 2010, the Lausanne Movement convened in Cape Town South Africa, and outlined the Christian responsibility for creation care in the starkest terms:
- Christians must develop simpler lifestyles, work to restore the creation, and equitably share its bounty with others.
- The church should develop an integrated theology of creation care to equip pastors in teaching Christians to challenge prevailing economic ideologies which result in harm to the creation.
- The entire church – including women, children, youth and indigenous people – must mobilize to engage all of society – including governments, businesses and civil society – for creation stewardship.
- Environmental missions among unreached people should be encouraged as a fully-recognized category of missional outreach, akin to medical missions.
- The church should engage in radical action to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gases, the harm from which falls most heavily on the poor.
- The global church should actively promote sustainable food production methods such as conservation agriculture.
- Churches should encourage small steps to promote local expressions of creation care and preserve local ecosystems.
- The church must encourage Christian prophetic advocacy to those in power, to mitigate harm to the creation and to support communities devastated by environmental degradation.
- The church must come to God in prayer, lamentation, repentance, and an appeal to Him to heal the land and all who dwell in it.
|Advocating local creation care projects, like nature camps by A Rocha USA|
A couple of weeks ago, we dipped our toe into the waters of species extinction. We were alarmed to find serious research indicating that the earth has likely entered a new mass extinction event, the sixth such event known to science. The most recent of these occurred some 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs disappeared from earth.
- How many species are threatened with extinction?
- What direction is the extinction threat trending?
- What does it mean to be “threatened?”
- How complete is our knowledge at present?
- Why does it matter to humans?
|Leatherback turtles: Ancient species critically endangered|
- How much has the population declined?
- Are the causes of decline reversible, ongoing or ceased?
- What’s the absolute size of remaining population?
- How rapidly is the species’ habitat being destroyed or altered?
|Golden toad: 1st climate change extinction?|
Two days ago, I asked this question: Was Hurricane Sandy an isolated weather event or an indicator of climate change? I was surprised to report that New Yorkers from all walks of life had reached the conclusion that the climate is fundamentally changing. This included scientists (as usual), insurance companies, waitresses, business owners – and, yes, Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
I acknowledged the Mayor for stating that the weather events are “much more severe than before.” But the compliment was definitely back-handed. The Mayor’s apparent agnosticism about the causes of our new severe weather drew this comment from me: “Trust the savvy mayor to call it straight while ducking the politically-sensitive issue of climate change!”
|Bloomberg tours wreckage at Breezy Point, Queens, NY|
- The floods and fires that swept through our city left a path of destruction that will require years of recovery and rebuilding work…. In just 14 months, two hurricanes have forced us to evacuate neighborhoods – something our city government had never done before. If this is a trend, it is simply not sustainable.
- Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be – given this week’s devastation – should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.
- Here in New York, our comprehensive sustainability plan – PlaNYC – has helped allow us to cut our carbon footprint by 16 percent in just five years…. Local governments are taking action where national governments are not.
- But we can’t do it alone. We need leadership from the White House – and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. His administration also has adopted tighter controls on mercury emissions, which will help to close the dirtiest coal power plants … which are estimated to kill 13,000 Americans a year.
- Mitt Romney, too, has a history of tackling climate change. As governor of Massachusetts, he signed on to a regional cap-and-trade plan designed to reduce carbon emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels. “The benefits (of that plan) will be long-lasting and enormous – benefits to our health, our economy, our quality of life, our very landscape. These are actions we can and must take now, if we are to have `no regrets’ when we transfer our temporary stewardship of this Earth to the next generation,” he wrote at the time. He couldn’t have been more right. But since then, he has reversed course ….
Around New York, it seems everyone’s saying it. Something basic has changed, and it’s not good. Drivers searching in vain for an open gas station say it. Hotel guests shivering in blacked-out guestrooms say it. So do grandmothers camping out in their children’s apartments for a hot shower and a warm place to sleep. And so do professionals locked out of their darkened New York City offices.
|Flooded cars in the Financial District|
|Storm surge hit the Jersey Shore with a vengeance|
|Subway to nowhere: Public transit under water|