Monthly Archives: June 2013

Fossil Fuels are a Faith Issue

Written by Rev. Richard Cizik. This article appeared in the Washington Post this morning. Reprinted with permission of the author.

One day, our children, their children, will almost certainly ask, “What did you do to solve the climate challenge?” That’s how President Obama put the challenge ahead of us in his extraordinary call to action on climate change at Georgetown University.

Rev. Richard Cizik

Rev. Richard Cizik

Those of us in the audience were certainly warm to the challenge, and not because it was over 90 degrees in the afternoon swelter of humid Washington. Most of us had already accepted the call to do something about this moral and spiritual challenge. Alas, most Americans are only now waking up to the reality that this is about “us,” more than even government.

Ironic enough, most evangelical leaders have not. Standing in the shade before Obama’s speech, Mitch Hescox, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, admits the irony.  The leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals, for example, will say there’s a climate impact on the poor but won’t adopt any specific legislative or legal solutions. Continue reading

Thank You, Mr. President

Tuesday, June 25, 2013. I won’t forget this day.

Because that’s the day we listened to President Obama deliver his climate action speech at Georgetown under DC’s fittingly murderous summer heat. I listened in near disbelief. The President of the United States – arguably the most gluttonous carbon-polluting nation in the world – was outlining a plan for positive global-scale change. Change, for the good of our children and their children. Change, for the good of all nations on Earth. Change, to “keep the planet habitable.”

We’ve been hoping for this day for years. We’ve prayed for our leaders to protect God’s injured creation. We’ve consoled the victims of climate chaos from the Mississippi delta to the degraded farmlands of Kenya. We’ve written countless letters to our political leaders, begging for action. We’ve made our plea repeatedly in Congressional offices. We’ve shrugged off hostility and indifference from many in churches of our faith. We’ve been hauled off to jail in Washington’s sweltering August heat.

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Obama at Georgetown University yesterday

In all this, we wondered if America would ever find the courage to face the truth about our disastrous misuse of our Father’s world and its most vulnerable children – whether human or four-footed, winged or aquatic. We have longed to proclaim the good news to every creature, as our Savior commanded us. But for the most part, we’ve only brought more and more bad news. More droughts; more floods; more violent storms; more acidic oceans; increased extinction of our fellow created species; more severe crop failures; rising food costs; more hunger.

But then, under Washington’s oppressive afternoon heat, the President said much – perhaps nearly all – of what we would hope from our leaders: Continue reading

The Courage to Act: Obama on Climate Leadership

“The question is not whether we need to act. Science has now put that to rest. The question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. As a president, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act. I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.” Barack Obama 6/25/13

I’ve just finished listening to President Barack Obama deliver the most important speech of his presidency. I should note that the network and cable news channels tuned out after just a few minutes – there’s a spy on the loose somewhere in Moscow. But 350.org streamed it live, and I watched.

President Obama at Georgetown University. Courtesy Alexei Laushkin

President Obama at Georgetown University. Courtesy Alexei Laushkin

I have to say, I’m stunned. I didn’t believe I would hear an American president deliver such a message. But he did. In the coming days and weeks, you’ll hear all kinds of pronouncements – condemning or praising – about the plan he outlined. But let me just give you a series of unedited snippets from my notes.

  • Scientists have known since the 1800s that greenhouse gases trap heat.  This is 18th century science, and it’s settled.
  • The 12 warmest [global] years in recorded history have all come in the last 15 years. 2012 was the warmest year in our [US] history.  Just last week, a heat wave in Alaska shot temperatures into the 90s. We know no single weather event is caused by climate change… but all weather events are affected by a warming planet. Continue reading

Google Funding Climate Deniers? What the Heck?

Written by Rev. Jim Ball. This article appeared on June 21, 2013 in the Huffington Post. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Say it ain’t so, Google!

The Washington Post‘s Juliet Eilperin reports something I never would have thought in a million years. Google is supporting one of the worst climate-denier organizations in the world: the so-called Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

Google on my monitor this morning

Google on my monitor this morning

Is this the same Google that touts how “green” it is, how much it is lowering its carbon footprint? The same Google that formed a “Climate Savers Computing Initiative” in 2007 and has won awards from the EPA and Greenpeace, which are proudly displayed on their “Google Green” website?

Is this the same Google whose products I absolutely love and use constantly throughout the day, inspiring within me a fierce brand loyalty?

My beloved Google, say it ain’t so! Continue reading

What do Scientists Really Think About Climate Change?

Back in the States, global warming combatants regularly appeal to scientists to support their positions. Flip on a conservative news channel, and someone will probably be citing a scientist who refutes the warnings of mainstream climate science. Open the New York Times, and you’ll read that 97% of climate scientists say that our greenhouse gases are disrupting the global climate. It’s not surprising that people are a little confused. With presumed experts on both sides, whom do we believe?

Well, this last week has been a real eye-opener for me. I’m on beautiful Prince Edward Island in the Canadian Maritimes, where I’ve spent much of the week with about one hundred agroforestry scientists. I’ll admit, it’s been a little intimidating: one hundred PhD’s, plus me – a finance guy-turned-farmer.

And what, you ask, do agroforesters know about climate science?

Alley-cropping in France: wheat grown with walnut trees

Alley-cropping in France: wheat grown with walnut trees

That’s part of the beauty of this experience. In truth, if it were one hundred climate scientists, the debate would be a mismatch. Indeed, there would be no serious debate on the core matter of human-caused climate change. It really is beyond dispute in their ranks: they’re convinced that we’re fundamentally disrupting the planetary systems that have nurtured civilization. But what about other scientists whose specialties only tangentially touch on climate? I listened carefully to the agroforesters this week for the answer to my question. Continue reading

Can a Tree Stop the Advancing Deserts?

The world is facing a real conundrum just now. With more than seven billion humans and counting, we’ve got to produce more food – much more food. But today, farmers everywhere must be more resilient in dealing with rising global heat, droughts, floods and extreme weather events. And in the process, farms must not add to the climate problem by emitting more and more carbon from cleared, degraded farmlands.

So here’s the plan:

  • Increase global food production;
  • Make farms more resilient to climate change; and
  • Make agriculture a major carbon sink, not a carbon emitter as it is today.
Desertification results from climate variations and human activities

Desertification threatens two billion humans today.

But how?  It’s not like we’ve got the wind at our back. Deserts are advancing around the world. More than 40% of the Earth’s landmasses are drylands, and about 20% of them have already succumbed to desertification.  Two billion people – almost one third of the human population – are now at great risk of poverty, hunger and disease from desertification. Just when we’ve got to build productive, resilient and carbon-absorbing farm systems, we’re faced with the advance of vast desert lands, choking off food production, destroying biodiversity and accelerating climate change by releasing carbon stored in soil and plants into the atmosphere.

We could use a miracle just now, couldn’t we? Continue reading

Time for the Senate to Vote on EPA’s Gina McCarthy

On March 4, 2013, President Obama nominated Gina McCarthy to be the next Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Gina McCarthy, the President's nominee to lead the EPA

Gina McCarthy, the President’s nominee to lead the EPA

I remember that day well. The day before had been the 150th anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences, and I had celebrated the event by featuring one of their authoritative pieces on climate science. Ms. McCarthy’s nomination the following day was another reason for celebration: a widely acclaimed environmental leader with a strong record of fairness, and public support from across the spectrum. I felt sure that prompt Senate action would give our country some excellent environmental oversight.

That was 100 days ago. Whatever has happened to Gina McCarthy?

Continue reading