Tag Archives: COP 21

What Will My Congressman Do About Climate Change?

You wouldn’t have expected to find a New Jersey produce farmer at the global climate change “COP-21” summit in Paris last December.

But there I was, among Christians from countries all over the world, praying, learning and speaking out – all in support of action to combat the climate pollution that is threatening so many communities worldwide today.

I was amazed at the strong voice in Paris from Evangelicals. The World Evangelical Alliance, representing some 600 million Christians, sent their Secretary-General, Bishop Efriam Tendero, a tireless advocate for poor. The National Association of Evangelicals provided a video message from their President, Rev. Leith Anderson, encouraging and blessing those of us on the ground. The Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization was there too, on behalf of evangelical Christians representing the church in 190 countries.

Christian speakers at Paris Climate Summit: Dave Bookless (A Rocha), Caroline Pomeroy (Climate Stewards), Bishop Tendero (World Evangelical Alliance), Katharine Hayhoe (Texas Tech. Univ.)

Christian speakers at Paris Climate Summit: Dave Bookless (A Rocha), Caroline Pomeroy (Climate Stewards), Bishop Tendero (World Evangelical Alliance), Katharine Hayhoe (Texas Tech. Univ.)

And virtually every other Christian community – Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and Anglicans – were there as well, all declaring that “the earth is the Lord’s,” and appealing for all to “tend and keep” this injured earth as God’s stewards.

After two weeks of intense activity, I returned home to my farm in Andover, New Jersey. My first act was to sit down to write my congressman – Rep. Scott Garrett – asking him to join with a group of Republicans who are breaking ranks with party leadership in its opposition to climate action. I told him that every country in the world has now agreed to take bold steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that they are supported by ecumenical alliances representing virtually everyone on earth who holds to the Christian faith.

Rep. Garrett sent me back a polite note, with the disappointing news that he is opposing the Administration’s plans to fight climate change, especially the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of our nation’s commitment to reduce carbon pollution. Even so, Rep. Garrett assured me: “Like you, I support responsible, balanced environmental policies that protect the natural landscape and beauty of our nation.”

Well, I was disappointed, of course. All those awkward questions from Paris came back to me in vivid relief: Why do your politicians remain willfully blind to the cost that we all bear for your pollution? Why do you insist on the right to pollute the air we all share? Can’t you see what’s happening to the world’s climate?

Rep. Scott Garrett, NJ 5th District

Rep. Scott Garrett, NJ 5th District

And they’re talking about my own congressman, no less.

But Rep. Garrett’s reassuring words about his desire to protect the environment made me curious: What specific “responsible policies” does he actually support? So I asked him: “Please be specific: What ACTUAL policies do you support to reduce carbon pollution to reduce the harm of climate change?”

Well, this time, Rep. Garrett’s response didn’t come so promptly. I waited more than a month. Nothing.

Three weeks ago, I summoned up my hopes and wrote Rep. Garrett again: “You have assured me that you share my concern for the creation that we have been entrusted. Please tell me then, what do you propose to do about the alarming increase in greenhouses gases that are dangerously heating the planet that our children will inherit from us?”

Once again, silence.

Well, Rep. Garrett, the world has finally decided to act on climate pollution, and to solve the threat to our children and the poor of our world. Democrats in our country are mostly on board. Some Republicans are speaking up as well. Two Florida congressmen – one from each party – have formed the Climate Solutions Caucus for bipartisan cooperation on climate action.

It’s okay with me if you don’t want to answer my letters. But would you at least consider joining them? Our kids are depending on you to protect the world we will leave them.

John Elwood owns Good Hand Farm in Andover, NJ, and serves as an elder in the Presbyterian Church.

Why I’m in Paris: Because We All Need Water

I’ve tried to capture stories over these last two weeks that explain why I came to Paris to the global climate summit called COP-21.  I’ve joined with countless Christians from all over the world, sharing our stories and hopes, praying for our fears, and proclaiming the lordship of God over a groaning world. This morning, I sang and prayed with Christians from Singapore and India, and their presence drew my thoughts to the people of Asia who have come to Paris desperate for solutions to the climatic upheaval besetting their world.

It’s clear why the countries of Asia are desperate for an agreement on climate pollution. The principal water source for countries from China to Pakistan is the frozen Tibetan Plateau — the “Third Pole” — and it’s melting fast in our warming world.

Dwindling Himalayan glaciers feed Asia's most important rivers, watering countries from China to Pakistan

Dwindling Himalayan glaciers feed Asia’s most important rivers, watering countries from China to Pakistan

Vanishing glaciers raise urgent concerns beyond Tibet and China. The 46,000 glaciers of the Third Pole region sustain 1.5 billion people in 10 countries — its waters flowing to places as distant as the tropical Mekong Delta of Vietnam, the hills of eastern Myanmar and the southern plains of Bangladesh. Scattered across nearly two million square miles, these glaciers are receding at an ever-quickening pace, producing a rise in levels of rivers and lakes in the short term and threatening Asia’s water supply in the long run.

I have written extensively in these pages about the plight of Pakistan’s 160 million souls, overwhelmingly reliant on the flow of one single source of life: the Indus River. Pakistan’s Indus – like India’s Ganges, Vietnam’s Mekong, China’s Yellow and Bangladesh’s Brahmaputra – is fed by Himalayan glaciers, which today are receding at an alarming pace, adding to floods that have displaced millions in the Sindhi breadbasket region and destroying its farms and crops. The World Bank warns that in coming decades, the mighty Indus – crippled by its dwindling glaciers – could become a seasonal stream, leaving Pakistan completely dry in the crucial summer growing season.

Worse yet, the Indus flows into Pakistan from Indian-controlled Kashmir. India and Pakistan, both armed with nuclear weapons and wounded by profound sectarian conflicts, could be left to debate whose thirst will be quenched by the Indus, and who will wither and starve. If you’re looking for the apocalypse, this may be the place to start.

Today’s Himalayan melting calls for compassionate and wise action. Deadly floods routinely beset the region, as the people of Chennai in south India are experiencing even today, as they bury more than 300 flood victims. But do we dare to imagine a world when 1-2 billion of God’s people have no water to grow food?

So Christians are in Paris to pray and act for a world where our Asian brothers and sisters can live peaceable and quiet lives in their own homes. Here we see clearly the blessing of Jesus pronounced at the final judgment: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father … for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink….”

Drink, and food. For the billions sustained by the waters of the Tibetan Plateau, these precious gifts now hang in the balance. That’s why I’m here in Paris, praying and acting for the success of COP-21.

Why I’m Going to Paris

Many of you know that I am joining with Christians from many churches, missions and relief agencies in an effort organized by the global evangelical Lausanne Movement in Paris next week.

We’ll be bringing prayerful gospel support and witness to the nearly 200 nations gathered there to forge a plan of action to address the climate crisis. 179 of them have already submitted plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The US – one of the biggest polluters – has pledged to cut emissions 26% from 2005 levels by 2025. Japan and Europe have also promised strong action. And the developing world, led by China and India, is also on board, with plans to cap emissions by specific dates, as they pull their people out of poverty.

These may be the biggest plans the world has ever made together to confront any problem. But they’re still not nearly enough. Without enacting these pledges, the world will likely be 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit hotter by 2100. That’s enough to make a city like New York as hot as Orlando, or Boston as hot as Charlotte.

But even with these plans, the world will be 6.3% hotter by the end of the century, turning Atlanta into Vegas, or Dallas into Phoenix. No one wants to think about what Phoenix or Miami would be like (although Miami is a special case, since it would then be part of the Atlantic Ocean). And no one wants to think about the species and human populations who inhabit all these places, suffering the impact of dramatic changes at unprecedented speed.

Picture2The global goal has been to keep global temperature increases to 3.6 degrees F. So we still have a long way to go. We will have to ratchet up commitments over time, hold our leaders accountable, invest in new energy technologies, and reexamine our lifestyles for the sake of the creation, for millions of species, and for our children. And we will have to fend off efforts here in America to gut even these modest plans, funded by energy companies whose business model presumes an unending oil and coal binge.

This isn’t a problem for technocrats alone. This calls for transformation of people; for what Pope Francis calls “an ecological conversion.” It calls for us to listen to the National Association of Evangelicals, which has called us to renounce destructive consumption habits, and to persuade our governments to address climate pollution.

So I’m going to Paris to listen, to pray, to resist and support. I’m going to communicate in a small way that God’s church cares about His creation with its beautiful but threatened web of interconnected life. I’m going to affirm that the Earth is the Lord’s, and that in Christ He is reconciling all things that are broken and tainted. I’m going to stand with the poorest countries bearing the brunt of environmental disruption.

I’ll be posting on Facebook and Twitter regularly regularly over the next couple of weeks, and on ClimateCaretakers.org. If you want to hear my updates, just respond to this post, or shoot me an email, or “like” Beloved Planet’s Facebook page, and I’ll make sure you’re in the loop. And I would be so glad if you would pray for me and my companions. If you aren’t so sure about prayer, I’d be glad for your kind thoughts, or a word of encouragement.