By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
People of faith in the Diocese of Davenport and around the United States are reinforcing efforts to address climate change in response to the U.S. government’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.
“Despite the action taken by President Trump, governors, mayors, religious leaders and corporate executives have publicly committed themselves to keep working on efforts to reduce global warming. Let us join them,” Sister Jan Cebula, president of the Sisters of St. Francis in Clinton, says in a column that appears on Page 9 in this week’s issue. She identifies a list of practical, personal actions that people can take to help slow down climate change.
Iowa Interfaith Power & Light, a statewide organization that mobilizes the religious community to become leaders in the movement for climate action through education, will lead a conversation on this issue at the Cellar Peanut Pub in Pella on June 7 at 5 p.m.
Member organizations of the Catholic Climate Covenant vow to “continue to raise our voices against climate policies that harm the planet and people while we will advocate for policies that respond to ‘both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.’”
Catholic Climate Covenant is among 12 Catholic organizations that issued a statement June 1 asking President Trump to reconsider his action. “Catholic teaching maintains that climate change is a grave moral issue that threatens our commitments: to protect human life, health, dignity and security; to exercise a preferential option for the poor; to promote the common good, of which the climate is a part; to live in solidarity with future generations; to realize peace; and to care for God’s good gift of creation,” the leaders said.
The Paris agreement brings the world’s nations together to combat climate change and to adapt to its effects, in part through assistance to developing countries to do so. The agreement aims to strengthen global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Efforts will be pursued to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change.
During a June 1 press conference announcing his decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, President Trump declared it “very unfair at the highest level to the United States.” The agreement, he said, would leave the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage to other countries.
But the agreement is a critical component of a worldwide effort to reduce the devastating impacts of climate change, U.S. Catholic leaders say. “It is an important international mechanism to promote environmental stewardship and encourage climate change mitigation,” said Bishop Oscar Cantu, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.
Catholic Climate Change identified communities around the U.S. and world impacted by climate change. “American citizens in Louisiana and Alaska are being displaced by rising sea levels caused by melting glaciers and thermal expansion. Across the globe, families in Zimbabwe are being devastated by crushing drought amidst some of the hottest years on record….”
If the president’s concern is about jobs and money, “coal isn’t coming back and if it does, it is already so automated that it won’t bring jobs,” says environmental ethicist Father Bud Grant, a theology professor at St. Ambrose University, Davenport. “There ARE jobs in the emerging ‘clean energy’ industries, of course. But this misses the point, for me, at least because we have delayed so long in dealing with climate change. There is, in fact, a huge sticker price for adaptation and mitigation, so it will cost money. When you go to the doctor you know it is going to cost you a lot, but you go anyway because the alternative is too bad to consider. That’s where we are.”
The president “thinks that America is being punished and will be paying out huge sums to others. But we are the largest polluter per capita and, for decades, the largest polluter in general,” Fr. Grant said. “It is just ‘fair’ that we should be asked to do more than other countries to address it. We are largely responsible for the problem.”
The U.S. government’s decision sets in motion a long formal process for withdrawal from the agreement, which entered into force Nov. 4. Under rules of the agreement, no nation can withdraw until November 2019 and mandate a one-year notice period. The earliest total withdrawal can be accomplished is in November 2020, Catholic News Service reported.
How to remain committed to combating climate change
By Sr. Jan Cebula
Many of us are lamenting President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. Climate change is already happening and the scientific consensus on the link between human activity and global warming is strong. Global warming is caused by excessive greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide which prevent excess heat from escaping the near-surface of the earth.
Climate change is a global problem, requiring worldwide cooperation and efforts. We, here in the United States, cannot isolate ourselves from its effects. As Pope Francis stated in his ecological encyclical “Laudato Si’,” “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.”
Despite the action taken by President Trump, governors, mayors, religious leaders and corporate executives have publicly committed themselves to keep working on efforts to reduce global warming.
Let us join them. There are personal actions we can take to help slow down climate change. Borrowing from the David Suzuki Foundation, I’d like to encourage you to consider practicing any or all of these:
• Take a few minutes to contact your political representatives and the media to tell them you want immediate action on climate change.
• Change light bulbs to compact fluorescents or LEDs. Unplug computers, TVs and other electronics when not in use.
• Ask your utility to switch your account to clean, renewable power, such as from wind farms. If it doesn’t offer this option yet, ask it to.
• Buy organic and locally grown foods. Avoid processed items. Grow some of your own food. And eat low on the food chain — at least one meat-free meal a day — since 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from meat and dairy production.
• Keep stuff out of landfills by composting kitchen scraps and garden trimmings, and recycling paper, plastic, metal and glass. Let restaurants, store managers and manufacturers know you want products with minimal or recyclable packaging.
• Walk, cycle or take public transit whenever you can. If you can’t go car-free, try carpooling or car sharing, and use the smallest, most fuel-efficient vehicle possible.
We’ve installed solar panels, providing a significant percentage of our energy need at The Canticle, and geothermal heating and cooling for our office building. I’d encourage you to look into this for your home and business.
The future of our planet is in our hands.
(Sister Jan Cebula is president of the Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton.)