President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech last week renewed the call to action on climate change. After stating unequivocally that “climate change is a fact,” he emphasized our urgent moral responsibility to address the issue. “When our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say: ‘Yes, we did.’ ”
As a priest and person of faith, I was gratified to hear this. I am deeply concerned about the effects of climate change on God’s creation, on our most vulnerable brothers and sisters, and on generations to come. I believe that as stewards of creation, it is our moral imperative to act now. The latest international report on climate change warns that if we wait and do nothing to reduce emissions for another 15 years, we will face increasingly devastating environmental catastrophes as well as severe economic disruption. If we fail to take significant action on climate change now, the next generation will have to resort to drastic measures to maintain the livability of our shared planet.
The recent holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a reminder of the power of a moral calling, and how faith leaders can mobilize our country with spiritual and nonviolent tactics to address social injustice.
In 2002, I founded Michigan Interfaith Power & Light in order to mobilize faith communities in our state around the issue of environmental responsibility. In the years since, we have built a community of congregations who are taking measures to make their houses of worship more sustainable through energy efficiency and renewable energy, including solar panels and wind turbines. This coming Valentine’s Day weekend, Interfaith Power & Light is organizing a Preach-In on Climate Change event in 1,500 faith communities across the nation on the theme of “Doing our Part.”
It is good news that the president seems to understand the urgency of the issue, and is communicating it on a national stage. It is good news that the EPA is releasing first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. And it is good news that the U.S. recently brokered a deal with China to phase out some of the most devastating climate-warming industrial chemicals.
But it’s clear that this will not be enough. We need action from every sector: federal, state and local governments, as well as the private sector. Congress must do its part to end the partisan divide and move forward on common sense solutions to climate change. Here in Michigan, we must replace the energy efficiency and renewable energy portfolio standards that expire in 2015 with even stronger ones.
We all must do our part.
We often look for leadership from our government, but fail to recognize that our leaders are looking back at us — the people — to inform their decisions. That’s exactly what congregations all over America and in Michigan will be aiming to do on Feb. 14: doing our part to show the president and Congress that we must act on climate change before it’s too late.
The Rev. Charles Morris, founder of
Michigan Interfaith Power & Light and an
assistant professor of Religious Studies at