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The World Tomorrow

By: Dr. Ricky Rood, 3:59 AM GMT on October 24, 2015

The World Tomorrow

This is a continuation of a series preparing for The Conference of the Parties - 21 (COP21) in Paris. COP21 is the next of the annual meetings that are part of the governing body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Since 2007, I have included, albeit at a low level, the role of the religious community in my climate change class. One reason, of course, is the importance of religion in both personal and societal identification. A second reason was the notion that religion is an aspect of our species that spreads across all of us. This naïve universality notion, surely, does not suggest religious harmony. Going into the 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris (COP21), one of the big differences from earlier COPs is the public exposure of faith-community leaders and organizations that have taken on climate-change and its mitigation as a priority issue.

In the U.S., the public presence of religion seems dominated by Evangelicalism, which is often closely associated with political conservatism. In fact, it is my opinion that the political activities of Protestant Evangelicals have been one of the most significant events of my lifetime – and I even suggested using Pat Robertson’s model of influence in a 2013 blog, The Role of Short Timers. As part of U.S. political conservatism, the doctrine was to discredit the scientific investigation and evidence that concludes that humans are shaping the Earth’s climate and environment in ways that are, potentially, existential. Personally, for me, my framing of U.S. Evangelicalism and the environment came from President Reagan’s Secretary of Interior, James Watt. Watt wore his born-again Christianity in a very public way, and advocated that we were commanded by scripture to have dominion over the Earth, and that we were to use its resources until The Rapture. At least, that’s how I remember it. If you thought the rapture was tomorrow, well then party on at the bonfire.

Let’s say, I have a difficult relation with religion and the environment. In 2006 and 2007, again working from my flawed memory, new voices started to emerge in the U.S. Evangelical community. One of the first I heard, was from Richard Cizik. Cizik started talking about creation stewardship and creation care, along with a number of other social issues (2005 Grist Interview). He got a lot of attention, and he was ousted from his leadership role in The National Association of Evangelicals. Subsequently he started new movements and organizations, such as, the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. In 2008 and 2009, I attended a number of meetings concerned with climate change and Evangelicals. Within the community of climate scientists, Tom Ackerman and Katharine Hayhoe have emerged as voices from the Evangelical point of view. Here is a 2014 interview with Katharine Hayhoe.

Pope Francis’s encyclical brought a focus to religion and climate change. During the Pope’s visit to the U.S. in September 2015, climate change was on the news cycle every day, and even on the floor of Congress. It even seemed to me, and my biases are revealed, that Representative Paul Gosar’s papal boycott did more to solidify the Pope’s message than to discredit it. Ramona Tucker in USA Today provides a nice analysis prior to the Pope’s visit.

The release of Pope Francis’s encyclical was in June, and there was a burst of organization associated with the release. As reported at Climate Progress a large number of prominent religious leaders in the U.S. took out an advertisement urging political action on climate change. I have attended a webinar Connecting to Multi-Faith Communities with the Pope’s Encyclical (playback requires safe registration), and there is another event next week at the Georgetown Climate Center.

A number of resources have emerged that serve as clearing houses for religion and climate change. The Evangelical Environmental Network started to advocate the “tend the garden” point on view on creation care (they landed the domain name) in the early 1990s. Climate change has become part of their portfolio of issues, and they have interviews and videos from around the world. The Evangelical Environmental Network is part of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, which is an alliance of several organizations. Interfaith Power and Light has a page that lists religious statements on climate change from many different religions. Earlier in 2015, Interfaith Power and Light sponsored a Preach-In, and the website has video clips from many sermons on global warming. Climate Voices, a speakers network to which I belong, maintains a large array of resources, including videos and recorded webinars.

Finally, my anecdotal experience is that the public face of faith-based organizations and climate is far different than 5 years ago. For a science-based, survey of U.S. Evangelicals, more than 2 years ago, see Smith and Leiserowitz, American evangelicals and global warming. Even at that time, a majority of evangelicals were concerned about climate change and support climate and energy policy.

And, that’s The Plain Truth about Today’s World News.


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The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.