Our planet has been shaped by life. Humanity is life dependent. Caring about climate change is caring about life, all forms of life, and the impacts that result from pollution and increasing weather extremes. St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and many others have accepted the reality of human-forced climate change and affirmed that creation care is pro-life issue. The harmful effects of climate change- food and water stresses, more frequent severe weather events and disease- directly threaten the Church’s commitment to protect and defend human life and dignity.
The Catholic Church has remained consistently pro-life. There is no confusion on the Church’s pro-life stance, which is clearly stated. Catholics want to apply their pro-life ethic consistently, so our Catholic identity and our actions preserving life (not that which is death-dealing) are firmly aligned. In this way we live out our Christian identities more fully and deeply. This stance is shared and enunciated by our evangelical brethren as well, with whom Pope Francis has maintained good relations. Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox is president and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network and calls attention to our joint belief that every child deserves to reach the fullness of his or her God-given intellectual abilities, and continued reliance on toxic mercury-emitting, coal-burning power plants harms our children.
Today, nearly one out of every six babies born in the U.S. has harmful mercury levels in his or her blood, which can easily affect developing children’s brains, causing brain damage, developmental disabilities, neurological disorders, lower intelligence and learning difficulties. Action to slow warming will protect future generations’ mental development and potential, by assuring that human development is healthy and sustainable as we move from dangerous, polluting and highly subsidized fossil fuels to clean, affordable renewable energy. The transition to clean, affordable, reliable fuels will turn energy poverty into energy prosperity, and employ many more people, supporting more families.
Carbon pollution threatens our children’s health in many ways. For example, scientists have shown that air pollution from cars, factories and power plants is a major cause of asthma, which has dramatically increased in inner cities, and disproportionately strikes the poor, who are “at least 50 percent more likely to have the disease than those not living in poverty,” according to the America Asthma Association. The American Lung Association said meeting the targets set by the Clean Power Plan “will prevent up to 4,000 premature deaths and 100,000 asthma attacks during the first year implemented (2020), and prevent up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks in 2030, when fully implemented.”
We must ensure that our children grow up in healthy environments — and clean, affordable renewable energy can replace polluting fossil fuels. Business giants like JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bloomberg Energy acknowledge that renewable energy is unstoppable. Sustainable clean energy makes economic sense, which is why it’s helping to lift billions of people out of poverty. And along the way, it provides clean air, cleaner water and healthy children. The developing world is deploying renewables over old-fashioned fossil-fuel power. Solar installations are doubling every two years, with developing countries installing renewable energy projects at nearly double the rate of developed nations. In fact, so much renewable energy is being installed, GDP no longer mirrors carbon emissions. The energy transition has begun, but we all have an obligation to ensure that it moves forward, with commitment and purpose.
The costs of a changing climate are being felt now by all Americans and will be felt with a much more devastating force by future generations, unless we take responsible and moral action today. Pope Francis has appealed “respect and protection of the entire creation which God has entrusted to man.” God’s creation should not “be indiscriminately exploited, but rather made into a garden,” he said. It’s time for Americans of every faith to demand the respect for creation that will foster smart, ethical and affordable policies for climate change adaptation. These policies and plans are needed to secure the safety and prosperity for every one of God’s children. It’s time to stop exploiting God’s gift of creation and to start tending the garden. Doing so is pro-life. We are called to live life and live it abundantly, and our policies should be life-giving too.