The motivations for supporting the legislation come from a commitment "to pursuing the twin moral imperatives to care for the poor and for creation," the letter states.
More than 140 Baptist leaders from across the country signed a Baptist Center for Ethics (BCE) letter to lawmakers endorsing the "American Clean Energy and Security Act," a bill in the House of Representatives approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in May. The bill is an environmental effort to reduce significantly carbon dioxide pollution.
"We understand that this bill is a comprehensive one that promises to create millions of clean energy jobs, to advance American security from foreign oil, to protect the planet by capping global-warming gases, to increase electricity from renewable energy sources and to improve energy efficiency," the letter states.
The letter begins by explaining that the motivations for supporting the legislation come from a commitment "to pursuing the twin moral imperatives to care for the poor and for creation, two imperatives drawn from an abundance of passages in the Bible."
"Planet Earth is the Lord's and we are caretakers of it," the letter explains. "When we guard the environment, we also protect the marginalized and those most vulnerable to droughts, floods, deteriorating ecosystems and diseases."
Although the letter expresses thanks that "this bill provides support to help the global poor adapt to the impacts of climate change," it also acknowledges that the legislation could be improved.
"We wish the bill provided more funding to help the marginalized and those most at risk — those least responsible for climate change," the letter explains. "Nonetheless, an imperfect bill will not keep us from speaking up and encouraging our fellow church members to support this legislation. We are determined that the tyranny of moral perfectionism will not block the urgency of moral realism."
The letter concludes by urging "The U.S. House of Representatives to strengthen and to pass without delay 'The American Clean Energy and Security Act.'"
BCE's open letter was distributed to each member of the House of Representatives on the morning of June 19.
In addition to members of BCE's board of directors, the 141 signers include national Baptist leaders like Jack Glasgow, David Emmanuel Goatley, Sumner Grant, Virginia Holmston, Emmanuel McCall, Roy Medley, Rob Nash, Reed Trulson, William Shaw and Daniel Vestal. Additionally, Baptist leaders from 26 states and the District of Columbia signed the letter. The entire letter and list of signatories can be found here.
In May, BCE Executive Director Robert Parham wrote an editorial urging support for "The American Clean Energy and Security Act." In 2008, BCE sent a letter signed by more than 140 Baptists to the U.S. Senate urging support for climate legislation sponsored by Senators John Warner and Joseph Lieberman. That legislation, which was opposed by Southern Baptist Convention leaders, failed to survive a filibuster.
Earlier in June, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that "The American Clean Energy and Security Act" would reduce federal deficits by about $24 billion dollars over a period from 2010-19.
Earlier this week, a report compiled by researchers at numerous U.S. scientific agencies documented the effects of global warming in the United States. The nearly 200-page report, titled "Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States," also warns about future consequences of global warming. Although publicly released, the report is addressed to "Members of Congress."
"Climate-related changes have already been observed globally and in the United States," the report explains. "These include increases in air and water temperatures, reduced frost days, increased frequency and intensity of heavy downpours, a rise in sea level and reduced snow cover, glaciers, permafrost and sea ice. A longer ice-free period on lakes and rivers, lengthening of the growing season and increased water vapor in the atmosphere have also been observed. Over the past 30 years, temperatures have risen faster in winter than in any other season, with average winter temperatures in the Midwest and northern Great Plains increasing more than 7ºF. Some of the changes have been faster than previous assessments had suggested."
Key findings in the report include that the average U.S. temperature "has risen more than 2ºF over the past 50 years," the amount of precipitation in the United States "has increased an average of about 5 percent over the past 50 years," the "amount of rain falling in the heaviest downpours has increased approximately 20 percent on average in the past century" and the sea level "has risen along most of the U.S. coast over the last 50 years."
The report estimates that additional effects of global warming will "stress water resources," harm the production of crops and livestock, further endanger coastal regions and increase human health risks. The report concludes by noting "the importance of reducing the concentrations of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere."
Brian Kaylor is a contributing editor to EthicsDaily.com