On Sept. 30, two U.S. senators, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.), introduced ambitious legislation designed to reduce carbon emissions and stop global warming. With many moderate Democrats offering doubts about the proposed “Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act,” the bill faces poor prospects of being passed soon.
“This bill addresses major challenges of our generation: protecting our children and the earth from dangerous pollution; putting America back in control of our energy future; creating the policies that will lead to millions of new jobs; and through our example, inspiring similar actions around the world to avoid an unstable and dangerous future,” said Boxer in prepared remarks.
“No one knows what challenges will face them in their time. No one chooses their time. But you know what? This is our time. Global warming is our challenge. Economic recovery is our challenge,” she said. “Let’s not quit until we have fulfilled our responsibility to our children and our grandchildren.”
Proponents of the legislation hope to see its passage before December, but recognize that the ongoing health-care debate and opposition to the climate change bill will make that difficult. Even as the debate heats up about the proposed legislation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving to regulate carbon emissions.
In June, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the “American Clean Energy and Security Act.” Although the Senate bill is similar, it is actually more ambitious. While the House bill proposed cutting carbon emissions by 17 percent by the year 2020, the Senate bill proposes the goal of 20 percent by the same time.
A Baptist Center for Ethics letter signed by more than 140 Baptist leaders and declaring support for the bill was released to each member of Congress shortly before the House vote. 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.”
On Sept. 22, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore urged the Senate to pass a bill before the U.N. Climate Change Conference to be held in Copenhagen in December. The Copenhagen meeting will work to develop international goals to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
Gore argued that Senate passage of the bill was important to help set the stage for the Copenhagen meeting. He added that the Senate and House would not necessarily have to work out a compromise bill before Copenhagen, but that each needs to have at least passed some form of the legislation designed to reduce carbon emissions.
“The ability of President Obama to wield the moral authority that the United States has built up in the decades since the end of World War II … would be greatly enhanced if he can go to Copenhagen with this legislation passed,” Gore stated.
On the same day that the Senate legislation was formally introduced, the EPA announced that it would work toward regulating carbon emissions. The agency’s head, Lisa Jackson, argued that the move would give President Barack Obama more legitimacy during the Copenhagen meeting. However, critics like Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), an outspoken critic of global warming claims, called the move “a backdoor energy tax” that bypasses Congress.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center, the world’s largest archive of climate data, 2009 through August has been the fifth hottest year on record. Additionally, August 2009 was the second hottest August, and the June-August period was the third hottest. Eight of the hottest 10 years have occurred since 2000.
Gore, who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, explained at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in 2008 that there is clear evidence of global warming and that there is a biblical mandate for Christians to act as good stewards by reducing human-induced global warming.
Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, introduced Gore at the event with a plaque honoring him as the 2007 Baptist of the Year and with a green-covered Bible.
Brian Kaylor is a contributing editor to EthicsDaily.com.