Creation for Ecology and Justice
Church (U.S.A.) Statement on Global Climate Change
an excerpt from the 1990 General Assembly policy paper
Five: Overcoming Atmospheric Instability - Global Warming and Ozone Depletion.
information on ozone depletion and global warming may be found in Part I of
this report, in "Keeping and Healing the Creation," pp. 21-25, and
in Church and Society Magazine (March/April 1990).
We note that
the phenomena determining climate are very complex and that scientific opinion
varies with respect to the reliability of models projecting temperature increases.
The weight of evidence, however, justifies a serious response to the threat
of global warming.
and global warming have risen rapidly to head the list of concerns about the
future of creation. They are significantly different from other problems in
several respects. They have to do with global problems that lie ahead and cannot
now be measured. No place on earth will be unaffected, however. Without united
action worldwide, no nation can do much about global warming and ozone depletion.
They represent the unintended consequences of proud industrial achievements.
The gases released were not toxic. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have had all sorts
of beneficial uses, and we breathe air with CO2 in
it. Now in the upper atmosphere these gases are doing enormous damage. But we
cannot get them down again. We can only stop sending them up and thereby limit
In the case
of CO2, substantial reduction of emissions means
changing the energy basis of our whole civilization. We knew that fossil fuels
would not last indefinitely; but suddenly the danger is that they will last
too long, that the world will not make the transition soon enough to simpler,
more efficient, and renewable energy sources and technologies.
1989, the United Church of Canada and eight European churches came to a "Covenantal
Agreement Regarding the Threat of Global Warming." They did this in connection
with the meeting in Basel, Switzerland, of Protestant and Catholic Christians
from East and West Europe on the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation theme
of the World Council of Churches. They agreed to work together on the problem
of global warming and to give particular attention to the role of energy. They
have already made an important approach to governments by advocating cooperation
on reduction in the use of fossil fuels by means of energy-saving technologies
and the development of renewable (solar) energy supplies. They presented comments
and policy statements to the October 1989 environmental meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria,
of governments belonging to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
significant developments. An invitation has come to U.S. churches, through their
representatives on the NCC Eco-Justice Working Group and through their delegates
to the 1990 World Convocation on JPIC in Seoul, Korea, to participate in this
international cooperative effort of churches on global warming.
General Assembly (1990) recommends:
Participation and International Participation
- The Presbyterian Church
(USA) declares its serious concern, in concert with ecumenical partners, that
the global atmospheric warming trend (the greenhouse effect) represents one
of the most serious global environmental challenges to the health, security,
and stability of human life and natural ecosystems; and
- The church affirms its
intention to participate in ecumenical efforts to address this challenge cooperatively
with Canadian and European churches and the conciliar movement.
- The General Assembly
affirms its intention to participate in the United Nations International Conference
on Environment and Development, to be held in 1992, and requests a report
to a subsequent General Assembly as appropriate.
2. Policies on Global
- The United States, as
consumer of nearly a quarter of the world's energy, must take the lead in
reducing its own combustion of fossil fuels and shifting to renewable sources
of energy which do not contribute to the atmospheric buildup of carbon dioxide.
- Appropriate response
to the warnings of impending climate change requires an extended frame of
reference for decision-making by governments, international agencies, industries,
educational institutions, churches, and community organizations. The US government,
other governments, the United Nations, and appropriate scientific organizations
should increase their capability to monitor and project trends in atmospheric
temperature and to make broad environmental and social assessments.
- The United States should
work through the United Nations and appropriate diplomatic channels to reach
firm international agreements and for halting deforestation and promoting
reforestation. Some programs already in place should be given an enlarged
role and increased funding - the U.N. Environment Programme, for example,
and the U.N.'s programs on development and population.
- The United States government
should adopt legislation and administrative policies, with adequate funding,
for vigorously stepped-up research and development and energy-efficient technologies.
- The US government should
promote the introduction and use of energy-efficient technologies by applying
carefully targeted incentives and disincentives.
- Similarly, the US government
should adopt legislation and administrative policies, with adequate funding,
to step up research and development on the various sources and technologies
for social energy. Appropriate incentives and disincentives to accelerate
the transition to an economy based on renewable, safe, nonpolluting, affordable
energy should be developed and implemented.
- The United States and
other industrialized nations should assist developing countries to achieve
the energy sufficiency necessary for the general improvement of living standards
that these countries desperately need. This assistance should include appropriate
technology transfers for pollution control and energy efficiency. In particular,
assistance will be necessary to enable developing countries to find equitable
solutions to the problems of debt and land use that figure heavily in the
destruction of their forests.
- The US Environmental
Protection Agency should act promptly to strengthen fuel economy and emission
standards for automobiles, buses, and trucks by mandating and consistently
enforcing a schedule of energy efficiency improvements, leading to a substantially
higher standard of efficiency within a few years. Incentive and disincentives
to encourage consumers to choose fuel-efficient vehicles will also be in order.
- Comparable standard-setting
and incentive-generating measures should be advanced by the US Bureau of Standards
with respect to efficiency improvements in lighting, heating, air-conditioning,
appliances, building construction, the weatherization of existing buildings,
and the co-generation of heat and electricity (with legislation as necessary
where the bureau's powers do not apply). As more efficient technologies become
available, public policy should encourage and facilitate their adoption and
use by individuals and businesses.
- Public policy should
encourage alternatives to private automobiles. Alternatives include municipal
mass transit, railroads, bicycles, and walking.
3. Policies on Ozone
To a large extent the kinds
of policies needed for reducing the emissions of chlorofluorocarbons and other
ozone-destroying gases parallel the policies required for reducing the buildup
of the greenhouse gases. The CFCs, which are the leading cause of ozone depletion,
also add significantly to the greenhouse effect. To protect the ozone shield,
there is clearly need for international action through
- leadership by the United
States, which is the largest contributor to the problem;
- a longer-term and global
frame of reference, with improved foresight capability by governments and
- strong international
agreements and cooperative arrangements; specifically, firm adherence to the
Montreal and Helsinki agreements on phasing out the production of CFCs by
the end of the century and discontinuing the other ozone-destroying chemicals
as soon as possible, with continuing efforts to bring additional nations into
- improved technologies
and development of acceptable substitutes for the chemicals that must be phased
out; rapid shifts in production processes;
- assistance to developing
countries by providing them with information, training, funding mechanisms,
and technology transfers that will enable them to participate in the Montreal-Helsinki
pact and have access to the improved technologies and substitute chemicals;
- strict standards, in
line with international agreements but enforced by governments;
- incentives and disincentives
that lead actors in a market economy to make environmentally rational decisions.
4. Church Support
Through Personal and Institutional Practice
- The American people,
beginning with members of our churches, must be challenged to form personal
habits consistent with the need to cut back on the emissions of the gases
that are causing the greenhouse effect and the depletion of the ozone layer.
This means energy conservation and cutting back on the use of fossil fuel
energy. It means avoiding foams made with CFCs and making sure that CFC-based
coolant is not released when air conditioners are serviced.
- The greenhouse and ozone
problems reinforce the call to a less materialistic and wasteful style of
life. It is unrealistic and self-serving to think that efficient and renewable
technologies, now in the early stage of the transition, will take effect fast
enough to provide sufficient insurance against the potentially disastrous
consequences of global warming - unless there is also a move away from unnecessary
and wasteful production and consumption.
- The church in its own
life must teach, exemplify, and advocate the values and principles, policies
and practices that break down the ozone. Obviously the church must be responsible
in the construction and maintenance of its own buildings. If habits of conservation
and responsible consuming are cultivated consistently, we shall discover many
practical applications of our values.
As this report has repeatedly
made clear, the affliction of the creation will not be healed unless that human
part of creation undergoes significant personal and institutional transformation.
Our recommendations suggest something of what the transformation may entail,
but they fall far short of prescribing all that is needed. That will be the
agenda for the coming years.
to the list of Faith Statements on Global Climate Change