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Faiths See Climate Change as a Moral and Practical Threat

May 4th, 2015

Faith groups are mobilizing on climate change, seeing it as an existential threat to creation. Pope Francis will issue a papal encyclical on the environment this summer, which is expected to highlight both the need to reduce man-made carbon emissions, and for wealthy countries to help poorer nations deal with it, as they have done little to create the problem.

Meanwhile, the Church of England is putting its pounds and pence where its mouth is: The body that administers the worldwide Anglican Communion last week announced it is divesting from thermal coal and tar sands.

Islamic finance has played a major role in clean energy investment so far this decade.

Divestment from these most carbon intensive forms of energy is also good financial management. With pressure growing both from businesses concerned about how to operate in a world disrupted by climate change, and increasingly vocal popular movements, a price on carbon to discourage its use, is becoming more likely. Alongside this is the fact that renewable forms of energy – wind, solar, geothermal, and the like, are increasingly cost competitive. If the damages to health and the climate were factored into the price of carbon fuels, renewables would already be a clear winner.

The Vatican’s point man on climate change is Cardinal Peter Turkson, who has offered some clues about how Pope Francis will frame the issue of climate change in moral terms. “[T]he ever-accelerating burning of fossil fuels that powers our economic engine is disrupting the earth’s delicate ecological balance on almost-unfathomable scale,” Cardinal Turkson said at an international climate change conference hosted by the Vatican last week.

“We clearly need a fundamental change of course, to protect the earth and its people,” the Cardinal said. “[T]he wealthiest countries, the ones who have benefitted most from fossil fuels, are morally obligated to push forward and find solutions to climate-related change and so protect the environment and human life.”

“[Wealthy nations] are obliged both to reduce their own carbon emissions and to help protect poorer countries from the disasters caused or exacerbated by the excesses of industrialization,” he added.

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