WASHINGTON (June 8, 2007) — An official of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) told a Senate committee that those who contributed least to the problems of global climate change- - the poor and the vulnerable- - will be most affected, bear the greatest burdens, and have the least capacity to escape.
Citing the Church's experience in serving those in need, including the poorest people on earth served in 100 countries by Catholic Relief Services, John L. Carr said: "We see with our own eyes that poor people in our country and in poor countries often lack the resources and capacity to adapt and avoid the negative consequences of climate change."
"Their lives, homes, children and work are most at risk," he continued. "Ironically the poor and vulnerable generally contribute much less to the problem but are more likely to pay the price of neglect and delay and bear disproportionate burdens of inaction or unwise actions."
The USCCB Secretary of Social Development and World Peace presented testimony (June 7) on the "Religious and Moral Dimensions of Global Climate Change" to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
"The religious leaders here today share an abiding love for God's gift of creation and the biblical mandate and moral responsibility to care for creation," Carr said. "We believe our response to global climate change is a sign of our respect for God's creation and moral measure of our nation's leadership and stewardship."
The Conference officials said the U.S. bishops accept the growing consensus on climate change represented by the International Panel on Climate Change, but also recognize continuing debate and some uncertainties about its speed and severity. "However, it is neither wise nor useful to minimize (or exaggerate) the growing consensus, the continuing uncertainties and policy challenges," he stated.
Carr cited the U.S. bishops' insistence:
"(A)t its core, global climate change is not simply about economic theory or political platforms, nor about partisan advantage or interest group pressures. Rather, global climate change is about the future of God's creation and the one human family. It is about our human stewardship of God's creation and our responsibility to those generations who will succeed us. If we harm the atmosphere, we dishonor our Creator and the gift of creation."
In his testimony, Carr said the bishops were "voicing the principled concerns of a community of faith, not an interest group. We are not the Sierra Club at prayer or the Catholic caucus of the coal lobby. The Catholic bishops seek to help sharp this debate by drawing on traditional moral principles of Catholic teaching: prudence, the common good and a priority for the poor. "He said the bishops' statements and approach were "nuanced, not alarmist; traditional, not trendy; an expression of faith, not politics. For us, this concern began with Genesis, not Earth Day."
Carr said the Catholic Church has long grappled with the problems of global climate change at many levels. He cited the 2001 statement by the U.S. Catholic Bishops, Global Climate Change: Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good; papal statements by John Paul II and Benedict XVI; the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, which recently held state-wide meetings in Florida, Ohio, and Alaska to bring together public officials, leaders from business, labor, environment, and religion; last week's major Vatican convening on climate change; and the June 1 letter to the leaders of the G-8 Summit by the Presidents of the Catholic Bishops' Conferences of Germany, Canada, Japan, France, England and Wales, Russia, and the United States.
Noting that the voices and the presence of the poor and vulnerable are often missing in debates and decisions on climate change, the USCCB official called on the Senate committee and the religious community to help ensure those voices are heard, their needs addressed, and their burdens eased.
"This priority for the poor cannot be a marginal concern in climate policy, but rather must be a central focus and clear measure of future legislation and policy choices," Carr said. "If we do not address climate change and global poverty together, we will fail both morally and practically."
"While there are no easy answers, the religious community can re-affirm our traditional message of restraint, moderation and sacrifice for our own good, the good of 'the least of these' and the good of God's creation. We are convinced that the moral measure of debate and decisions on climate change will be whether we act with prudence to protect God's creation, advance the common good, and protect the lives and lift the burdens of the poor," Carr concluded.NOTE: The full text of the testimony by John Carr can be found on the USCCB Web site at http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/ http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/ejp/climate/lettersalerts.shtml