During his visit to the United States in September, Pope Francis told the American people that “climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to our future generation. When it comes to the care of our common home, we are living at a critical moment of history.”
Nowhere does this message resonate more than in Florida, where our communities are already experiencing the effect of climate change in our own backyards.
That’s why the Florida Council of Churches, where I serve as executive director, is one of the many religious bodies calling on our elected officials and candidates to set and reach bold targets for powering America with clean energy.
We are doing so because the principles and traditions of our faiths call on us to make a moral and spiritual stand on climate change. We believe our leaders must make the moral choice to protect the earth and the most vulnerable among us.
A recent report found that Florida has more private property at risk from climate change than any other state. By 2030, $69 billion worth of coastal property not currently at risk will be subject to flooding from sea level rise. The flooding will hurt tourism and agriculture, cost jobs, damage water supplies, and threaten Floridians’ health.
But much of these effects can be prevented in Florida –and around the world — if our political leaders take action. Religious bodies representing people of two dozen faiths — including Baptists, Catholics, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists and many others — have signed an Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change. It recognizes that we are “destabilizing the global climate system, heating the Earth, acidifying the oceans, and putting both humanity and all living creatures at unacceptable risk.”
It also declares that “strong action on climate change is imperative by the principles and traditions of our faiths and the collective compassion, wisdom and leadership of humanity.”
This is a powerful call to action — and it’s one that Floridians of every faith should embrace. We already have the solutions to help tackle the problem and to meet a goal of powering the country with more than 50 percent clean energy by 2030. We can help vulnerable people and communities survive and thrive. We can create sustainable jobs while cutting pollution and protecting our children’s health. We can establish America’s global leadership on climate and clean energy. But what’s missing is strong political leadership.
Interfaith leaders are grateful for the actions taken to date, including President Barack Obama’s powerful executive leadership and the global climate agreement signed in Paris.
But we now have to seize this momentum and solidify America’s leadership on climate action in the weeks and months ahead. As Pope Francis reminded us, we must make the moral choice on climate to safeguard the most vulnerable and protect our common home.
We can do something to protect our communities — we can unite as a global family threatened by a common danger to urge political leaders to take decisive action and pursue the solutions we know already exist.
The Rev. Dr. Russell L. Meyer is the Executive Director of the Florida Council of Churches. Column courtesy of Context Florida.