'Great Warming' Premieres with Packed House

NEW YORK - Proof is everywhere. The "Great Warming" has already begun. Hundreds of people packed into New York City's Ziegfeld Theater Thursday for the world premier of "The Great Warming" - a documentary film revealing a changing climate whose fingerprint is marked by the human species.

Environmental activists, professors, scientists and even evangelicals are rising to the challenge of addressing the issue of human-driven climate change.

Today humanity releases about 5.5 billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere every year through fossil fuel burning and cement manufacture, according to a report - Reports to the Nation on Our Changing Planet - by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. And approximately another 1.5 billions tons per year are released through land use changes which result in an increase of atmospheric CO2 of about one-half percent per year. Measurements show that the level of carbon dioxide has increased by about 30 percent since the late 1700s.

"Climate change is real and induced and calls for action," said the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals, in the film.

"To harm this world by moral degradation is an offense against God," said Cizik, noting both the physical and moral implications of global warming.

Senior evangelicals such as Cizik are hopping on board in raising concern and awareness over the environment. While most Christians in the pews have never been preached to on the changing nature of Earth, a recent study found that three out of four evangelicals support environmental issues and many consider it a priority as it poses a serious threat to future generations.

The Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, said in a panel discussion after the film showing that churches need to wake up to the issue and stand up.

"I think it's time for the good people to speak out," said Edgar.

Evangelicals view Christianity as ideally suited for more people to step in and do something.

"It's fundamentally a moral issue," said Cizik as he calmed down from "sounding like a preacher" during the panel.

The panel consisted of a diverse group of religious, environmental and business figures who each gave their take on the changing climate but agreed on the urgency of the issue.

Barbara Lerman-Golomb, associate executive director of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, mentioned the higher number of people calling in, showing interest and eager to take action.

But before any action is stirred, an informed public is a priority.

"Real change starts with an informed public," said Karen Coshof, creator and producer of "The Great Warming."

"The Great Warming," created and produced by Stonehaven Productions and filmed in eight countries on four continents, will release at the Village East Cinema in New York on April 7. Stonehaven Productions plans to gradually move out from the Village East to theaters nationwide.