WASHINGTON – Religious leaders have urged Congress to protect the poor and most vulnerable from the effects of climate change as lawmakers plan to consider legislation that would combat global warming in the coming months.
Well-known groups such as the National Association of Evangelicals, National Council of Churches, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Union for Reform Judaism pressed Congress Wednesday to require a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The religious leaders rallied behind a bill by Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and John Warner of Virginia "to strengthen and improve protections for the poor and vulnerable as (the) legislation moves forward," said Paul Gorman of National Religious Partnership for the Environment, according to The Associated Press.
"It has become clear that global warming is having and will continue to have devastating impacts on those living in poverty around the world, particularly those in least developed countries," said NCC's president, the Rev. Michael Livingston, according to NCC.
He listed as examples the effects of global warming including floods, disease and food insecurity.
"However, we can and must do more and we look forward to working with the Senators to ensure adequate and appropriate support for affected communities."
Among the priorities for the leaders are: helping low-income families deal with the impact of higher energy prices that result from new climate policies and ensuring that vulnerable people are protected from the environmental effects of global warming.
The Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, said 84 percent of evangelicals support mandatory limits on greenhouse gases, according to AP. He also said moral leadership is needed to protect God's creation.
Evangelicals recently have become a growing voice in climate change advocacy. A group of evangelical leaders in October representing the Evangelical Climate Initiative met with their U.S. representatives to press for climate change legislation.
In June, a group of religious leaders similar to those participating in Wednesday's conference call debated global warming in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
While most of the leaders present agreed that global warming is real and mainly caused by human activities, some disagreed and said science does not absolutely support humans being the main cause for the warming of the earth. They also contend that cutting carbon emissions would not be in the best interest for the majority of the world's poor.
"While not all of us agree on much," said Livingston on Wednesday, "we do agree on the need to protect God's creation. It has become clear that global warming will have devastating impact on those in poverty around the world."
The coalition said it will work to have 40 percent of the emissions-related revenue from the climate legislation to help the poor. The current Lieberman-Warner bill calls for 5 percent to be used for such purpose.