Campaign Seeks 'Religious Response to Global Warming'

Randy Hall | Staff Writer/Editor | Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Campaign Seeks 'Religious Response to Global Warming'

( - In an effort to mobilize a "religious response to global warming," thousands of congregations are meeting in churches, mosques, synagogues and other halls of worship around the nation during the first week of October for an unprecedented number of inter-religious screenings and discussions of films about climate change.

However, a religious leader who disagrees with the effort to pin the blame for global warming on humans told Cybercast News Service that "it is a sad day when Americans turn to the movies to learn science for public policy."

As part of its "Spotlight on Global Warming," Interfaith Power Light (IPL) is organizing viewings of what the group calls "hard-hitting documentaries," such as former Vice President Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," HBO's "Too Hot Not to Handle" and "Lighten Up! A Religious Response to Global Warming," a film produced by IPL's parent organization, the Regeneration Project.

According to an IPL news release, congregations are also giving attendees educational kits on global warming; holding discussions after the screenings; giving sermons on global warming; presenting educational activities for children; leading congregants in conducting energy audits; and installing energy conservation measures.

"Global warming is harming God's creation: first the poor of the world, and eventually, all of us and all life," said the Rev. Sally Bingham, an Episcopal priest at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Calif., and a founder of IPL, which describes itself as "a nationwide movement to engage people of faith in the urgency to address global warming,"

"I have spent my life fighting for civil rights and human rights," said Pastor Gerald Durley of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga. "After I saw 'The Great Warming' and 'An Inconvenient Truth,' I have taken on yet another mission. We are destroying our earth. We can't protect human rights if we aren't here."

"Everyone has a stake and a role in reducing global warming emissions," said Souleiman Ghali, a Muslim leader and founder of the Islamic Society of San Francisco. "Working together, we can change history."

One of the week's first events took place in Washington, D.C., where the National Cathedral showed "The Great Warming" and "An Inconvenient Truth" on Saturday, Sept. 30. Then on Sunday, Oct. 1, the Rev. Dean Lloyd gave a sermon revolving around the biblical edict to care for the earth and challenged the faith community to respond to climate change.

According to IPL, more than 160 congregations in the greater Washington, D.C., area are scheduled to screen global warming films this week, as well as 186 groups in Pennsylvania, where Rabbi Daniel Swartz of Scranton's oldest synagogue, Temple Hesed, held a screening and a discussion during Yom Kippur on Monday, Oct. 2.

In Iowa, where 96 groups are showing global warming films this week, Sister Mira Mosle and the Sisters of Charity are in the midst of renovating their 1892 motherhouse. As part of that process, the structure is being converted into a "green" building with a geothermal heating and cooling system.

The nuns -- who drive hybrid cars -- will screen "An Inconvenient Truth" on Friday, Oct. 6.

However, Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, national spokesman and a founding member of the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance (ISA), responded that "it is a sad day when Americans turn to the movies to learn science for public policy."

Beisner pointed to an ISA document entitled "A Call to Truth, Prudence and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming," which uses "the best scientific evidence to show that the current warming trend is well within the bounds of natural variability" and "that human emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are at most a very small component of its causes."

"Human beings have responsibility before God to care intelligently for the earth -- to increase its fruitfulness by wise cultivation and conserve its ecosystems, especially as by doing so, they promote human well-being," Beisner told Cybercast News Service.

"But absolutely no credible scientific evidence supports the notion that foreseeable global warming poses a threat to the survival of the human race or is likely to destroy the earth," he added.

"Such exaggerated claims are not in the best interests of intelligent public policy, which needs to be based not only on charitable motives but also on sound science, sound economics and a commitment to truth telling," Beisner noted.

"Proposals to reduce future temperatures by cutting CO2 emissions would be almost wholly ineffective but would cost the world from $200 billion to $1 trillion per year," he added.

That money "could be much better spent providing sewage sanitation, clean drinking water and electrification for the world's two billion people who lack them, thus reducing premature deaths by millions per year among the poor," Beisner said.

"There are good reasons to try to reduce energy use regardless of our views on global warming," he added. "Conservation of resources, reduction of truly harmful pollution -- which CO2 is not -- and saving money are among them. Fighting global warming is not."

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