Religion

  • Voting Climate Change
  • Testimony before the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee

Voting Climate Change 2020

The daily flurry of media output focuses on the national election in November at this time. Although record breaking heat is still a daily concern, the issue of climate change is being demoted as topics connected to the election are prioritized as newsworthy. The pandemic overshadows everything, of course. However, the onslaught of more violent hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, wildfires in California, gale force shear wind damage in Iowa are presented as unconnected natural disasters, quickly disappearing from the computer screen. Social calamities including Black Lives Matters, widespread job loss, rampant food insecurity, and an impending eviction crisis also have traction and all these newsworthy items are with important contexts missing. These acute crises of the day were predicted by climate models twenty years ago and, lo and behold, the predictions have been verified as true.

The U.N. sponsored climate crisis reports predict more environmental disruptions, greater social unrest, and more political instability in the coming years. The conclusions of the early climate change models are climate change is the underlying driver, pushing the breaches in society’s inequities ever wider. The fault lines of within any given country will become sharper and deeper.

This specific conversation, connecting climate change to the exacerbation of our social, political and economic ills of the day is missing from the public square. Few dare to mention that an uptick and spread of pandemics were also predicted in these studies. The absence of this conversation is morally abhorrent, a repudiation of the ideals religion upholds as primary. By running away from these fraught discussions, the priority of the sanctity of life is abandoned.

The equation is simple if we are to uphold that saving life is primary. The cliché is “If you want to talk the talk, you had better walk the walk.” As far as giving “talk” its’ due, God believers must inject climate change into the political and electoral discussions. God believers must take the responsibility to describe the connections between our social and economic ills and the pernicious effect of climate change in making these ills more potent.

“Walking the walk” is a clear imperative to vote this November. However, the moral position is to find the candidates who acknowledge climate change and pledge to address it. The fact of climate change demands that we vote for candidates willing to address global warming at all levels of government. The local races are just as important as the state and national ones.

The publication and production of election material for consumption is wearying. The cacophony across social media and the incendiary rhetoric is deafening. The call for moral clarity needs to rise above this deliberate nonsense and give direction. A moral course of action exists and this is the message we must spread to all are hungry to hear it.


Testimony before the NY State Environmental Conservation Committee

Senate Hearing Room – Manhattan

12 February 2019

I am Rabbi Glenn Jacob, and while I am executive director of New York Interfaith Power & Light – an organization dedicated to passing climate science-based legislation from a religious perspective, I come here first representing the initial wave of climate refugees in New York State. In 2012 on 29 October, Superstorm Sandy slammed my neighborhood in Oceanside, Long Island with a five-foot surge of water. My house had over $100,000 worth of damage, of which $18,000 was covered by flood insurance. I told my wife the day after the storm that we would move, and in November 2017, I moved from 25 miles east of Manhattan to 40 miles north.

            My personal experience is framed in my religious perspective. I and my organization are non-partisan, representing about 15 different religious denominations from Suffolk County on Long Island to the city of Buffalo, with all points, rural, suburban, and urban in between. The message we bring is that climate change is a moral issue, and the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA) is a matter of personal and professional integrity.

            Contrary to caricatures, most synagogues, churches, mosques, temples, and gurdwaras have no issue accepting scientific facts, concepts, and conclusions. Climate change is real, climate change is manmade, and the only question is what is humanity going to do? To do nothing, to keep the status quo is evil in religious language. It is the path to more harm and danger to human life – deliberately allowing destruction is evil, a human, preventable evil.

            The good news, to borrow the term from the Protestant Tradition, is that we have the knowledge base, the technology and the wherewithal to address climate change. Everything to address climate change is in some sort of readiness in New York State, from detailed plans for job creation to the equitable spread of resources, to energy infrastructure initiatives. The only thing we have lacked in the last few years is the political will.

            Our religious traditions do not tolerate half-truths, because they have no integrity. To say that we are going to lose jobs in the fossil fuel industry is to deny that we are bringing entirely new energy industries into the state. To say that the CCPA will cause prices to rise is a half-truth as well. We already balk at paying for the damages of evermore powerful storms and violent temperature swings. Roads meant to last 20 years are lasting 15 years or less; we have yet to fix the most expensive damage from Sandy. Do you want to spend the taxpayers’ money solving the crisis or do you want to spend ever increasing sums patching roads, wires, sewers, channels, and buildings, which we see are already falling short of completion, just to maintain the status quo?

Whether you want to or not, you will be spending large sums of taxpayer funds on climate change in the coming years. The climate science and our real-world experience confirm this conclusion; no prophecy is necessary. Climate change is more than a technical issue, a reasonable issue, or a political issue; it is an unavoidable moral issue. The question from your religious constituents is: Are you going to spend state funds with integrity, namely the CCPA and its goals to address climate change, or are you going to squander the short twelve-year window we have to address climate change? We are the first generation to confront climate change and we are the last generation that can address climate change.

As I stated in the beginning, the CCPA is a matter of integrity, the integrity of the political will to act.