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Updated: Virginia's religious leaders call on senators to support climate change bill

Anita Kumar

More than 100 clergy from across the state called on U.S. Sens. Jim Webb and Jim Webb on Wednesday to support comprehensive climate legislation that includes strong emission reductions and protections for low-income families.

The religious leaders signed a letter that was hand-delivered to Webb's and Warner's state offices in downtown Richmond Wednesday morning.

"As religious leaders from across the Commonwealth, we are writing to express our alarm at the state of environmental stewardship here in Virginia, and nationwide," the letter states. "For us as people of faith, this is an issue of basic fairness and justice; not only because we are called to care for creation, but because of who will be harmed most by inaction: the poor and voiceless."

The clergy represents Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Unitarian Universalism and seven denominations of Christianity.

"It's a critical time for us to speak up,'' said Rabbi Robert Nosanchuck of Reston. "It's time for action on this great and important cause."

We have reached out to Webb's office and will let you know when we hear back. Here's what Warner's spokesman Kevin Hall said.

"There are a lot of valid and worthy reasons to tackle climate change -- and, in Senator Warner's case, the national security argument is the most compelling,'' he said. "But Senator Warner appreciates this support because he believes it is imperative that we get serious about developing clean, renewable energy sources so that our country can compete in the global economy."

Updated: Webb spokesman Will Jenkins said: "Senator Webb appreciates the input of these leaders on this important issue. The United States should pursue energy policies that include conservation, renewable and efficient energy technologies, and the expansion of our domestic energy resources in a safe and secure manner."

Read the letter below:

Dear Senator Webb/Warner,

As religious leaders from across the Commonwealth, we are writing to express our alarm at the state of environmental stewardship here in Virginia, and nationwide. For us as people of faith, this is an issue of basic fairness and justice; not only because we are called to care for Creation, but because of who will be harmed most by inaction: the poor and voiceless. 



Specifically, we would like to see federal climate legislation that includes strong emission reductions, international adaptation assistance, and protections for low-income families.


We pay dearly for an unsustainable energy infrastructure built on the backs of the poor: Landfills and toxic plants are predominantly placed in low-income communities of color, causing health problems and perpetuating the cycle of poverty. We can see the real costs of fossil fuels all around us: More children born with asthma, and more elderly getting lung cancer. Something must be done.



Here in Virginia, these problems are compounded by our geography: the Virginia Beach and Norfolk coastline is among the locations on the East Coast that is most vulnerable to sea level rise, second only to New Orleans. In the next 50 years, rising seas will mean that moderate storms cause the extensive flooding we usually associate only with hurricanes. Damaging hurricanes will hit more frequently in a warmer Virginia, and have an intensified impact at higher sea levels.



But we are mindful that it is our brothers and sisters in the poorest communities around the world who will be hit hardest of all by global climate change. They face a precarious future: flooding in coastal areas, loss of cultivable land to desertification, sharp decline in available water, massive migration, even starvation. For many years, the United States has been the single greatest polluter per person in the world. We support climate legislation that recognizes the disproportionate contribution of U.S. emissions to global climate change by providing adaptation assistance.

To prevent the worst impacts of climate change, we must reduce our greenhouse emissions by at least 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, and by 80% by 2050. Any legislation which does not meet these goals cannot prevent the worst impacts of climate change on people and the planet. Likewise, any legislation must enable the Environmental Protection Agency to continue carrying out its mandate to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

In affirming the moral need for climate legislation, we are mindful that this may raise the cost of basic goods. So we also ask that any such legislation include social safety net provisions for families that are already struggling. 



We teach our congregations to seek justice and the common good. We encourage them to be good stewards of the planet and to consider the impact of their decisions on future generations. We encourage them to do what is right even when it isn't easy, and even when others aren't doing so. As the opportunity for climate action comes up in the Senate, we ask you to follow these principles as well.

With blessings for your work,

By Anita Kumar  |  June 2, 2010; 2:34 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , James Webb , Mark Warner  | Tags: Climate change, chesapeake bay, emissions  
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Comments

While I have many problems with the letter (including the baseless dire predictions), I was struck by one section in particular:

"In affirming the moral need for climate legislation, we are mindful that this may raise the cost of basic goods. So we also ask that any such legislation include social safety net provisions for families that are already struggling."

Wow! Basically, raise the cost of goods for everyone, then impose an additional tax on those who marginally can afford the increase.

At this rate, I wouldn't worry about additional carbon dioxide in the air. No one will be able to afford cars and there will be no industry left.

www.lloydtheidiot.com

Posted by: LloydtheIdiot | June 2, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Lloydtheidiot: You should take a look at the latest National Academy of Sciences report that says "a strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems."

I believe the costs should go to the people creating the pollution. Right now the pollution is dumped for free, but it does have a cost to many people who don't get the profits. For example, BP stands to make huge profits from oil drilling, but who replaces the jobs lost to all of the gulf coast fishermen? I'm all for a free market allowing people to get goods and services at the lowest possible cost as long as we have a level playing field and reasonable safeguards. Right now we don't - the atmosphere is a free waste dump, but many people including our children will pay for our free ride. We need comprehensive national climate and energy legislation.

Posted by: populus22 | June 3, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

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