August 25, 2008 / 8:17 AM / 11 years ago

Christians see climate change as moral issue

ACCRA (Reuters) - Morality should be a spur for stronger action to fight climate change, which threatens food and water supplies for the poorest in Africa, a group of Christian activists said on Saturday during U.N. climate talks.

A man lights a candle during the Orthodox Good Friday service in Alexander Nevski golden-domed cathedral in Sofia April 25, 2008. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

“We hear about climate change as a political issue, an environmental issue and an economic issue. We want to press the point that this is a moral issue,” said Marcia Owens, a minister in the Florida branch of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

She and a group of Christian activists told Reuters they were lobbying delegates at the August 21-27 U.N. talks in Ghana to work out a strong new treaty, due for completion by the end of 2009, to slow global warming.

In Uganda, once predictable rains in mid-August are now often arriving late, killing off seedlings of crops such as beans, groundnuts or maize in what many local people believe is a sign of global warming.

“The crops die. Farmers then have to plough and plant again,” said Rosemary Mayiga, a Ugandan Catholic and rural economist. “It is not moral for some people to go to bed with a full stomach when others go to bed with their stomach empty.”

“Rivers are drying out where we get water and fish,” Daniel Nzengya, a Kenyan Christian who is also a lecturer at Africa University in Zimbabwe. “The walk to collect water is increasing as wells dry up.”

The Accra talks are the third this year in a series partly spurred by findings by the U.N. Climate Panel last year that it is at least 90 percent likely that human activities, led by burning fossil fuels, are the main cause of a recent warming.

The panel projects that between 75 million and 250 million people in Africa could suffer stress on water supplies by 2020. And in some African countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 percent by 2020.

“It is very easy to forget the human dimension. There are people today whose lives are being disrupted by climate change,” said John Hill, a Methodist who works for a group on economic and environmental justice with the U.S. National Council of Churches.

Many of the world’s religions argue that God has given humans a role as stewards of the Earth.

Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, agreed that there was a moral dimension. “This is a moral issue in the sense that rising emissions in rich countries should not lead to rising poverty in others,” he told Reuters.

Editing by Mary Gabriel

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