WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. religious leaders — Episcopal, Catholic, Jewish and evangelical Christian — agreed on Thursday on the need to confront global warming, while other faith representatives questioned the climate change threat.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and a former oceanographer, told the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee that most religious people have reached accord on the need to act.
“While many in the faith community represented here today may disagree on a variety of issues, in the area of global warming we are increasingly of one mind,” Schori said. “The crisis of climate change presents an unprecedented challenge to the goodness, interconnectedness and sanctity of the world God created and loves.”
There was a clear divide between witnesses called by the Democratic majority on the committee, chaired by long-time environmentalist Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, and those chosen by the Republican minority, led by Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the Senate’s most vocal climate change skeptic.
In addition to Schori, other witnesses summoned by Democrats were John Carr of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Rev. Jim Ball of the Evangelical Climate Initiative and Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism.
“We believe the science is settled and it’s time to fix the problem,” Ball told the committee, in a statement characteristic of this group of witnesses, who all noted that the consequences of global warming would disproportionately hit the world’s poor.
Witnesses called by Republicans were Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Rev. Jim Tonkowich of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and historian David Barton.
Moore said Southern Baptists favor environmental protection but are not united in supporting any “specific legislation to combat global warming.”
“Many of us ... are not convinced that the extent of human responsibility is as it is portrayed by some global warming activists, or that the expensive and dramatic solutions called for will be able ultimately to transform the situation,” Moore said.
This is in line with the current position of President George W. Bush, who last week unveiled a long-term climate strategy that called for no mandatory limits on the greenhouse gases that spur global warming.
Instead, Bush planned to meet this year with leaders of the 15 countries that emit the most greenhouse gases, and to agree on a way forward to cut emissions by the end of 2008.
The Bush administration has been under fire for its stance on climate change, and at a summit of the Group of Eight richest countries on Thursday in Germany, world leaders agreed to pursue substantial but unspecified cuts in greenhouse gases and work with the United Nations on a new deal to fight global warming by 2009.