Can Interfaith Climate Action Be the Harbinger Of Noah’s Dove?

Posted: 09/19/2014 1:11 pm EDT Updated: 45 minutes ago
In Genesis chapter 8, we read that when the dove returned to Noah with an olive leaf in its mouth, Noah knew that the waters had receded, and that the world had been saved from destruction. This change in climate represented a movement toward life, to salvation and a new start for earth’s population.

Today, however, climate changes mean just the opposite. Today, they are indications that we’re destroying our world with rising seas that are devastating coastal communities and severe weather that is jeopardizing food crops and human health. We see it all around us. The Audubon Society reported earlier this month that 314 bird species alone are at risk from global warming, with 126 of them classified as climate endangered. In the past century, the average temperature increased by 1.4 degrees, with the years 2000-2010 marking the warmest ever recorded, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Glaciers are disappearing — I saw that firsthand when I visited Alaska a few years ago, kayaking on the Inside Passage.

The seas are rising, the temperature becoming warmer and weather patterns so unpredictable that summers and winters are blending together, becoming less definable. Meanwhile, we continue to emit an increasing number of carbon particles, infiltrating and polluting our air — exacerbating in particular asthma in children in urban areas.

Yet too many of our leaders continue to ignore or, worse, deny that human behavior is harming our environment — hurting today’s children and future generations. Witness the recent failures to come up with strong action at the Climate Change conferences at Warsaw in 2013 and Doha, Qatar in 2012. Rather than listen to the chorus of environmental experts and scientific proof, political leaders instead take their cues from biased voices that argue that regulations set to help the environment will hurt the economy.

Economic growth, however, needn’t be slowed by strong environmental measures. Countries can be both environmentally and business friendly. Just look to Denmark, the most climate-friendly country in the world, according to the United Nations Climate Change Performance Index 2013, as it concurrently places as Europe’s third most economically competitive country, according to the World Economic Forum. Sweden, which ranks as the top economically competitive country, is the No. 2 climate-friendly country.

Political and civic reasoning will not win the day. The added, supportive voice of the religious community is indispensable if we are to effect policy changes. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sets to convene the Climate Summit 2014 on Sept. 23, bringing together hundreds of heads of state and government leaders, we in the faith community are raising our voices, joining together, and vowing to make the world safe from the ravages of climate change.

Ahead of next week’s climate summit, faith communities are coming together for the People’s Climate March, World Council of Churches and Religions for Peace’s Interfaith Summit on Climate Change, Religions for the Earth at Union Theological Seminary, prayer events across the US and an gathering at the UN Church Center.

Those of us participating in these numerous efforts come from different places theologically, but when it comes to the stewardship of our planet, we recognize our moral obligation to speak in one multi-faith voice that transcends our other differences.

Transcending differences at times seems impossible. Yet, we need only look to the Middle East and the complicated struggle between Israelis and Palestinians over a tiny piece of land to see that when it comes to the environment, it is possible to work together to seek solutions. Friends of the Earth Middle East and the Arava Institute are organizations that bring different religions and different nationalities together to tackle the climate and environmental problems of that region. If people will join hands there, we should be able to bring people together all across the planet.

If environmentalists and religious communities in one of the world’s most disputed regions can overcome differences and come together to care for the environment, certainly those of us in the rest of the world can join together to protect our environment and children and change the course of history.

When Sunday’s marchers demand that world leaders heed the cries of those of us who want the world to continue to prosper, our shouts will come in a plethora of languages and from a myriad of spiritual traditions. Let us, this week and in the future, raise our voices in whichever languages we can and ask that the Maker of the Universe hear us and help us find the solution that will keep this planet whole and fertile. Let us act as the dove at the end of the Noah story, as messengers from the sky, whose words move history and humanity from inaction and disaster to a rainbow of security and holiness.

New Satellite Maps Show World’s Major Ice Caps Melting at Unprecedented Rate

New Satellite Maps Show World’s Major Ice Caps Melting at Unprecedented Rate

German researchers have established the height of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps with greater precision than ever before. And the new maps they have produced show that the ice is melting at an unprecedented rate.

Surface water flows down into a ‘moulin’ shaft in the Greenland ice cap. Photo credit: NASA via Wikimedia Commons

The maps, produced with a satellite-mounted instrument, have elevation accuracies to within a few metres. Since Greenland’s ice cap is more than 2,000 metres thick on average, and the Antarctic bedrock supports 61 percent of the planet’s fresh water, this means that scientists can make more accurate assessments of annual melting.

Dr Veit Helm and other glaciologists at the Alfred Wegener Institute’s Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, report in the journal The Cryosphere that, between them, the two ice sheets are now losing ice at the unprecedented rate of 500 cubic kilometers a year.

Big picture

The measurements used to make the maps were taken by an instrument aboard the European Space Agency’s orbiting satellite CryoSat-2. The satellite gets closer to the poles—to 88° latitude—than any previous mission and traverses almost 16 million sq km of ice, adding an area of ice the size of Spain to the big picture of change and loss in the frozen world.

CryoSat-2’s radar altimeter transmitted 7.5 million measurements of Greenland and 61 million of Antarctica during 2012, enabling glaciologists to work with a set of consistent measurements from a single instrument.

Over a three-year period, the researchers collected 200 million measurements in Antarctica and more than 14 million in Greenland. They were able to study how the ice sheets changed by comparing the data with measurements made by NASA’s ICESat mission.

More complex

Greenland’s volume of ice is being reduced at the rate of 375 cubic km a year. In Antarctica, the picture is more complex as the West Antarctic ice sheet is losing ice rapidly, but is growing in volume in East Antarctica.

Overall, the southern continent—98 percent of which is covered with ice and snow—is losing 125 cubic km a year. These are the highest rates observed since researchers started making satellite observations 20 years ago.

“Since 2009, the volume loss in Greenland has increased by a factor of about two, and the West Antarctic ice sheet by a factor of three,” said Angelika Humbert, one of the report’s authors.

BP Found Guilty of ‘Gross Negligence’ and ‘Willful Misconduct’ in 2010 Gulf Oil Disaster

BP Found Guilty of ‘Gross Negligence’ and ‘Willful Misconduct’ in 2010 Gulf Oil Disaster

Anastasia Pantsios | September 4, 2014 2:37 pm

Today a federal judge in New Orleans found BP guilty of “gross negligence” and “willful misconduct” in the April 20, 2010 explosion of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil spill that resulted from the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig was the largest in U.S. history, spewing oil for more than three months. It killed 11 people and continues to have environmental impacts to this day on beaches, wetlands, wildlife, fisheries and a host of businesses in five states.
A sign on the home of a front lawn in Grand Isle, Louisiana on the Gulf Coast. Photo credit: ShutterstockA sign on the home of a front lawn in Grand Isle, Louisiana on the Gulf Coast. Photo credit: Shutterstock

A sign on the home of a front lawn in Grand Isle, Louisiana on the Gulf Coast. Photo credit: Shutterstock

According to Bloomberg, BP could face a fine as high as $18 billion. Plaintiffs included the federal government, the five Gulf of Mexico states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, banks, restaurants and fishermen, among others.

This comes on the heels of the news Tuesday that Halliburton, contracted by BP to cement the oil well, had reached a $1.1 settlement with the businesses, citizens and governments impacted by the spill. But Halliburton was a bit player in BP’s disaster scenario. Continue reading “BP Found Guilty of ‘Gross Negligence’ and ‘Willful Misconduct’ in 2010 Gulf Oil Disaster”