Climate change is a difficult issue to grasp. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that the planet is warming and that the emission of greenhouse gases are a cause, but it’s hard to identify the milestones of these changes in our everyday lives.
Seriously addressing climate change will require sacrifices from all of us, never a popular notion with politicians in our democracy. And there are too many vested interests determined to fight any real attempt to reverse climate change before it is too late.
That’s why last week’s House passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act was such a landmark. The legislation is hardly comprehensive, and passage in the Senate is by no means assured, but it represents the first real attempt by political leaders to deal with the root causes of climate change. Perhaps more importantly, it is an important first step in altering a national mindset that puts today’s economic comfort ahead of the planet’s future.
We are pleased to note that several Jewish groups, led by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, were active players in the fight for passage. The Orthodox Union played a role in ensuring that religious groups would get a share of the funding for environmental upgrades.
Addressing the crisis in a practical but aggressive fashion is crucial to giving future generations a chance for the security and prosperity we have enjoyed in our lifetimes. It is related to the essential drive for energy independence that will greatly affect Israel’s as well as our own nation’s future. It is a matter of social justice, since the world’s poor are being more adversely affected by the early consequences of climate change. And time is running out, many scientists warn, with the potential costs of inaction reaching genuinely perilous levels.
“We have only been given one world to live in and for too long humanity has not done its part to ‘till and tend’ the earth for future generations,” said JCPA president Rabbi Steve Gutow. “We must do a better job in reducing air pollution, cleaning up rivers and streams, and protecting the wilderness. Congress’ vote to move forward with the climate bill was a good first step.”