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By Rev. Dr. Wayne M. Weathers
Climate change is among the greatest moral and spiritual issues of our time. One only needs to read the news on severe weather, flooding, fires, and drought to see the very real faces of those bearing the brunt of the climate crisis and recognize the moral imperative at act. The 2021 Climate Change Impacts Assessment from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection noted that Pennsylvanians will be faced with worsened air quality, increased damage from flooding, and agricultural losses in the years to come.
Climate change impacts us all, but particularly communities of color, including Black communities, who experience climate change impacts first and worst. Americans of color breathe in 40 percent more pollution than white Americans; 68 percent of Black Americans live within thirty miles of a coal plant; and the poor, elderly, and marginalized around the world are least equipped to prepare for or respond to the myriad threats of climate change.
Even in the face of individual and community action, Congress must enact meaningful climate legislation. Black pastors across the country recently joined together to urge Members of Congress to act on climate change and embrace a clean energy future. In a recent letter, they stated, “To begin addressing these injustices and work towards a vision of vibrant communities, we urge you to support clean energy.”
Black church leaders have been urging Congressional action on climate with greater urgency and alarm. Black church national denominations have spoken out on the need to address climate change. Senior religious leaders have proclaimed the emergency of climate action. Black clergy across the nation have sounded the climate alarm. And tens of thousands of Black congregants have called for immediate action. It is critical for the health and wellbeing of our communities that Members of Congress act on climate change and reject long outdated dirty energy initiatives.
It is encouraging to see that the Build Back Better Act moving through Congress at this very moment includes significant climate policy. This includes investments in clean energy jobs and technologies, pollution-free electric vehicles, clean public transit, and transportation infrastructure. By incentivizing clean and renewable energy and centering justice, we can cut carbon pollution and truly build back better.
While the Black community works diligently for accessible health care, criminal justice reform, and other justice issues, we are also working to halt the advance of climate change. For even if we address the aforementioned injustices, we will still be left with the injustice of climate change and its horrific impacts to our communities. Climate justice is an integral part of social justice, and our leaders must ensure that any climate investments aid those communities who have been most harmed by dangerous pollution.
Because of its impacts, we must acknowledge climate change as the most urgent of moral issues and faith issues. No longer can we listen to those who promise an infinite supply of finite resources, working to increase their profits while ignoring the suffering of the people. As people of faith, we must be stewards of God’s creation and defenders of those in need.
But the work won’t end there. Without a deeply held belief in the necessity of fighting climate change, there will be plenty of ways to undermine our work to address climate change and embrace a clean energy future. We cannot act with reluctance at a personal or policy level. We must call on Congress to take bold, decisive action on climate change.
God does not reward minimal effort. It is time to embrace climate change as a moral and spiritual challenge of unparalleled import and it is time to meet that challenge with the strength of conviction of those who have heard God’s call and decided to respond. The longer we wait to face this great invisible sin of our time, the more irreparable damage will be done.
Rev. Dr. Wayne M. Weathers is a pastor at Vision of Hope Baptist Church in Jenkintown, Pa.
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