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Making climate change a moral issue: A Midwest faith letter to support carbon pollution rules

David Beach  |  05/14/14 @ 2:00pm  |  Posted in Clean energy, Climate

Religious congregations are increasingly placing carbon pollution in a moral context. They are seeing how climate change exacerbates issues on which faith communities are already working — issues such as hunger, clean water, disaster relief, refugee services, and conflict resolution.

Big emissions source<br />Proposed EPA rules to reduce carbon pollution from coal-burning power plants will be a major step toward cleaner air and the reduction of risks from climate change.

Coal-burning power plants are the biggest source of the carbon pollution that is warming the planet. The Environmental Protection Agency is issuing rules to reduce this harmful pollution, and faith leaders in the Midwest are signing the following letter to support the new rules. The letter, which is being circulated by Ohio Interfaith Power and Light, is a good example of the emerging moral framework that says it is profoundly wrong to disrupt the climate.

Dear President Obama,

As religious leaders representing diverse faith traditions and congregations throughout the Midwest, we are writing to you in support of your directive to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to finalize the carbon pollution rule for new power plants and to issue a strong draft rule for reducing carbon pollution from existing power plants and finalize it by June 2015.

As people of faith, we believe that climate change is a moral issue. We feel a particular responsibility to speak on behalf of those whose voices are not heard – the most vulnerable in our society and in our world, including children and future generations. Carbon pollution threatens the health of our families, our communities, and ultimately the earth. Impacts of climate-disrupting carbon dioxide emissions include severe storms, deadly heat waves, drought, flooding, and wildfires.

Carbon pollution is an environmental justice issue. Historically many power plants have been located near low-income neighborhoods, near communities of color, and in Midwest farm communities. These areas contribute much less to the problem yet are being hit the hardest in terms of health and climate impacts. Many of these citizens have preexisting health conditions that make them more vulnerable to heat waves, reduced air quality, and other consequences of burning fossil fuels. These communities also have fewer resources to adapt to climate change and therefore mitigation – reducing the causes of climate change – is critical.

In addition, we must understand the moral responsibility that we have in light of the global disparity between the amount of carbon pollution released by the United States and other developed nations in comparison to developing nations around the world. Developing nations have far less capacity for adapting to climate change, and will bear much more of the impacts. We support efforts to use these carbon pollution standards as leverage to encourage carbon pollution reductions by other developed and growing economies worldwide.

As people of faith, we look for signs of hope in moving toward the future. The Midwest’s manufacturing base gives us the opportunity – and responsibility – to take the lead in developing clean energy technologies that can meet our energy needs and protect the earth for future generations. Employment in the wind and solar industries in the Midwest is on the rise. Additional clean energy jobs in energy efficiency, transmission, and research and development means that we do not have to sacrifice employment opportunities for controlling carbon pollution.

Climate change exacerbates issues on which our congregations and faith communities are already working: issues like hunger, clean water, disaster relief, refugee services, and conflict resolution, to name just a few. It is the role of faith leaders to help others connect the dots between climate change and its impacts, and to advocate for meaningful solutions. We believe that limiting carbon pollution from power plants is a part of that solution, and we urge your administration to move forward in proposing and finalizing these rules.

For more information about the impacts of climate change in the Midwest, go here.

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David Beach
3 years ago

The Sierra Club has a national map of coal-fired electric generating units at sierraclub.org/coal/map/. You can sort by state to see the plants in Ohio. The big utilities in Ohio, First Energy and AEP, have announced a number of planned closings of old coal plants, and I don't know if this map includes the updated information.

Built Environment
3 years ago

I thought it was already shut down, but in any event, how many coal fired plants are left in Ohio?

David Beach
3 years ago

The picture shows First Energy's Eastlake power plant. It's scheduled to shut down this fall because the company decided it would cost too much to upgrade it to meet modern clean air standards. Many old coal plants are becoming uncompetitive when they finally have to pay for all the environmental and health damages they cause (that is, account for all their economic externalities).

Built Environment
3 years ago

What power plant is pictured?

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