The new Senate Climate Bill fails in many ways

I’ve just discussed how cap and trade, which is at the heart of the Senate’s new American Power Act bill, will fail to reduce greenhouse gases fast enough to avert serious harms, possibility even allowing us to tip into runaway warming, in which all life on planet earth will die.  And also how fee & dividend would be a much better choice.

Now I’ve heard that some Catholics, including a bishop, claim the bill fails the moral test of aiding poor countries to adapt to climate change — see here

My thinking on this is that these are 2 separate issues (a bill to reduce our GHGs and our need to help the poor adapt).  Whether or not a climate bill ever passes Congress and gets signed into law, we MUST aid the poor in their adaptation to problems largely cause by us, the rich of the world.  Furthermore, we MUST reduce our GHGs whether or not a bill ever passes.  Those are 2 moral imperatives, which can be combined into one bill or put in 2 bills, but which we must ourselves implement, no matter what the government does or fails to do.

A serious misconception is that it is up to government to solve global warming.  No, it is up to all of us to solve this problem since we are causing it, and the government can lead, follow, or get out of the way (and the government is in our way as it stands right now with tax-breaks and subsidies for coal and oil, and allowing big energy to suppress many solutions).  It would surely help if the government could facilitate our efforts (instead of hinder them), but if it doesn’t, that does not in any way at all absolve us from our moral responsibility to stop killing people and help the people we are harming.  The principle here is “Thou shalt not kill” and “first do no harm.”  It has to do with fundamental, first order, negative rights on the part of the victims, such as the right to life, and our fundamental, first order obligation to meet those rights.  It has to do with stopping our sins of commission.  The risk spending eternity in a place a lot hotter place than an globally warmed world.

After that, we can think about charitable actions and positive rights, such as “save the earth” and “help the poor” in situations in which we are not ourselves harming the earth or the poor (like stopping a friend from polluting, or helping Haitian earthquake victims).  Which has to do with overcoming our sins of omission.

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2 Responses to “The new Senate Climate Bill fails in many ways”

  1. Molly Says:

    This isn’t really a comment on your post, but I found your blog and am hoping you can help me with a question I have. I’d like to give money to an environmental organization to support clean up of the Gulf Coast and prevention of similar events in the future. (I will also be donating to Catholic Charities in the region to support humanitarian aid). But the organizations who are officially helping with the environmental problems either support birth and population control, or are local organizations which are not only concerned with protecting the environment but also with building out and – in my opinion – artificially protecting Louisiana’s coastline, which I don’t support. Do you know of any environmental protection organizations whose policies do not conflict with Catholic teaching? Thanks so much!

    • lynnvinc Says:

      That is really good you want to help re the oil spill. You’re better than me, but if you do find a good oil spill charity, aside from CC, let me know.

      I’ve been pretty involved in my research lately, which is on dalits (untouchables) of India, so I didn’t get much chance to follow which orgs might be involved in the oil spill. You are safe with Catholic Charities.

      I do contribute to several environmental orgs, like the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and the ED (Environmental Defense), but those are more into litigating environmental harms and helping to get environmental legislation passed, or block anti-environmental legislation; they also work on market-based solutions to solving enviro problems, and were instrumental in helping reduce acid rain and other pollution. NRDC was also the org that alerted people to the harms of Alar (which is used only to make apples more red and more salable). They calcuated (guessimated) the risks for children, since the EPA only calculated the risks for adults; some decade later, their figure was found to be about the same (no signif difference) as the EPA figure, when EPA finally did decide to calc risks for children. However, the anti-environmentalists slammed NRDC for creating an “Alar scare”; I think John Stossel did a job on NRDC’s calculation, calling it junk science.

      I know shortly after I joined NRDC in 1990, someone included a sentence supportive of pro-choice in an article in their journal (called AMICUS at that time). Some Catholic in a letter to the editor next edition said she was withdrawing her membership because of it. However, since as far as I know abortion or pro-choice is not a part of their policy or platform or efforts, but was just a passing comment made by a journal contributor (and AMICUS did publish the letter against it), I decided it was okay to stay a member.

      I know these are difficult issues to navigate. There are so many pro-choice and pro-abortion folks out there, and in the environmental movement, as well. However, I think it is important for us to be involved and let our position be heard — how we don’t want children to be killed in order to save the earth for future generations….

      I think if we Catholics are not involved in working to solve environmental problems, we will come across as being anti-environmentalist (and thus anti-life), just using the abortion issue as an excuse to oppose efforts to mitigate environmental problems. I know a lot of Catholics who are adamently anti-environmentalist, who do just that, claiming environmentalism is pro-abortion and neo-paganist, but if you listen more to what they say, it comes out that they are afraid efforts to mitigate environmental harms (and save lives) will harm the economic or put us into a totalitarian government; those are their real reasons, and they are just hiding behind the skirts of the Church and the “pro-life” issue to hide their true anti-life agenda. That is, they put their economic and political fears before the health and safety and lives of people.

      But you are doing a really great thing to be helping with the oil spill. That is a wonderful thing. We need more Catholics like you.

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