Thousands of Jews Participate in People’s Climate March

— by Mirele Goldsmith

Thousands of Jews participated in the People’s Climate March, which drew more than 300,000 individuals to the streets of Manhattan on Sunday, September 21.

More than 100 Jewish groups, including The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, signed on as partner organizations, and hundreds of Jews blew the shofar, ram’s horn, traditionally sounded as a call to repentance on Rosh Hashanah.

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Photo by Jon Leiner.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow of The Shalom Center spoke at the rally for faith groups at the start of the march, which was timed to send a strong message to world leaders meeting for a climate summit at the U.N. this week, that people around the world want strong action to reduce emissions from fossil fuels and support a transition to clean, renewable energy.

Auburn Theological Seminary built a 26-foot long diesel-powered Noah’s Ark. Jewish representatives on board the ark included Jewish Council for Public Affairs’s Rabbi Steve Gutow, the National Council Jewish of Women’s Nancy Kaufman, and Hazon’s Nigel Savage.

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Photo by Jon Leiner.

The US takes most comprehensive look yet at climate change

Waiting for Climate Change an exhibit by Isaac Cordal, Berlin, Germany. 2011.
“Politicians debating our planet’s global crisis with the waters lapping at their lapels, filling their mouths and covering them completely.”

— Dr. John Holdren
Director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy

Today, the Administration released the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment, the most authoritative and comprehensive source of scientific information to date about climate-change impacts across all U.S. regions and on critical sectors of the economy.

The report, a key deliverable of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, confirms that climate change is not a distant threat — it’s affecting us now.

Based on four years of work by hundreds of experts from government, academia, corporations, and public-interest organizations, the Assessment confirms abundant data and examples that climate change isn’t some distant threat — it’s affecting us now.

Not only are the planet and the nation warming on average, but a number of types of extreme weather events linked to climate change have become more frequent or intense in many regions, including heat waves, droughts, heavy downpours, floods, and some kinds of destructive storms.

The good news is that there are sensible steps that we can take to protect this country and the planet.

Those steps include, importantly, the three sets of actions making up the Climate Action Plan that President Obama announced last June: cutting carbon pollution in America; increasing preparedness for and resilience to the changes in climate that already are ongoing; and leading the international response to the climate change challenge.

The Flat-Earth Society: the Israeli-Arab Conflict and Climate Changes


Demographic trends mean that Israel can’t have it all. It can’t be a Jewish state, a democratic state, and a state in control of its whole historical land. It can only have two of its objectives at a time. Think of it this way: Israel can be Jewish and territorial — but not democratic. Or it can be democratic and territorial — but not Jewish. Or finally, it can be Jewish and democratic — but not territorial. This third choice is the one that can conceivably lead to a two-state solution.

— by Steve Sheffey

The demographic reality is that Israel needs a two-state solution for its own survival more than the Palestinians “deserve” a state. Yet, the Jewish community has its own flat-Earth society: those who deny the demographic threat to Israel’s democratic and Jewish character. However, acting as if we understand Israel’s security and existential needs better than the people of Israel is a good working definition of chutzpah. Israelis have a much greater stake in the peace process than we do and a better understanding of the risks they face. Unlike previous administrations, the Obama administration is engaging not by pressuring Israel, but by strengthening Israel.

Those who deny demographic reality have much in common with climate change deniers. And yes, the scientific consensus is overwhelming: global warming is occurring and is caused at least in part by human activity.

Full article after the jump.
When President Obama delivered his speech on climate change, he said of those who deny the overwhelming evidence that human activity is causing global warming, “We don’t have time for a meeting of the flat-Earth society. Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm.”  

The Jewish community is plagued by its own version of the flat-Earth society: those who deny that Israel has a demographic problem and wish away the reality that unless Israel relinquishes the West Bank, it will have to choose between being a democracy and being a Jewish state.

True: Israel’s moral, legal, and historic claims to Judea and Samaria far exceed those of the Palestinians. Relinquishing the West Bank to the Palestinians (not “giving it back,” because the Palestinians never had it) means relinquishing land to which Israel has had ties for thousands of years. Israel controls the West Bank because Jordan attacked Israel during the Six Day War. Since then, the Palestinians have refused offers from Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert that would have led to the creation of a Palestinian state. Even today, they refuse to negotiate unless Israel agrees in advance to certain concessions.

So if Israel has superior moral, legal, and historic rights to the land, and if the Palestinians have repeatedly spurned peace offers, why should Israel relinquish land it holds so dear? The answer is not that the Palestinians deserve it, but that Israel needs to. Israel cannot remain both Jewish and democratic unless it has a large Jewish majority.

Today, Palestinian residents of the West Bank cannot vote. Why should they? No country would allow people living under a temporary military occupation to vote in its elections. But a permanent occupation, or annexation where Jews living in the West Bank can vote and Palestinians living in the West Bank cannot, would mean that Israel is not a democracy. And if the Palestinians do vote, Israel would not remain a Jewish state for long.

It is not about whether the Palestinians “deserve” a state. If there were 25 million Jews in Israel, I would not write this article. Israel could annex the West Bank, remain both Jewish and democratic, and that would be it. But the demographic reality is that Israel must find a path to a negotiated settlement in order to remain Jewish and democratic. That is why pro-Israel groups across the spectrum support a two-state solution, including AIPAC.

The Jewish flat-Earth society is led by Yoram Ettinger. You can see Ettinger cited in nearly every article denying the demographic reality. Some of you have seen Ettinger at right-wing pep rallies, masquerading as unbiased sources of information. We’d like the demographic threat to be untrue for the same reason we wish global warming was not caused by human activity: In both cases, we don’t like the consequences, and we wish we did not have anything to do with them. But we must confront reality, not deny it.

Just last week, we learned that contrary to claims that there are only about 1.5 million Palestinians on the West Bank, Israeli authorities say the number is actually 2.5 million, according to Dr. Assaf Sharon.

The debate over the future of the territories is important enough to hold based on real facts and data. The so-called facts in the ideological right wing’s strategy are baseless. Rightists forget that a lie that is repeatedly told does not become the truth. Annexation of the territories means a binational state. You can be in favor of it or against it, but you can’t deny it.

Aaron David Miller says that “to understand Israeli demographics, there is no better guide than Sergio Dellapergola. The Italian-born researcher holds a Ph.D. in demography from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he is now a professor emeritus of Israel-Diaspora relations.” According to Dellapergola:

Jews constitute 49.8 percent of the total population that lives between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River — 52 percent, if one includes non-Jewish relatives. If one excludes foreign workers and the Gaza population, Jews represent 62 percent of the total; excluding Palestinians in the West Bank, their share rises to about 79 percent; excluding the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, the Jewish share of total population would be 83 percent.

Miller concludes:

[D]emographic trends mean that Israel can’t have it all. It can’t be a Jewish state, a democratic state, and a state in control of its whole historical land. It can only have two of its objectives at a time. Think of it this way: Israel can be Jewish and territorial — but not democratic. Or it can be democratic and territorial — but not Jewish. Or finally, it can be Jewish and democratic — but not territorial. This third choice is the one that can conceivably lead to a two-state solution.

Ettinger and some other amateur demographers disagree (unlike Dellapergola, Ettinger is an amateur — he has no academic training in demography), arguing that Palestinian numbers are inflated and fertility trends are changing. But last week’s numbers refute Ettinger’s claims. Moreover, Dellapergola’s analysis takes into account the exaggerated numbers of the Palestinian Authority as well as changes in fertility rates.

But let’s step back for a minute. What if Ettinger is right? Does it really matter whether Jews are 60%, 50%, or 40% of Israel’s population? The reality is that unless Jews are an overwhelming majority in Israel, Israel cannot be a Jewish state and a democracy. Those on the right surely know that a state that were 40% Palestinian would never elect a Likud government.

The United States is culturally Christian not because Christianity is enshrined by law, but because an overwhelming percentage of American citizens are Christian. Israel can function as a Jewish state and still remain democratic only if an overwhelming percentage of its citizens are Jewish. It will just not work otherwise, even if Jews remain a bare majority. The Zionist dream is neither a state where Jews are a slight majority, nor where they are a sizable minority. The Zionist dream is a democratic Jewish state — a state infused with Jewish values and that runs on the Jewish clock. This dream cannot be realized without a large Jewish majority.

So what should we in America do about it?

  • First, we should take our heads out of the sand. We do no one any favors when we play with numbers to avoid reality.
  • Second, we should support efforts to bring the parties together to negotiate a two-state solution. This does not mean pressuring Israel. It does mean recognizing that Israel needs a two-state solution more than the Palestinians do, but also realizing that Israel cannot be expected to commit suicide in the short-run to prevent committing suicide in the long-run. Israel needs a partner for peace. We saw in Gaza and Lebanon what happens when Israel unilaterally withdraws.

The Palestinians could have had a state by now, were it not for their leaders’ intransigence. If the purpose of a two-state solution was to do a favor to the Palestinians, then I’d agree with those who say “too bad — they had their chance and they blew it.” But once we understand that a two-state solution is essential for Israel, we are left with the distasteful, but inescapable, conclusion: If current Palestinian leadership is unwilling or unable to negotiate in good faith with Israel, then to support Israel, we need to find ways to help the Palestinian Authority become a real partner for peace. That is why the U.S. gives aid to the Palestinian Authority — not because they are good friends, but because a destabilized Palestinian Authority would set the peace process back even further. Is it possible that the Palestinians will never negotiate in good faith? Yes. But if recent events in the Arab world have taught us anything, it’s that our crystal balls are very cloudy when it comes to Arab politics. Time is not on Israel’s side — we have to try.

So who decides what risks Israel should take for peace? Some people sitting in the relative safety and security of America think Israel does not take enough risks for peace, or that the U.S. should pressure Israel to do more. But we should support a two-state solution by backing Israel, not by pressuring Israel.

The bar for registering disagreement with the government of Israel should be much higher for those of us who live outside Israel, and thus will not personally suffer the literally life or death consequences of Israel’s actions. My kids are not at risk of being blown to smithereens at a restaurant or playground, and they do not serve in the Israeli army. Israelis, not us, will pay the immediate consequences if we are wrong. I tend to resolve the doubts about the trade-offs between taking risks for peace and security in favor of the government of Israel, because they stand to gain or lose much more than I do, and their attention is necessarily much more focused than mine.

Respect for the citizens of Israel necessitates a proper respect for their exclusive right to be “wrong” when it comes to their security. What if we, in America, are wrong? We should not assume that we cannot be wrong about what is going on 7,000 miles away. We should not concede that we might be wrong, but proceed anyway, and let the chips (or, in this case, rockets) fall where they may. Israelis understand the risks they face. I think it is presumptuous for us to think we have to save Israel from itself, so I am reluctant to criticize Israel from a position of less risk and less knowledge.

This goes for the right as well as the left. I went on a trip to Israel, where one of the participants asked the tour guide how Israel could possibly consider giving up Hebron. His voice rising in anger, he pointed out that Hebron was King David’s original capital, and that the holy Cave of Machpelah is in Hebron. The tour guide replied that many Israelis are getting tired of sending their children to serve in the army, risking their lives, to defend a few hundred settlers who insist on living in Hebron. But, he continued, if all 240,000 Jews from Chicago moved to Hebron, not only would Israel never give it up, but they would even put up a sign that said “Hebron — Brought to You by the Jews of Chicago.” We are not in position to tell Israel it has to cede land for peace, but neither should we insist that Israel keeps land, so that it’s there if we ever want to visit as tourists.

The Obama administration is pursuing negotiations by strengthening Israel, not threatening it. Many of us get nervous about U.S. engagement in the peace process, because in the past, “engagement” has been synonymous with “pressure on Israel.” We remember the George W. Bush administration: Bush rebuked then-prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2003 by rescinding $289.5 million in loan guarantees for Israel as punishment for what Bush considered illegal settlement activity. In 2004, the Bush administration abstained, rather than vetoed, a U.N. resolution condemning Israel for its actions in Gaza, during a military operation aimed at stopping terrorism and weapons smuggling. Bush pressured Israel to allow Hamas to participate in the Gaza elections, thus conferring on Hamas a legitimacy it could never have otherwise achieved. And we all know that if President Obama treated Israel like Reagan did, he would be impeached.

But President Obama has never rescinded, or even threatened to rescind, loan guarantees for Israel, and has never turned his back on Israel at the U.N. After his re-election, he gave Israel a free hand in Gaza.

The U.S. is engaging the way a true ally and friend should engage: not with pressure, but by creating a dynamic where Israel can, if it sees fit, negotiate a final-status agreement with the Palestinians. Instead of threatening Israel, the Obama administration is working to help guarantee Israel’s security to restart peace talks.

And what about global warming? Some of our friends might take this analogy the wrong way; many of those who refuse to look at the evidence on demography also refuse to look at the evidence on global warming. You can find an academic-looking study to support anything. Don’t believe in evolution? Don’t believe in vaccinations? Your “proof” is out there. But according to NASA:

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.

But what if all those studies and all the scientists are wrong? What if today’s crackpot is tomorrow’s visionary? That is a separate article.

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Jewish Groups Praise Obama’s Climate Change Announcements‏

— by Jacob Miller

Yesterday in Georgetown, President Barack Obama outlined his vision for American action on climate change. His vision includes cutting carbon pollution, preparing the United States for the impact of climate change, and having the United States lead the global efforts to address it.

Obama emphasized the need for action:

As a president, as a father and as an American, I’m here to say, we need to act. I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing. And that’s why today I’m announcing a new national climate action plan, and I’m here to enlist your generation’s help in keeping the United States of America a leader, a global leader in the fight against climate change.

The changes President Obama spoke about have strong backing from Americans, and from American Jews. A recent poll released by the Georgetown Climate Center showed that 87% of Americans support some EPA action on the issue, including 78 percent of Republicans and 94% of Democrats. In addition, a poll done by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that nearly 70% of American Jews are supportive of tougher laws and regulations to protect the environment.

Full remarks and reactions from the JCPA, COEJL and Fox News after the jump.
Jewish Council for Public Affairs President Rabbi Steve Gutow:

We applaud President Obama for recognizing our urgent responsibility to stem climate change, and we look forward to the implementation of these much-needed policies. Currently, 589 existing coal-fired power plants account for one third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing renewable energy use and energy efficiency while decreasing the burning of coal are critical steps towards energy security and a cleaner environment for future generations. The United States must show leadership both in its domestic policies and in international negotiations. The President’s announcement today puts into action our collective need to act as caretakers of creation.

Sybil Sanchez, director of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life:

As President Obama has stated, we must ‘do our part to preserve G-d’s creation for future generations.’ The religious community is a key voice in advocating for sustainable policy, particularly with regard to protecting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable from climate change impact. Last year, COEJL mobilized Jewish communal support for regulating carbon emissions from new power plants, sending hundreds of public comments to the EPA. Through COEJL’s Jewish Energy Covenant Campaign, the Jewish community has committed to a 14% reduction of energy use by 2014 as a part of our national goal of an 80% reduction from 2005 levels of greenhouse gases by 2050.

The policies announced today, together with others that have been announced over the last four years, would allow the US to meet President Obama’s goal of reducing carbon emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. As a social justice organization concerned with the impact of climate change on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, we also welcome the President’s efforts to prepare the country for climate change impact and look forward to supporting such efforts. COEJL and JCPA will continue working with the community to ensure that such policies are not only announced but adopted and fully implemented.

President Obama’s full remarks:

Everybody, please be seated. And my first announcement today is that you should all take off your jackets. (Laughter.) I’m going to do the same. (Applause.) It’s not that sexy, now.  (Laughter.)

It is good to be back on campus, and it is a great privilege to speak from the steps of this historic hall that welcomed Presidents going back to George Washington.

I want to thank your president, President DeGioia, who’s here today. (Applause.) I want to thank him for hosting us. I want to thank the many members of my Cabinet and my administration. I want to thank Leader Pelosi and the members of Congress who are here. We are very grateful for their support.

And I want to say thank you to the Hoyas in the house for having me back. (Applause.) It was important for me to speak directly to your generation, because the decisions that we make now and in the years ahead will have a profound impact on the world that all of you inherit.


In lunar orbit at Christmas 1968, Apollo 8 sent back the first view humans had ever seen of an Earthrise. Courtesy NASA.

On Christmas Eve, 1968, the astronauts of Apollo 8 did a live broadcast from lunar orbit. So Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders — the first humans to orbit the moon — described what they saw, and they read Scripture from the Book of Genesis to the rest of us back here. And later that night, they took a photo that would change the way we see and think about our world.

It was an image of Earth — beautiful; breathtaking; a glowing marble of blue oceans, and green forests, and brown mountains brushed with white clouds, rising over the surface of the moon.

And while the sight of our planet from space might seem routine today, imagine what it looked like to those of us seeing our home, our planet, for the first time. Imagine what it looked like to children like me. Even the astronauts were amazed. “It makes you realize,” Lovell would say, “just what you have back there on Earth.”

And around the same time we began exploring space, scientists were studying changes taking place in the Earth’s atmosphere. Now, scientists had known since the 1800s that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide trap heat, and that burning fossil fuels release those gases into the air. That wasn’t news. But in the late 1950s, the National Weather Service began measuring the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, with the worry that rising levels might someday disrupt the fragile balance that makes our planet so hospitable.  And what they’ve found, year after year, is that the levels of carbon pollution in our atmosphere have increased dramatically.

That science, accumulated and reviewed over decades, tells us that our planet is changing in ways that will have profound impacts on all of humankind.

The 12 warmest years in recorded history have all come in the last 15 years. Last year, temperatures in some areas of the ocean reached record highs, and ice in the Arctic shrank to its smallest size on record — faster than most models had predicted it would. These are facts.

Now, we know that no single weather event is caused solely by climate change. Droughts and fires and floods, they go back to ancient times. But we also know that in a world that’s warmer than it used to be, all weather events are affected by a warming planet. The fact that sea level in New York, in New York Harbor, are now a foot higher than a century ago — that didn’t cause Hurricane Sandy, but it certainly contributed to the destruction that left large parts of our mightiest city dark and underwater.

The potential impacts go beyond rising sea levels.  Here at home, 2012 was the warmest year in our history. Midwest farms were parched by the worst drought since the Dust Bowl, and then drenched by the wettest spring on record. Western wildfires scorched an area larger than the state of Maryland. Just last week, a heat wave in Alaska shot temperatures into the 90s.

And we know that the costs of these events can be measured in lost lives and lost livelihoods, lost homes, lost businesses, hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency services and disaster relief. In fact, those who are already feeling the effects of climate change don’t have time to deny it — they’re busy dealing with it. Firefighters are braving longer wildfire seasons, and states and federal governments have to figure out how to budget for that. I had to sit on a meeting with the Department of Interior and Agriculture and some of the rest of my team just to figure out how we’re going to pay for more and more expensive fire seasons.

Farmers see crops wilted one year, washed away the next; and the higher food prices get passed on to you, the American consumer. Mountain communities worry about what smaller snowpacks will mean for tourism — and then, families at the bottom of the mountains wonder what it will mean for their drinking water. Americans across the country are already paying the price of inaction in insurance premiums, state and local taxes, and the costs of rebuilding and disaster relief.

So the question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgment of science — of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements — has put all that to rest. Ninety-seven percent of scientists, including, by the way, some who originally disputed the data, have now put that to rest. They’ve acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it.

So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren.

As a President, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act. (Applause.)

I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.  And that’s why, today, I’m announcing a new national climate action plan, and I’m here to enlist your generation’s help in keeping the United States of America a leader — a global leader — in the fight against climate change.  

This plan builds on progress that we’ve already made.  Last year, I took office — the year that I took office, my administration pledged to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions by about 17 percent from their 2005 levels by the end of this decade. And we rolled up our sleeves and we got to work. We doubled the electricity we generated from wind and the sun. We doubled the mileage our cars will get on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade. (Applause.)

Here at Georgetown, I unveiled my strategy for a secure energy future. And thanks to the ingenuity of our businesses, we’re starting to produce much more of our own energy. We’re building the first nuclear power plants in more than three decades — in Georgia and South Carolina. For the first time in 18 years, America is poised to produce more of our own oil than we buy from other nations. And today, we produce more natural gas than anybody else. So we’re producing energy. And these advances have grown our economy, they’ve created new jobs, they can’t be shipped overseas — and, by the way, they’ve also helped drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly 20 years. Since 2006, no country on Earth has reduced its total carbon pollution by as much as the United States of America. (Applause.)

So it’s a good start. But the reason we’re all here in the heat today is because we know we’ve got more to do.

In my State of the Union address, I urged Congress to come up with a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one that Republican and Democratic senators worked on together a few years ago. And I still want to see that happen. I’m willing to work with anyone to make that happen.

But this is a challenge that does not pause for partisan gridlock. It demands our attention now. And this is my plan to meet it — a plan to cut carbon pollution; a plan to protect our country from the impacts of climate change; and a plan to lead the world in a coordinated assault on a changing climate. (Applause.)

This plan begins with cutting carbon pollution by changing the way we use energy — using less dirty energy, using more clean energy, wasting less energy throughout our economy.

Forty-three years ago, Congress passed a law called the Clean Air Act of 1970. (Applause.) It was a good law. The reasoning behind it was simple: New technology can protect our health by protecting the air we breathe from harmful pollution. And that law passed the Senate unanimously. Think about that — it passed the Senate unanimously. It passed the House of Representatives 375 to 1. I don’t know who the one guy was — I haven’t looked that up. (Laughter.) You can barely get that many votes to name a post office these days. (Laughter.)

It was signed into law by a Republican President. It was later strengthened by another Republican President. This used to be a bipartisan issue.

Six years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are pollutants covered by that same Clean Air Act. (Applause.) And they required the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, to determine whether they’re a threat to our health and welfare. In 2009, the EPA determined that they are a threat to both our health and our welfare in many different ways — from dirtier air to more common heat waves — and, therefore, subject to regulation.

Today, about 40 percent of America’s carbon pollution comes from our power plants. But here’s the thing: Right now, there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution that those plants can pump into our air. None. Zero. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, but power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for free. That’s not right, that’s not safe, and it needs to stop. (Applause.)

So today, for the sake of our children, and the health and safety of all Americans, I’m directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants. (Applause.)

I’m also directing the EPA to develop these standards in an open and transparent way, to provide flexibility to different states with different needs, and build on the leadership that many states, and cities, and companies have already shown. In fact, many power companies have already begun modernizing their plants, and creating new jobs in the process. Others have shifted to burning cleaner natural gas instead of dirtier fuel sources.

Nearly a dozen states have already implemented or are implementing their own market-based programs to reduce carbon pollution. More than 25 have set energy efficiency targets. More than 35 have set renewable energy targets. Over 1,000 mayors have signed agreements to cut carbon pollution. So the idea of setting higher pollution standards for our power plants is not new. It’s just time for Washington to catch up with the rest of the country. And that’s what we intend to do. (Applause.)

Now, what you’ll hear from the special interests and their allies in Congress is that this will kill jobs and crush the economy, and basically end American free enterprise as we know it. And the reason I know you’ll hear those things is because that’s what they said every time America sets clear rules and better standards for our air and our water and our children’s health. And every time, they’ve been wrong.

For example, in 1970, when we decided through the Clean Air Act to do something about the smog that was choking our cities — and, by the way, most young people here aren’t old enough to remember what it was like, but when I was going to school in 1979-1980 in Los Angeles, there were days where folks couldn’t go outside. And the sunsets were spectacular because of all the pollution in the air.  

But at the time when we passed the Clean Air Act to try to get rid of some of this smog, some of the same doomsayers were saying new pollution standards will decimate the auto industry. Guess what — it didn’t happen. Our air got cleaner.

In 1990, when we decided to do something about acid rain, they said our electricity bills would go up, the lights would go off, businesses around the country would suffer — I quote — “a quiet death.” None of it happened, except we cut acid rain dramatically.

See, the problem with all these tired excuses for inaction is that it suggests a fundamental lack of faith in American business and American ingenuity. (Applause.) These critics seem to think that when we ask our businesses to innovate and reduce pollution and lead, they can’t or they won’t do it. They’ll just kind of give up and quit. But in America, we know that’s not true. Look at our history.

When we restricted cancer-causing chemicals in plastics and leaded fuel in our cars, it didn’t end the plastics industry or the oil industry. American chemists came up with better substitutes. When we phased out CFCs — the gases that were depleting the ozone layer — it didn’t kill off refrigerators or air-conditioners or deodorant. (Laughter.) American workers and businesses figured out how to do it better without harming the environment as much.

The fuel standards that we put in place just a few years ago didn’t cripple automakers. The American auto industry retooled, and today, our automakers are selling the best cars in the world at a faster rate than they have in five years — with more hybrid, more plug-in, more fuel-efficient cars for everybody to choose from. (Applause.)

So the point is, if you look at our history, don’t bet against American industry. Don’t bet against American workers. Don’t tell folks that we have to choose between the health of our children or the health of our economy. (Applause.)

The old rules may say we can’t protect our environment and promote economic growth at the same time, but in America, we’ve always used new technologies — we’ve used science; we’ve used research and development and discovery to make the old rules obsolete.

Today, we use more clean energy — more renewables and natural gas — which is supporting hundreds of thousands of good jobs. We waste less energy, which saves you money at the pump and in your pocketbooks. And guess what — our economy is 60 percent bigger than it was 20 years ago, while our carbon emissions are roughly back to where they were 20 years ago.

So, obviously, we can figure this out. It’s not an either/or; it’s a both/and. We’ve got to look after our children; we have to look after our future; and we have to grow the economy and create jobs. We can do all of that as long as we don’t fear the future; instead we seize it. (Applause.)

And, by the way, don’t take my word for it — recently, more than 500 businesses, including giants like GM and Nike, issued a Climate Declaration, calling action on climate change “one of the great economic opportunities of the 21st century.” Walmart is working to cut its carbon pollution by 20 percent and transition completely to renewable energy. (Applause.) Walmart deserves a cheer for that. (Applause.) But think about it. Would the biggest company, the biggest retailer in America — would they really do that if it weren’t good for business, if it weren’t good for their shareholders?

A low-carbon, clean energy economy can be an engine of growth for decades to come. And I want America to build that engine. I want America to build that future — right here in the United States of America. That’s our task. (Applause.)

Now, one thing I want to make sure everybody understands — this does not mean that we’re going to suddenly stop producing fossil fuels. Our economy wouldn’t run very well if it did. And transitioning to a clean energy economy takes time. But when the doomsayers trot out the old warnings that these ambitions will somehow hurt our energy supply, just remind them that America produced more oil than we have in 15 years. What is true is that we can’t just drill our way out of the energy and climate challenge that we face. (Applause.) That’s not possible.

I put forward in the past an all-of-the-above energy strategy, but our energy strategy must be about more than just producing more oil. And, by the way, it’s certainly got to be about more than just building one pipeline. (Applause.)

Now, I know there’s been, for example, a lot of controversy surrounding the proposal to build a pipeline, the Keystone pipeline, that would carry oil from Canadian tar sands down to refineries in the Gulf. And the State Department is going through the final stages of evaluating the proposal. That’s how it’s always been done. But I do want to be clear: Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. (Applause.) The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant.

Now, even as we’re producing more domestic oil, we’re also producing more cleaner-burning natural gas than any other country on Earth. And, again, sometimes there are disputes about natural gas, but let me say this: We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions.

Federally supported technology has helped our businesses drill more effectively and extract more gas. And now, we’ll keep working with the industry to make drilling safer and cleaner, to make sure that we’re not seeing methane emissions, and to put people to work modernizing our natural gas infrastructure so that we can power more homes and businesses with cleaner energy.

The bottom line is natural gas is creating jobs. It’s lowering many families’ heat and power bills. And it’s the transition fuel that can power our economy with less carbon pollution even as our businesses work to develop and then deploy more of the technology required for the even cleaner energy economy of the future.

And that brings me to the second way that we’re going to reduce carbon pollution — by using more clean energy. Over the past four years, we’ve doubled the electricity that we generate from zero-carbon wind and solar power. (Applause.) And that means jobs — jobs manufacturing the wind turbines that now generate enough electricity to power nearly 15 million homes; jobs installing the solar panels that now generate more than four times the power at less cost than just a few years ago.

I know some Republicans in Washington dismiss these jobs, but those who do need to call home — because 75 percent of all wind energy in this country is generated in Republican districts. (Laughter.) And that may explain why last year, Republican governors in Kansas and Oklahoma and Iowa — Iowa, by the way, a state that harnesses almost 25 percent of its electricity from the wind — helped us in the fight to extend tax credits for wind energy manufacturers and producers. (Applause.) Tens of thousands good jobs were on the line, and those jobs were worth the fight.

And countries like China and Germany are going all in in the race for clean energy. I believe Americans build things better than anybody else. I want America to win that race, but we can’t win it if we’re not in it. (Applause.)

So the plan I’m announcing today will help us double again our energy from wind and sun. Today, I’m directing the Interior Department to green light enough private, renewable energy capacity on public lands to power more than 6 million homes by 2020. (Applause.)

The Department of Defense — the biggest energy consumer in America — will install 3 gigawatts of renewable power on its bases, generating about the same amount of electricity each year as you’d get from burning 3 million tons of coal. (Applause.)

And because billions of your tax dollars continue to still subsidize some of the most profitable corporations in the history of the world, my budget once again calls for Congress to end the tax breaks for big oil companies, and invest in the clean-energy companies that will fuel our future. (Applause.)

Now, the third way to reduce carbon pollution is to waste less energy — in our cars, our homes, our businesses. The fuel standards we set over the past few years mean that by the middle of the next decade, the cars and trucks we buy will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. That means you’ll have to fill up half as often; we’ll all reduce carbon pollution. And we built on that success by setting the first-ever standards for heavy-duty trucks and buses and vans. And in the coming months, we’ll partner with truck makers to do it again for the next generation of vehicles.

Meanwhile, the energy we use in our homes and our businesses and our factories, our schools, our hospitals — that’s responsible for about one-third of our greenhouse gases. The good news is simple upgrades don’t just cut that pollution; they put people to work — manufacturing and installing smarter lights and windows and sensors and appliances. And the savings show up in our electricity bills every month — forever. That’s why we’ve set new energy standards for appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers. And today, our businesses are building better ones that will also cut carbon pollution and cut consumers’ electricity bills by hundreds of billions of dollars.

That means, by the way, that our federal government also has to lead by example. I’m proud that federal agencies have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 15 percent since I took office. But we can do even better than that. So today, I’m setting a new goal: Your federal government will consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources within the next seven years. We are going to set that goal.  (Applause.)

We’ll also encourage private capital to get off the sidelines and get into these energy-saving investments. And by the end of the next decade, these combined efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings will reduce carbon pollution by at least three billion tons. That’s an amount equal to what our entire energy sector emits in nearly half a year.

So I know these standards don’t sound all that sexy, but think of it this way: That’s the equivalent of planting 7.6 billion trees and letting them grow for 10 years — all while doing the dishes. It is a great deal and we need to be doing it. (Applause.)

So using less dirty energy, transitioning to cleaner sources of energy, wasting less energy through our economy is where we need to go. And this plan will get us there faster. But I want to be honest — this will not get us there overnight. The hard truth is carbon pollution has built up in our atmosphere for decades now. And even if we Americans do our part, the planet will slowly keep warming for some time to come. The seas will slowly keep rising and storms will get more severe, based on the science. It’s like tapping the brakes of a car before you come to a complete stop and then can shift into reverse. It’s going to take time for carbon emissions to stabilize.

So in the meantime, we’re going to need to get prepared. And that’s why this plan will also protect critical sectors of our economy and prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change that we cannot avoid. States and cities across the country are already taking it upon themselves to get ready. Miami Beach is hardening its water supply against seeping saltwater. We’re partnering with the state of Florida to restore Florida’s natural clean water delivery system — the Everglades.
The overwhelmingly Republican legislature in Texas voted to spend money on a new water development bank as a long-running drought cost jobs and forced a town to truck in water from the outside.

New York City is fortifying its 520 miles of coastline as an insurance policy against more frequent and costly storms. And what we’ve learned from Hurricane Sandy and other disasters is that we’ve got to build smarter, more resilient infrastructure that can protect our homes and businesses, and withstand more powerful storms. That means stronger seawalls, natural barriers, hardened power grids, hardened water systems, hardened fuel supplies.

So the budget I sent Congress includes funding to support communities that build these projects, and this plan directs federal agencies to make sure that any new project funded with taxpayer dollars is built to withstand increased flood risks.

And we’ll partner with communities seeking help to prepare for droughts and floods, reduce the risk of wildfires, protect the dunes and wetlands that pull double duty as green space and as natural storm barriers. And we’ll also open our climate data and NASA climate imagery to the public, to make sure that cities and states assess risk under different climate scenarios, so that we don’t waste money building structures that don’t withstand the next storm.

So that’s what my administration will do to support the work already underway across America, not only to cut carbon pollution, but also to protect ourselves from climate change. But as I think everybody here understands, no nation can solve this challenge alone — not even one as powerful as ours. And that’s why the final part of our plan calls on America to lead — lead international efforts to combat a changing climate. (Applause.)  

And make no mistake — the world still looks to America to lead. When I spoke to young people in Turkey a few years ago, the first question I got wasn’t about the challenges that part of the world faces. It was about the climate challenge that we all face, and America’s role in addressing it. And it was a fair question, because as the world’s largest economy and second-largest carbon emitter, as a country with unsurpassed ability to drive innovation and scientific breakthroughs, as the country that people around the world continue to look to in times of crisis, we’ve got a vital role to play. We can’t stand on the sidelines. We’ve got a unique responsibility. And the steps that I’ve outlined today prove that we’re willing to meet that responsibility.  

Though all America’s carbon pollution fell last year, global carbon pollution rose to a record high. That’s a problem. Developing countries are using more and more energy, and tens of millions of people entering a global middle class naturally want to buy cars and air-conditioners of their own, just like us. Can’t blame them for that. And when you have conversations with poor countries, they’ll say, well, you went through these stages of development — why can’t we?

But what we also have to recognize is these same countries are also more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than we are. They don’t just have as much to lose, they probably have more to lose.

Developing nations with some of the fastest-rising levels of carbon pollution are going to have to take action to meet this challenge alongside us. They’re watching what we do, but we’ve got to make sure that they’re stepping up to the plate as well. We compete for business with them, but we also share a planet. And we have to all shoulder the responsibility for keeping the planet habitable, or we’re going to suffer the consequences — together.

So to help more countries transitioning to cleaner sources of energy and to help them do it faster, we’re going to partner with our private sector to apply private sector technological know-how in countries that transition to natural gas. We’ve mobilized billions of dollars in private capital for clean energy projects around the world.

Today, I’m calling for an end of public financing for new coal plants overseas — (applause) — unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there’s no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity. And I urge other countries to join this effort.

And I’m directing my administration to launch negotiations toward global free trade in environmental goods and services, including clean energy technology, to help more countries skip past the dirty phase of development and join a global low-carbon economy. They don’t have to repeat all the same mistakes that we made. (Applause.)

We’ve also intensified our climate cooperation with major emerging economies like India and Brazil, and China — the world’s largest emitter. So, for example, earlier this month, President Xi of China and I reached an important agreement to jointly phase down our production and consumption of dangerous hydrofluorocarbons, and we intend to take more steps together in the months to come. It will make a difference. It’s a significant step in the reduction of carbon emissions. (Applause.)

And finally, my administration will redouble our efforts to engage our international partners in reaching a new global agreement to reduce carbon pollution through concrete action. (Applause.)

Four years ago, in Copenhagen, every major country agreed, for the first time, to limit carbon pollution by 2020. Two years ago, we decided to forge a new agreement beyond 2020 that would apply to all countries, not just developed countries.

What we need is an agreement that’s ambitious — because that’s what the scale of the challenge demands. We need an inclusive agreement — because every country has to play its part. And we need an agreement that’s flexible — because different nations have different needs. And if we can come together and get this right, we can define a sustainable future for your generation.

So that’s my plan. (Applause.) The actions I’ve announced today should send a strong signal to the world that America intends to take bold action to reduce carbon pollution. We will continue to lead by the power of our example, because that’s what the United States of America has always done.

I am convinced this is the fight America can, and will, lead in the 21st century. And I’m convinced this is a fight that America must lead. But it will require all of us to do our part. We’ll need scientists to design new fuels, and we’ll need farmers to grow new fuels. We’ll need engineers to devise new technologies, and we’ll need businesses to make and sell those technologies. We’ll need workers to operate assembly lines that hum with high-tech, zero-carbon components, but we’ll also need builders to hammer into place the foundations for a new clean energy era.

We’re going to need to give special care to people and communities that are unsettled by this transition — not just here in the United States but around the world. And those of us in positions of responsibility, we’ll need to be less concerned with the judgment of special interests and well-connected donors, and more concerned with the judgment of posterity.  (Applause.) Because you and your children, and your children’s children, will have to live with the consequences of our decisions.

As I said before, climate change has become a partisan issue, but it hasn’t always been. It wasn’t that long ago that Republicans led the way on new and innovative policies to tackle these issues. Richard Nixon opened the EPA. George H.W. Bush declared — first U.S. President to declare — “human activities are changing the atmosphere in unexpected and unprecedented ways.” Someone who never shies away from a challenge, John McCain, introduced a market-based cap-and-trade bill to slow carbon pollution.

The woman that I’ve chosen to head up the EPA, Gina McCarthy, she’s worked — (applause) — she’s terrific. Gina has worked for the EPA in my administration, but she’s also worked for five Republican governors. She’s got a long track record of working with industry and business leaders to forge common-sense solutions. Unfortunately, she’s being held up in the Senate. She’s been held up for months, forced to jump through hoops no Cabinet nominee should ever have to — not because she lacks qualifications, but because there are too many in the Republican Party right now who think that the Environmental Protection Agency has no business protecting our environment from carbon pollution. The Senate should confirm her without any further obstruction or delay. (Applause.)
But more broadly, we’ve got to move beyond partisan politics on this issue. I want to be clear — I am willing to work with anybody — Republicans, Democrats, independents, libertarians, greens — anybody — to combat this threat on behalf of our kids. I am open to all sorts of new ideas, maybe better ideas, to make sure that we deal with climate change in a way that promotes jobs and growth.

Nobody has a monopoly on what is a very hard problem, but I don’t have much patience for anyone who denies that this challenge is real. (Applause.) We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society. (Applause.) Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm. And ultimately, we will be judged as a people, and as a society, and as a country on where we go from here.

Our founders believed that those of us in positions of power are elected not just to serve as custodians of the present, but as caretakers of the future. And they charged us to make decisions with an eye on a longer horizon than the arc of our own political careers. That’s what the American people expect. That’s what they deserve.

And someday, our children, and our children’s children, will look at us in the eye and they’ll ask us, did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safer, more stable world? And I want to be able to say, yes, we did. Don’t you want that? (Applause.)

Americans are not a people who look backwards; we’re a people who look forward. We’re not a people who fear what the future holds; we shape it. What we need in this fight are citizens who will stand up, and speak up, and compel us to do what this moment demands.

Understand this is not just a job for politicians. So I’m going to need all of you to educate your classmates, your colleagues, your parents, your friends. Tell them what’s at stake. Speak up at town halls, church groups, PTA meetings. Push back on misinformation. Speak up for the facts. Broaden the circle of those who are willing to stand up for our future. (Applause.)

Convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution. Push your own communities to adopt smarter practices. Invest. Divest. (Applause.) Remind folks there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth. And remind everyone who represents you at every level of government that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote. Make yourself heard on this issue. (Applause.)

I understand the politics will be tough. The challenge we must accept will not reward us with a clear moment of victory. There’s no gathering army to defeat. There’s no peace treaty to sign. When President Kennedy said we’d go to the moon within the decade, we knew we’d build a spaceship and we’d meet the goal. Our progress here will be measured differently — in crises averted, in a planet preserved. But can we imagine a more worthy goal? For while we may not live to see the full realization of our ambition, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that the world we leave to our children will be better off for what we did.

“It makes you realize,” that astronaut said all those years ago, “just what you have back there on Earth.” And that image in the photograph, that bright blue ball rising over the moon’s surface, containing everything we hold dear — the laughter of children, a quiet sunset, all the hopes and dreams of posterity — that’s what’s at stake. That’s what we’re fighting for. And if we remember that, I’m absolutely sure we’ll succeed.

Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.

Occasional PJVoice Contributor Arrested At White House Protest


— by Rabbi Arthur Waskov

Along with 14 other religious folks, clergy and committed “laity,” I was arrested for standing at the White House with signs and songs, reciting the names of more than one hundred people who had been killed by one result of the climate crisis — Superstorm Sandy.

Among those arrested alongside me were Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, who teaches on social justice at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and is a member of The Shalom Center’s Board; Lynne Iser, a member of the Board of Isabella Freedman retreat center; and Freyda Black, a cantor, farmer, and member of P’nai Or Fellowship in Philadelphia.

More after the jump.
We were calling on the President to act swiftly to heal our Mother Earth from the climate crisis, from the plagues that modern Pharaohs — Big Oil, Big Coal, Unnatural Gas — have brought upon us.

As you see on the faces of two of us actually in the prison wagon after our arrests, the arrest itself — paradoxically — felt like a step into freedom, a continuation of, rather than a break from, both our joy in singing and our sorrow at the deaths we had recited. What is the Freedom of Passover? Freedom to grieve our wounds, Freedom to celebrate our covenant for action with YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, the Holy One who is the interbreathing of all life.

These are the Ten Plagues I recited, and below them, “Ten Healings” that accompanied the blessing of our Globe.

Ten Plagues

  1. Undrinkable water poisoned by fracking. (Sorrow!)
  2. Asthma: Lungs suffering from coal dust and gasoline fumes. (Sorrow!)
  3. Suffering and death for fish, birds, vegetation, and human beings from the oil upheaval in the Gulf of Mexico. (Sorrow!)
  4. Smashed mountains and dead coal-miners in the lovely hills of West Virginia. (Sorrow!)
  5. Unheard-of droughts in Africa, setting off hunger, starvation, civil wars and genocide. (Sorrow!)
  6. Drought in Russia, setting off peat-bog fires and scarcity of wheat. (Sorrow!)
  7. Summer-long intense heat wave in Europe, killing thousands of elders. (Sorrow!)
  8. Unheard-of floods in Pakistan, putting one-fifth of the country under water. (Sorrow!)
  9. Superstorm Sandy, killing hundreds in Haiti and America. (Sorrow!)
  10. Years of drought and fires in Australia. (Sorrow!)
  11. Parched corn fields and dead crops in the US corn-belt. (Sorrow!)

Ten Healings

  1. Creating organic farms in countrysides and cities. (L’chayyim, To life!)
  2. Wind-based energy: Purchasing home & company electric power from wind-based suppliers. (L’chayyim, To life!)
  3. Hybrid or electric cars. Families buy them; convince cities, government agencies, & businesses to switch their auto fleets. (L’chayyim, To life!)
  4. Use public transportation. (L’chayyim, To life!)
  5. Family & congregational education/ action to heal the Earth: At Bat/Bar Mitzvah time and teen-age baptisms/ confirmations, “turning hearts of children and parents to each other, lest the Earth be utterly destroyed” (Quote from last passage of Malachi, last of the classical Hebrew Prophets). (L’chayyim, To life!)
  6. Vigils, picketing, civil disobedience at sites of mountain destruction by coal companies. (L’chayyim, To life!)
  7. Prevent the Tar Sands Pipeline. (L’chayyim, To life!)
  8. End fracking: Insist on moratoriums or prohibitions. (L’chayyim, To life!)
  9. Divestment by colleges, pension funds, religious communities, etc from investment in fossil-fuel companies, shifting investment to renewable, sustainable energy. (L’chayyim, To life!)
  10. Carbon pricing: Insisting that Members of Congress put prices on carbon-fuel production and pay dividends from the incoming fees to American families. (L’chayyim, To life!)

Jewish Environmental Coalition Responds to the State of the Union


The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life welcomed President Obama’s affirmation of his commitment to renewable energy and reducing our nation’s contribution to climate change, announced in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

“We praise President Obama for proposing the Energy Security Trust and prioritizing our nation’s response to the threat of global climate change,” said JCPA President and COEJL Co-Chair Rabbi Steve Gutow.

The President has highlighted his understanding of the moral urgency of reducing our contribution to the climate crisis. We hope to see regulations that enable us to achieve our national goal of a 17% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020.

More after the jump.
COEJL tries to lead the Jewish community in an effort to reduce our Jewish energy use by 14% by the fall of 2014, the start of the next Shmittah cycle on the Jewish calendar.

“Reducing our nation’s reliance on fossil fuels would reduce serious environmental health risks, especially within our nation’s poorest communities, and ensure a cleaner and safer world for our children and future generations. As reflected by the President in his inaugural speech, we have a moral responsibility to ‘preserve our planet, commanded to our care by G-d,'” said Sybil Sanchez, director of COEJL.

In terms of next steps, we urge stronger implementation of the Clean Air Act, for example a limit on carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. Further, while continuing to focus on energy independence, we hope that all steps toward clean energy prioritize environmental protection. Further, sufficient safeguards and regulations must be applied in the production of natural gas and all other forms of energy in order to protect groundwater sources, surface water sources, air quality, human and animal health, infrastructure and ecosystems.

Tomorrow: Multi-Religious Pray-In For Climate At The White House

— by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

The Interfaith Moral Action on Climate will hold tomorrow (Tuesday) a multi-religious Pray-in for the Climate at the White House. The Pray-in will gather at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, three short blocks from the White House. Speakers there will include

  • Jacqueline Patterson, IMAC steering committee and climate point person for the NAACP;
  • Imam Johari Malik, the “Green Imam” of Washington;
  • Diane Randall, exec of the Friends Committee on National Legislation;
  • Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; and
  • Rev. Bob Edgar, former Congressman, former general secretary of the National Council of Churches, and now CEO of Common Cause.

More after the jump.
At the White House Pray-in itself, leaders of various religious communities will speak from their spiritual truth and from diverse Scriptures in a ceremony that will move from Calls to Prayer into three aspects of religious commitment:

  • Celebration of the Sacrednss of Earth
  • Lamentation for the Wounds of Eath
  • Commitment to Healing Action

Some will then choose an act of prayerful civil disobedience, while others will choose a stance of prayerful witness.

For months, various politicians have been warning us of the dire effects on our grandchildren of the federal deficit and insisting that when the Fiscal Cliff arrives this winter we must drastically cut Federal spending on schools, our infrastructure of bridges and sewers and railroads, medic aid, and renewable energy.

For me, grandchildren are not a political abstraction. I have five of them, ranging from three years old to twelve. When I imagine their futures, I am much more worried about how empty-headed education, worsening health, a rotting infrastructure, and especially more disasters like Superstorm Sandy will affect them.  

Much more dangerous than the Fiscal Cliff is the Climate Cliff we are facing, as the growing number of extreme weather events — superstorms, fierce floods, drastic droughts — wound us and warn us.

Our religious communities should join with labor unions, small businesses, PTA’s, coops, neighborhood associations, and our college faculty and students to demand a set of changes that will sow the seeds of greater change, by cutting the power of the Carbon Lords and committing the President and Congress to vigorous action. If we go over the Climate Cliff now, my grandchildren — our grandchildren — will live in misery and suffering.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg: Vote for a leader on climate change

— by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast — in lost lives, lost homes and lost business — brought the stakes of Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief.

The floods and fires that swept through our city left a path of destruction that will require years of recovery and rebuilding work. And in the short term, our subway system remains partially shut down, and many city residents and businesses still have no power. In just 14 months, two hurricanes have forced us to evacuate neighborhoods — something our city government had never done before. If this is a trend, it is simply not sustainable.

Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be — given this week’s devastation — should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.

Here in New York, our comprehensive sustainability plan — PlaNYC — has helped allow us to cut our carbon footprint by 16 percent in just five years, which is the equivalent of eliminating the carbon footprint of a city twice the size of Seattle. Through the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group — a partnership among many of the world’s largest cities — local governments are taking action where national governments are not.

More after the jump.


TPM2012: “The grassroots progressive group ClimateSilence.org is bringing Sandy into the presidential campaign in two of its most important battlegrounds — Ohio and Virginia — in the final stretch toward Election Day.

The group is running a TV ad on cable in key markets in both states built around a Romney quip in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention that dismissed Obama’s talk of climate change. While Romney speaks — and the sound of laughter from his Republican audience can be heard — footage from Sandy plays.”

Leadership Needed

But we can’t do it alone. We need leadership from the White House — and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. His administration also has adopted tighter controls on mercury emissions, which will help to close the dirtiest coal power plants (an effort I have supported through my philanthropy), which are estimated to kill 13,000 Americans a year.

Mitt Romney, too, has a history of tackling climate change. As governor of Massachusetts, he signed on to a regional cap- and-trade plan designed to reduce carbon emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels. “The benefits (of that plan) will be long- lasting and enormous — benefits to our health, our economy, our quality of life, our very landscape. These are actions we can and must take now, if we are to have ‘no regrets’ when we transfer our temporary stewardship of this Earth to the next generation,” he wrote at the time.

He couldn’t have been more right. But since then, he has reversed course, abandoning the very cap-and-trade program he once supported. This issue is too important. We need determined leadership at the national level to move the nation and the world forward.

I believe Mitt Romney is a good and decent man, and he would bring valuable business experience to the Oval Office. He understands that America was built on the promise of equal opportunity, not equal results. In the past he has also taken sensible positions on immigration, illegal guns, abortion rights and health care. But he has reversed course on all of them, and is even running against the health-care model he signed into law in Massachusetts.

If the 1994 or 2003 version of Mitt Romney were running for president, I may well have voted for him because, like so many other independents, I have found the past four years to be, in a word, disappointing.

In 2008, Obama ran as a pragmatic problem-solver and consensus-builder. But as president, he devoted little time and effort to developing and sustaining a coalition of centrists, which doomed hope for any real progress on illegal guns, immigration, tax reform, job creation and deficit reduction. And rather than uniting the country around a message of shared sacrifice, he engaged in partisan attacks and has embraced a divisive populist agenda focused more on redistributing income than creating it.

Important Victories

Nevertheless, the president has achieved some important victories on issues that will help define our future. His Race to the Top education program — much of which was opposed by the teachers’ unions, a traditional Democratic Party constituency — has helped drive badly needed reform across the country, giving local districts leverage to strengthen accountability in the classroom and expand charter schools. His health-care law — for all its flaws — will provide insurance coverage to people who need it most and save lives.

When I step into the voting booth, I think about the world I want to leave my two daughters, and the values that are required to guide us there. The two parties’ nominees for president offer different visions of where they want to lead America.

One believes a woman’s right to choose should be protected for future generations; one does not. That difference, given the likelihood of Supreme Court vacancies, weighs heavily on my decision.

One recognizes marriage equality as consistent with America’s march of freedom; one does not. I want our president to be on the right side of history.

One sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.

Of course, neither candidate has specified what hard decisions he will make to get our economy back on track while also balancing the budget. But in the end, what matters most isn’t the shape of any particular proposal; it’s the work that must be done to bring members of Congress together to achieve bipartisan solutions.

Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan both found success while their parties were out of power in Congress — and President Obama can, too. If he listens to people on both sides of the aisle, and builds the trust of moderates, he can fulfill the hope he inspired four years ago and lead our country toward a better future for my children and yours. And that’s why I will be voting for him.