Stephen Donahoe talk on The Moral Imperative of Climate Change

Posted by Sappho on May 10th, 2013 filed in Classes, Lectures, and Conferences, Quaker Practice


I need to quit waiting till I can write long elaborate posts, and start writing short simple posts again. This week, I went to a talk at the Irvine United Congregational Church, by Stephen Donahoe of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), on climate change. The talk was jointly sponsoer by IUCC and my own Quaker meeting, Orange County Friends Meeting.

FCNL, for those of you who don’t already know, is the Quaker lobbying group in Washington DC, and the oldest religious lobbying group there. It was founded in 1943, to lobby for recognition of conscientious objectors, and, that task accomplished, decided to stay in existence to lobby for other issues that concerned Friends.

Before the talk, I met someone from the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan group lobbying for legislation to address carbon emissions and climate change. Here, for example, is their carbon fee and dividend FAQ. Right now, the local Orange County chapter of this group is organizing meetings between constituents concerned about climate change and our local Congressional Representatives. I also learned, later in the meeting, about the Orange County Interfaith Coalition for the Environment.

Stephen Donahoe discussed reasons why it is critical to act on climate change, legislation that has been proposed now or may be proposed soon, and why we need to keep faith that our action can make a difference, and not be cynical and convinced that nothing can be done in Washington. He also passed out some literature from FCNL, so my summary is going to combine that and the notes I took in the form of live tweeting some of the talk.

Reasons why climate change is critical: We are already experiencing resource wars fueled by climate change. An example is the water wars in Kenys, in which the nomadic Turkana people of northern Kenya and the nearby Pokot and Samburu tribes have engaged in skirmishes that have killed over 400 people and are spreading across borders, leading to clashes with the Ugandan military in 2009. (Here I note that, on a larger scale, the Darfur conflict has also been fueled by water conflict as a consequence of desertification, and spilled across borders into Chad and the Central African Republic.) Climate change has also led to increased natural disasters and climate refugees. For example, in 2010, record-breaking monsoon rainstorms over the mountainous areas of northwest Pakistan caused massive flooding that covered almost one-fifth of the country.

Reasons to trust that we can have an effect: Donahoe gave as examples a Quaker high school group came to Washington to lobby their Senator on climate change and some lobbying of Senator Grassley on the Pentagon budget done by some of his Iowa constituents. (There were other examples, but these are the two I remember.)

Lobbying that FCNL has done: This includes teaching students to lobby, joint lobbying with the Evangelical Climate Network, and joint lobbying with communities of color.

Legislation currently under consideration:

The Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill is a bipartisan bill to promote more energy efficient buildings. The biggest emissions producer in the US is not cars but buildings, so energy efficient buildings could significantly reduce carbon emissions.

In the long term the FCNL supports a carbon tax. Boxer and Sanders have a carbon tax bill (which doesn’t currently look likely to win Republican support). Someone from Rhode Island has five people in Congress working on another climate change bill. (I didn’t manage to make a note of who from Rhode Island is doing this, I guessing maybe Senator Jack Reed? Since he turns out to be the one who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment.) Cantwell and Collins may introduce a cap and dividend bill (which would be bipartisan, since Cantwell is a Democrat and Collins is a Republican.

Here is the section on environment and energy legislation at FCNL’s web site, and here is what they have to say about A Little Light for Climate Change Legislation.


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