US Bishops on Climate Change

On June 7, John Carr, the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Department of Social Development and World Peace, testifiedbefore the Senate's Committee on Environment and Public Works regardingthe Catholic "bishops' position on climate change."  Although thetestimony does not break much new ground over the 2001 bishops'statement on the issue, it does have some interesting bits, including astatement that, although it still hedges a little bit, comes closerthan the 2001 document (or at least my hazy memory of that document) toa straightforward acknowledgment that climate change is happening. Here are a few highlights:

The bishops accept the growingconsensus on climate change represented by the International Panel onClimate Change, but also recognize continuing debate and someuncertainties about the speed and severity of climate change.  However,it is not wise or useful to either minimize or exaggerate theuncertainties and challenges we face.

...Prudence requires wiseaction to address problems that will most likely only grow in magnitudeand consequences.  Prudence is not simply about avoiding impulsiveaction, picking the predictable course or avoiding risks, but it canalso require taking bold action weighing available policy alternativeand moral goods and taking considered and decisive stops before theproblems grow worse.

We believe solidarity also requires thatthe United States lead the way in addressing this issue and inaddressing the disproportionate burdens of poorer countries andvulnerable people.

Those who contributed least to climate changewill be affected the most; those who face the greatest threats willlikely bear the greatest burdens and have the least capacity to cope orescape.  We should come together to focus more on protecting the poorthan on protecting ourselves and promoting narrow agendas.

Eduardo M. Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. The views expressed in the piece are his own, and should not be attributed to Cornell University or Cornell Law School.

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