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Climate Risk and UU Issues

An essay on why we might lose the future Jan Dash, PhD UU-UNO Climate Initiative (Chair)
I wake up every morning around 5:30 a.m. and go straight to my email to get the latest bad news on climate change. Current actual and future projected increasing negative climate impacts are laid out. Climate impacts will increasingly dominate human activities globally if we continue business as usual without mitigation. There is no safe haven. We must do what we can to mitigate the damage we are doing to the planet. If we do not deal effectively with the climate problem, we may indeed lose the future. Dealing effectively with climate will be hard, but will have positive future aspects, including large-scale renewable energy and green jobs. The road to effective mitigation of climate change, with some adaptation, has been clear for a long time. The framework is climate risk management. We have many risks that we manage successfully. Climate risk needs to be managed too. Awareness of the climate problem with the focus, will and determination to act today are the key. Though we UUs are small in number, we can have significant leverage to mitigate the climate problem. Yet today we do not have the necessary focus, will, or determination. Why? We need to see climate change as NOT just one more issue in the long list of other legitimate UU concerns: social justice, peace, women’s rights, civil rights, LGBT, immigration, housing, the poor, public health, water, ethical eating, pollution, technology, light bulbs, sustainability, solar panels, political action, and many others. All these issues are important, and they have dedicated advocates that work hard every day to make the world a better place. We need this advocacy. Those involved with climate change are viscerally aware of these issues. Climate change interacts with all other issues and exacerbates them. The UU-UNO Climate Portal and many other sites document these impacts and linkages. But climate is the unique problem which if not mitigated will make all these other issues moot in the long run. We cannot solve these issues if climate impacts, already visible and already impacting some people, continue unabated with long-term potentially unimaginably horrible consequences. Linkages need to be a two-way street. We need to work hard on climate in addition to those issues that demand our attention; otherwise, there can be no enduring solution to any issue. We can have positive focus on all issues. In brief, we need to act on climate alongside our other activities, with the urgency that climate change demands so that we meet our moral and ethical obligations to those that are being impacted by climate now, and so that the world will be a place in which our children and grandchildren want to live. A few examples (there are many more): • Those who act on immigration might consider also acting on climate change, because if climate change continues unabated there will be hundreds of millions of desperate displaced homeless people migrating in many parts of the world, with millions entering the US from Mexico, having zero rights. Governments may treat immigrants as invaders.

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Those who act on civil rights might consider also acting on climate change, because climate change will cause instability or collapse of many political and economic systems, destroying civil rights. Those who change their light bulbs and make other personal sustainability efforts (great!) might also consider participating in climate advocacy, because personal action will not be enough to stop the impending climate disaster. Those who want solar panels might consider that the really large-scale solar projects needed for climate mitigation won’t be funded unless climate costs of fossil fuels are explicit; or else fossil fuels seem cheaper than renewable energy. Those who serve food in soup kitchens might reflect on the study showing yields of major crops in the United States falling up to 80% in this century if global warming continues unabated.

Unfortunately climate change today is of limited concern to UUs. We UUs passed a climate Statement of Conscience in 2006 with all kinds of excellent action items. Some progress has been made with Green Sanctuary and environmental programs in individual congregations, but climate for UUs in general has fallen “off the front page”. Can UUs find the will and energy to act with the intensity that successful mitigation of climate change requires? I continue to hope so. UUs passionate about other worthwhile issues need to be just as passionate about climate, to help avoid long-term systemic disaster. To not lose the future we need to act coherently on the over-riding issue of climate change. What can we do? Here are three recommendations. 1. We must not assume that UUs already know about climate so that it doesn’t have to be mentioned. Climate needs to be back on the front page for UUs. 2. UU national and local environmental organizations need to act together. Rev. Earl Koteen has begun a nationwide effort in this direction. 3. All UUs should consider becoming more active in helping with programs of climate change, in concert with UU environmental organizations, including political action. ”For those who “don’t know what to do”, the UU-UNO Climate Portal has resources on climate mitigation and many links. Scientists, lawyers, doctors, marketers, psychologists, computer specialists etc. – everyone can help. Musicians, artists, and actors can portray climate change to reach people. And - starting small is fine, but doing nothing for climate is not fine. UUs can be a strong voice nationally and internationally. This will not be easy. An army of fraudulent climate-change deniers/contrarians/faux-skeptics, the fossil fuel industry, libertarian think tanks, and the full vicious force and fury of the rightwing media oppose risk-management mitigation of climate change. What’s the bottom line? Climate impacts have already started, harming many who did little to cause the problem, and will get far worse if humanity does not act vigorously soon. My grandson, age 5, told my daughter that he is going to stop global warming. To this end he turns off lights and picks up litter. In good conscience, can we leave the climate problem to our children and grandchildren? We UUs need to stand up and not stand by. It’s NOT too late. YOU can help. We must not have future generations say, of us: "they knew but did not act." We must be able to look our children and grandchildren in the eye, saying: “We understood the risks and we did our best on climate”. If we do act on climate, the future can be livable. We can win the future.
File = Climate Risk and UU Issues_FINAL_2Aug11.doc, 8/2/11 7:47 PM