Petition focuses on climate change - Catholic Courier

Petition focuses on climate change

Global climate change is an issue all Catholics should be concerned about, regardless of their own personal feelings and beliefs about the validity or seriousness of the issue, according to Father Brian Cool, chairperson of the diocesan Public Policy Committee and Catholic chaplain at the University of Rochester.

“There are plenty of people who believe this is not an issue or it is not as severe as some may believe,” Father Cool wrote in an e-mail interview with the Catholic Courier. “Yet I really don’t think anyone can argue with the fact that we as Catholic Christians are stewards of the earth, and as such we have plenty of opportunities to become better stewards.”

Becoming a better steward and taking good care of the earth means taking precautionary measures to slow or prevent developments — such as global climate change — that have the potential to harm the earth and its citizens, Father Cool maintained.

Parishioners will be asked to embrace their call to stewardship next weekend, Feb. 2-3, which is this year’s Public Policy Weekend. Global climate change is this year’s advocacy issue, and parishioners will be asked to encourage New York state’s political leaders to take immediate action related to this issue.

New York produces more carbon-dioxide pollution than 99 developing countries combined, according to materials distributed by the Public Policy Committee. Under the new Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which will take effect in 2009, power plants in the Northeast — including New York — will be required to reduce their carbon-dioxide emissions and pay a fee for any pollution in the form of greenhouse gases that they still release. These fees will provide a new source of income for New York, but the state government has not yet determined how the income will be used, according to materials distributed by the Public Policy Committee.

During Public Policy Weekend parishes will circulate petitions encouraging state leaders to use this income to foster energy efficiency and conservation efforts, fund renewable-energy initiatives, and help poor and low-income New Yorkers pay their utility costs.

In their 2001 pastoral statement, “Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good,” the bishops of the United States encouraged Catholics to look at the issue of global climate change through the lens of Catholic social teaching. The statement said that Catholics are called to work to help the poor, and global climate change will likely have the most adverse effects on the world’s poor, who don’t have the resources to adequately adjust to such change.

Catholic social teaching also calls Catholics to act in the pursuit of the common good and to practice prudence, both of which require Catholics to take action against potential global climate change, according to the pastoral statement.

“I think all people of faith have a responsibility to support this initiative and should sign this (petition) and become better stewards of their environment,” Father Cool said.

The Public Policy Committee chose to make global climate change this year’s advocacy issue — it was an education priority on last year’s public-policy agenda — after studying a number of issues and needs that its members thought should be addressed, Father Cool said.

“We look at the political landscape and discern what may be an issue we can get traction with through the local media and what may be an issue in the New York state Legislature. Additionally, we look at what we have been doing around an issue,” he said.

The Public Policy Committee did a lot to educate parishioners about global climate change and its effects last year, and Father Cool said the committee already is seeing the results of that education.

“The new St. Monica’s and Transfiguration parishes are two examples of where local communities are bringing this issue to home with a number of initiatives,” he said. “They both have parish committees now formed to address the spectrum of global climate change and what we as faithful Catholics can do for change.”

This year’s education priorities are faithful citizenship — especially in light of the upcoming presidential elections — and affirming the dignity of the unborn human being, which are both important issues on the Public Policy Committee’s radar, Father Cool said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on Public Policy Weekend, visit the diocesan Web site at www.dor.org and type “Public Policy Weekend” into the search box.

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