I am Dan Joranko, president of the Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light, a statewide network of faith groups that spiritually responds to the moral challenges of climate change. I teach at Vanderbilt Divinity School and have preached on numerous occasions at United Methodist churches.
We as a nation now understand that our burning massive amount of fossil fuel has caused climate change. Oil and coal have fueled industrial growth and our current standard of living. We are a generation causing carbon pollution, but it is our children and their children who will suffer the burdens of the increasing weather extremes of unabated climate change: increased hunger, homelessness, a decline in public health, and the changing of the natural world that will no longer support their well-being as it has ours. Through our inaction, we are imposing the costs of our behavior on our children and upon the most vulnerable.
Climate change is fundamentally a moral issue. The core moral principle embodied within the climate change challenge is that we should not harm others for our own perceived self-benefit.
Our national moral response to climate change turns on our willingness to act on climate change even if we must risk certain perceived benefits from carbon pollution. While many would agree that our children should not bear the burden of our private gain, as a nation we still have yet to determine what it is worth to us to avoid future generations suffering from the consequences of our behavior.
Religious traditions represented in Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light teach that we have special responsibilities to be stewards of Creation and protect the sanctity of the natural world. These traditions can call on us to make sacrifices to fulfill our moral duties.
The small but real chance exists that unabated pollution carbon pollution will cause an utter climate catastrophe that risks ecological collapse and untold human suffering. We believe we must avoid a climate catastrophe that might put at risk our very survival. The time to think about the future of humanity is upon us.
We as a society must acknowledge the moral issues associated with climate change and the need for difficult and perhaps uncomfortable decisions. We must reduce carbon pollution to safe levels.
We can work together to redeem ourselves for the sake of our children. Through our actions of fulfilling our moral responsibilities, we can avoid putting our children in harms’ way. Our children and their children will look back on us with gratitude for what we did to abate our carbon pollution.
We can uphold the sanctity of the natural world through learning how to live within it harmoniously. By keeping in mind those living today and in the future, the most vulnerable here within our community and those around the globe, we can participate in the collective moral response to the climate challenge.
Adopting national limits on carbon pollution of the EPA Clean Power plan is a critical first step in abating our carbon pollution. Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light agrees with the EPA that the plan will lead to climate and health benefits outweighing what we as a nation risk in perceived benefits. Our own generation can benefit from being on a healthier and more stable footing.
We as a nation already know how to reduce our carbon pollution, methods the EPA has already presented the states as options to use within their State Implementation Plans.
Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light upholds the vision of our generation accepting the moral responsibilities of our actions and determining to do the right thing, something that we already know in our hearts to be true.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak.
Dan Joranko, President
Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light