Response to withdrawal from Paris Climate Accord
We, the leadership team and the Justice Coordinating Commission of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, express our profound regret at President Donald Trump’s historic decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord and to stop all future payments to the Green Climate Fund.
In his speech, President Trump indicated that as President, he “can put no other consideration before the wellbeing of American citizens.” We, too, care deeply about the wellbeing of American citizens AND about all citizens of Earth.
While we share President Trump’s concerns about loss of jobs and economic impact on American citizens, we find his considerations to be shortsighted. We have heard from others – who have provided evidence – that to do our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions does NOT necessarily cost jobs, but rather provides an opportunity for us to grow jobs, by retooling skills of those who have worked in the coal industry and providing additional employment opportunities as we utilize new, cleaner energy resources. A report published by the Joyce Foundation in 2016 noted that in the Midwest, “Clean energy jobs are one of the fastest growing industries, projected to significantly outpace national employment growth.” Industry experts tell us that nationally, that growth has already begun. According to a January 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Energy, in the United States in 2016, solar power employed 43 percent of the Electric Power Generation sector’s workforce, while fossil fuels combined accounted for just 22 percent.
Moreover, major companies in the U.S. and around the globe who have already converted to cleaner energy sources were among the advocates for staying in the Paris Climate Accord, not only because it’s the right thing to do for the good of Earth, but also because they are already experiencing the “bottom-line” benefits of using the less expensive renewable energy sources.
We stand with the scientific community in our concern that we, Earth’s citizens, are creating greenhouse gas emissions that are already creating rising sea levels and devastating droughts. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists and others, unless the global community stands together to reduce such emissions significantly, the United States and other countries around the world will suffer enormous economic impact from the change in sea levels alone. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that, on average, sea levels will rise another 6-16 inches within the next 30 years and 11-38 inches by 2100, enough to swamp many coastal cities. Currently, nearly 40 percent of the population lives in relatively high-population-density coastal areas, where sea level plays a role in flooding, shoreline erosion, and hazards from storms. Globally, eight of the world’s 10 largest cities are near a coast, according to the U.N. Atlas of the Oceans. What will be the effect of such submersion on jobs and the economy, not only in the United States, but also globally?
Rising sea levels are not the only effects of global warming. Already, both in the United States and across the globe, we have experienced severe drought, devastating hurricanes, massive wildfires and other “extreme weather” issues. All of these events related to climate change are already disrupting the wellbeing of U.S. citizens and our global neighbors, and the United States has been a major contributor to the problem. Yet, the World Health Organization asserts that economically underdeveloped countries (with significantly smaller emissions) will disproportionately bear the effects of climate change because they lack the resources to rebound from the altering of the geographic range and seasonality of certain infectious diseases, disturbances of food-producing ecosystems, and increases in the frequency of extreme weather events. Moreover, they predict that between 2030 and 2050, climate change will cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress. As U.S. citizens who have been among the major polluters since our Industrial Revolution, we should be among the leaders in reducing greenhouse emissions and in making Earth inhabitable for all people.
The Sisters of Providence join others around the globe in recognizing that climate change is a grave moral issue. Catholic social teaching calls us to protect human life, health, and dignity – both now and for future generations; to exercise a preferential option for the poor; and to care for creation. Pope Francis, in his recent TED talk, reminded us: “The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people.” We are a powerful nation … and thus our actions will, indeed, have a strong impact on others. We beg President Trump to reconsider his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, recognizing that any short-term “gains” achieved from such a retrenchment threaten the long-term health and stability of all nations of Earth. Let us remember that “… to whom much is given, much will be required,” and act accordingly!
The General Officers of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and The Justice Coordinating Commission