Kyoto vs. Global Scorching: The Bush Mandate or God's?

Charles Lenchner & Rabbi Arthur Waskow, 2/18/2005

Dear friends,

This week, we are calling on our readers to support the passage of the Lieberman-McCain Climate Stewardship Act, by writing letters to your Senators and to Jewish weekly newspapers around the country.


The Bush Administration has just released its long awaited Clear Skies Initiative; Lieberman and McCain reintroduced their Climate Stewardship Act; the Kyoto Treaty came into effect (despite US disapproval and minus US participation) and more than a thousand clergy appealed to the President to do something about global scorching.

The Kyoto Protocol has been disdained by all recent American Presidents. It affirms the intention of 35 countries to return to the carbon emissions levels of 1990, by 2012. While most of the industrialized world is celebrating this historic achievement, President Bush is trying to divert attention with his Clear Skies Initiative in legislative form. With Orwellian undertones, this benign-sounding effort increases the levels of pollution that would have been permitted under the previous law, the Clean Air Act. And despite the timing of its release, Clear Skies does nothing to address global scorching.

The bright spot in American politics comes from the Climate Stewardship Act. It was defeated in 2003 despite being a fairly limited version of the 'cap and trade' approach behind the Kyoto Protocol; it would require that CO2 emissions return to 2000 levels by 2010. Even this limited approach is rejected by the Administration.

More than a thousand American clergy (including Rabbi Arthur Waskow) have signed an interfaith statement entitled "God's Mandate: Care for Creation":

"We are men and women from the pews and pulpits of mainstream America for whom loving our Creator and thus caring for God's creation is at the heart of our religious faith. We come from communities that hold traditional values of neighborly love and respect for life. We benefit daily from laws that safeguard habitat and public health. We are proud of our nation's long-standing commitment to conservation. We seek to raise our children in a culture of stewardship and bequeath them the full blessings of God's bounty.

"From these perspectives, we feel called to express great dismay and alarm at plans by the Administration and the leadership of the 109th Congress to reverse and obstruct programs that protect God's creation in our land and across the planet. There are now specific proposals before the government that would jeopardize public health, clean air and water; sustainable sources of energy; safety of natural habitats; and Earth's climate, which embraces us all."

As one of us (AW) was quoted in the Pennsylvania press release for this statement: "The Bible describes environmental disasters wrought by a Pharaoh who ignored the needs of his people and the warnings of his advisers. Rivers so polluted that the water was undrinkable, and other ecological plagues, stemmed from Pharaoh's disregard.

Pharaoh was wrong. Wealth and power do not trump the will of God. The commands of Heaven to protect the earth and human life must be obeyed — not the "mandate" of a Pharaoh. Or a president."

[Released by the Pennsylvania Interfaith Climate Change Campaign]

Faithful America, the grassroots lobbying initiative of the liberal Christian community, has placed an ad in Roll Call, the "house organ" of Capitol Hill.

It reminds members of Congress that despite our status as one of the world's largest polluters, the world is moving forward on solutions without us.

Why does our 'values' President find it so easy to ignore the outcry on this issue — one that has the support of more than 70 per cent of the public?

[See below for instructions on lobbying your Senator or writing to the Jewish press]

Our nation's scientists, environmentalists, and denominations are good at proposing solutions for specific problems. But when it comes to Global Scorching (not to mention other issues!, their solutions have thus far failed to win legislative approval. Publicly at least, they tend to shy away from the root cause of their failure: the unaccountable power of corporate interests.

This administration works with Big Oil and other economic interests that represent the current energy status quo. They understand that change is coming; but by dragging their feet, they can extract the largest possible profits while delaying to the last minute the economic pain of restructuring our energy economy. "Later, later, later — After us!"

As an arrogant and stupid French king said, "Apres moi, le deluge. After me, the Flood." In this case, the saying is literal: a Flood of Water as the oceans rise, a Flood of Smoke and Fire as the planet overheats.

The American public watches aghast as our elected leaders choose the path most favorable to a small group of corporate interests. What are we doing to shine a spotlight on those interests?

The same interests that are so committed to an oil economy that they refuse to prevent global scorching are the ones that to keep oil available want to control the great strategic reserves in the Middle East.

So they promoted the invasion of Iraq, hoping to secure American domination of Middle East oil for the foreseeable future.

These two assaults upon human beings - the promotion of global warming and the Iraq war - come from the same sources. But the two movements that have emerged to oppose these assaults have mostly responded to the issues - not to the powerful institutions behind them.

They have responded, opposed, in two separate camps when it would be wiser to unite and connect their opposition.

We have then two thrusts of what is really the same movement for progressive political change: an environmental wing, focused at the moment on carbon emissions and air pollution; and a peace wing, focused at the moment on the need to end the occupation of Iraq.

The massive pressure needed to shift the current power structure cannot come from just one of those wings; it needs to come from both, working closely together.

And together the two wings need to be insisting that our country move Beyond Oil, into sources of energy that do not poison the planet and do not force us into Middle Eastern, anti-Muslim wars.

There is a special concern here for members of the Jewish community.

While the organized "official" institutions of the American Jewish community have supported moderate efforts like the McCain-Lieberman Act to slow down global scorching, they have lagged for behind Jewish public opinion in opposing the war in Iraq.

In particular, the Jewish press has been at the forefront of those who claimed the war was not fought primarily over control of Middle East oil. Recognizing this split in the Jewish community, we invite you to lobby your Senator, AND to send a letter to a local or national Jewish newspaper. Send your letter now!

Please click here to lobby your Senator:

To send a letter to a local or national Jewish newspaper, click here:

Thank you!

With blessings of shalom,
Charles Lenchner, national organizer
& Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director
The Shalom Center