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Need strong carbon limits

  • Published Thursday, June 5, 2014, at 12 a.m.

The following commentary was submitted by Kansas Interfaith Power and Light and signed by more than 60 members of the clergy from across the state:

We are Kansans and members of the clergy, from many different religious traditions. Together we raise our voices in support of new Environmental Protection Agency standards to put stricter limits on climate pollution from power plants. We call for this action due to the threat posed to all of God’s creation by human-induced global climate change.

From the text in Genesis in which God directs us to act as responsible stewards of creation, to Jesus’ admonition to care for the “least of these,” to the contemporary statements made by our many denominations calling for meaningful and swift action, we believe that there is a moral imperative, rooted in our deeply held religious beliefs, to address the issue of global climate change quickly and effectively.

The costs of inaction are already apparent: 2012 was the hottest year on record in the continental United States. We have seen devastating wildfires and floods in Colorado; drought in Kansas (including this year); record summer melt of both the Arctic Sea ice and the Greenland ice sheet; a marked increase in the number of Kansans experiencing 100-degree temperatures for more than 10 days a summer; and Superstorm Sandy, with its estimated damage of $65 billion.

And the longer we go without action, the worse the repercussions will be.

We must also consider the public health threats associated with extreme weather. Children, the elderly and the poor are most vulnerable to a range of climate-related health effects, including those related to heat stress, air pollution, extreme weather events and diseases carried by food, water and insects.

As faith leaders, we believe we have an obligation to protect future generations from climate change by reducing carbon pollution. Power plants are by far the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States, responsible for about 40 percent of the emissions of this dangerous pollutant each year. Yet while we have national limits on the amount of arsenic, lead and mercury that power plants can dump into the air, we have never had such limits for carbon pollution.

Working together, we can meet the new pollution standards through commonsense solutions such as increasing energy efficiency, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, modernizing and retooling our power plants, retiring the dirtiest and oldest plants, and spurring innovation that will create green jobs in Kansas.

As people of faith, we believe it is our moral responsibility to care for all that has been entrusted to us. That is why we join together with millions of Americans in support of strong carbon limits for power plants.

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