For many people in the world, their religious or spiritual faith is a central or defining aspect of their identity and informs their relationship with the physical world. One definition of religion is “respect for what is sacred,” and usually (but not always) involves belief in a higher power, supernatural being or God. Most religious persons profess to be concerned about others beyond themselves and seek a life consistent with service to a higher good. The four largest religions of the world are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism and comprise nearly 80% of believers.
With very few exceptions, most religious organizations across the planet have issued statements within the last thirty years expressing concern about the problem of human-caused global warming or climate change, often referred to as “the climate crisis.” Explicit denial of climate change is almost non-existent among the world’s religions. In this regard, the scientific and religious communities generally seem to be in complete agreement.
What follows here are excerpts of statements from a sampling of major and minor religious organizations. It is not complete. With rare exceptions, all the world’s religious institutions agree with the scientific consensus and state something like the following:
- The climate of the Earth is changing; it has warmed significantly since the late 1800s.
- It is changing as the result of human activity; primarily the burning of fossil fuels which releases CO2, a heat-trapping gas into the atmosphere.
- The more we use fossil fuels, the more we release CO2, the hotter the planet becomes. As the temperature of our planet increases, glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising, threatening island nations and coastal communities. Human-caused climate change is causing significant increases in extreme weather events, increasing droughts and floods and is associated with a significant increase in wildfire activity, frequency, intensity and duration. Other negative effects of climate change include ocean acidification, desertification and severity of hurricanes. Climate change is understood to be one of the principal causes of species extinctions as well.
- Often citing “creation care,” most religious groups express alarm about this and call for action to prevent further harm to the biosphere on which life on Earth depends.
- Most religious organizations refer to their religious texts and their moral, values-based scriptures as a basis for their call to action. Various religious organizations state that climate change must be arrested due to a basic moral imperative to not do harm.
- Most religious organizations express an understanding of the scientific solution to the climate crisis as they call for governments of the world to shift as quickly as possible away from the use of fossil fuels.
The religious organizations that have released statements acknowledging the reality of human-caused climate change include the following:
SHASTA COUNTY INTERFAITH FORUM (REDDING, CALIFORNIA)
INTERFAITH POWER & LIGHT
SEVENTH DAY ADVENTISTS
CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN
BAHA’I INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
ALLIANCE OF BAPTISTS
SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION
DISCIPLES OF CHRIST
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF EVANGELICALS
CHURCH OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS (MORMON)
LUTHERAN WORLD FEDERATION
EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA
CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES
EASTERN ORTHORDOX CHURCH
GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH
QUAKERS (RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS)
UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
UNITY WORLDWIDE MINISTRIES
WORLD COUNCIL ON CHURCHES
A 2013 study analyzed “the evolution of the scientific consensus” on human-caused global warming in the peer-reviewed scientific literature and found nearly 12,000 papers published between 1991 and 2011 that looked at “global climate change” or “global warming.” Of those that stated a position, 97.1% endorsed the consensus view that humans are causing global warming. A 2010 study reviewed publication and citation data for nearly 1,400 of the world’s top climate scientists and found 97–98% of them supported the consensus view that human activity is responsible for the climate crisis.
“Not a single major scientific organization or national academy of science on earth denies that the climate is changing, that humans are responsible, and that some form of action should be taken to address the risks to people and the planet.” Over 140 of the planet’s national academies and top scientific, health and engineering organizations have issued formal declarations confirming human-induced global warming and urging nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
Those of us who belong to a faith group in Shasta County are faced with a moral dilemma. Do we remain silent regarding global climate change and its threat to all life on Earth? Or do we find our voice and join with others in our faith community and express our concern? If the major religious organizations on the planet have issued statements accepting the reality of human-caused climate change, what is stopping our elected officials from doing so?
SHASTA COUNTY INTERFAITH FORUM
All Saints Episcopal Church
Baha’i Faith of Shasta County
Center for Spiritual Living, Redding
Centers for Spiritual Living/Native American Tradition
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
First Church of Christ, Scientist
First United Methodist Church
Islamic Center of Redding
Native American Traditions
Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ
Redding Friends Meeting (Quakers)
Redding Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
River Oaks Sangha (Buddhist)
Sacred Heart Catholic Church
St. Joseph Catholic Church
Shasta Lake Community United Methodist Church
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
The Sikh Centre, Anderson
Temple Beth Israel
Unity in Redding
“We, the Shasta County Interfaith Forum, believe climate change is a faith and moral issue. For the sake of our children, future generations and the planet, we believe the climate change crisis requires urgent and ongoing action by individuals and local, state, national and global leaders.”
To read excerpts from the Faith Based Statements on Climate Change from the world’s major religious institutions, please visit the Shasta Environmental Alliance (SEA) website at https://www.ecoshasta.org/faith-based-statements-on-climate-change/. Or go to https://www.ecoshasta.org/ and click on News and Faith Based Statements on Climate Change. Thank you, David Ledger for making room on the SEA site for this document. Thank you, Lynn Fritz and members of the Shasta County Interfaith Forum for permission to include their statement here.