Evangelicals Support President Obama’s EPA Climate Change Regulation


July 30, 2015

Over 170 senior evangelical leaders from across the country sent President Obama a letter offering their support for his leadership on climate change, specifically for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) carbon pollution regulation known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP) to be released next week.  They joined nearly 230,000 pro-life Christians who sent supportive messages to the EPA in favor of the regulation.

In agreement with Pope Francis, the evangelical leaders see addressing climate change as an act of Christian love.  Their letter, dated July 30, states:

We see overcoming the climate challenge as one of the great moral opportunities of our time, a chance to fulfill the Great Commandments to love God, our neighbors, and ourselves.  It is God’s love that calls all of us to take on this challenge.  That is why we write to offer our support and encouragement for your efforts to overcome the climate challenge.

Evangelicals are often seen as in opposition to President Obama.  “Though we have our differences, the climate challenge is too important for us not to work together to defend our children and all of God’s children around the world,” said the Rev. Mitch Hescox, President/CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN).  “We know addressing climate change will help create a clean energy future with clean air, pure water, and good jobs.”

Other key parts of the evangelical community are also supporting President Obama and the EPA.

“Hispanic evangelicals recognize the importance of being good stewards of creation and these actions from the administration resonate with such a belief,” said the Rev. Dr. Emilio Marrero, Chair of EEN’s Board and Vice President of Esperanza, one of the leading hispanic Christian organizations in the country.  Polls have consistently shown that a majority of hispanics are concerned about climate change, and a recent one showed that 58% considered climate action an important issue for the 2016 presidential election.

Young evangelicals are also supporting President Obama and the EPA. “Our generation has only known a warming world,” said Rachel Lamb of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (Y.E.C.A.).  “We’re grateful for President Obama’s leadership on climate change, and we hope other political leaders will work to protect our future and the poor by addressing the climate crisis.”

In his Encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si’, Pope Francis states that “love moves us to devise larger strategies to halt environmental degradation and to encourage a ‘culture of care’ which permeates all of society” (para. 231).

“We couldn’t agree more,” said Rev. Hescox.  “We see the Clean Power Plan as one of the ‘larger strategies to halt environmental degradation’ that Pope Francis talks about.”


Proposed 2016 Budget Addresses Carbon Pollution

President Obama and his Administration have already made great strides towards implementing his Climate Action Plan, and his proposed FY2016 budget hopes to continue this forward momentum.

Here are a few things that stood out to us:

  • $7.4 billion for clean energy programs, a $900 million increase; from our perspective we need to be spending even more, especially in the area of basic clean tech R&D, but for now we’ll take this proposed increase.
  • $55 million for Power Plus supporting career retraining for coal industry workers and economic development in Appalachia.
  • Making permanent the production tax credits for wind and solar; while we don’t favor making them permanent, we do support extending them until they are able to compete fair and square with dirty energy, which has gotten federal help for over a century and continues to do so, still receiving even more than clean energy does.
  • Speaking of dirty energy subsidies, they currently equal $4 billion, and the Administration proposes to eliminate them, for which we’re all in favor!
  • Support for the President’s goal of cutting in half the energy wasted by America’s homes and businesses, including the accelerated development of energy efficiency standards for appliances and buildings. This will provide consumers the freedom to choose to be good stewards, instead of our current situation where in many instances we lack such freedom.
  •  Helping our country to become resilient to the impacts of climate change and increased extreme weather through a variety of state and local initiatives, such as funding AmeriCorps volunteers to work in local communities. This is consistent with The Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College and our Joseph Pledge to empower local congregations and communities take personal responsibility in preparing for increased extreme weather.
  • $500 million to the newly created Green Climate Fund to help poor countries respond to climate change; we are the most prosperous nation on the earth, and our generosity in helping poor people cope with climate impacts will not go unnoticed by the Lord. The Administration’s proposed amount is not all that is required, but it keeps us moving in the right direction.
  • $239 million addition funding for EPA to continue implementing the Clean Power Plan and other steps to police our nation’s air and water in defense of our children’s health and lives.

Also related to the Administration’s climate efforts, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a draft regulation on methane leaks. We are generally supportive of the 111b process for new and modified sources offered in the draft and the impetus created for a 111d standard to deal with existing sources. The new standard must only be considered as a first step in eliminating fugitive methane that poses as a tremendous threat not only to our climate but to children’s health and welfare.

We look forward to continuing to support the President in his historic efforts to fight climate change, and building bipartisan support across our nation for strong clean energy future and defending our children’s health.

This Republican Agrees with President Obama on Climate

by The Rev. Mitch Hescox

President Obama got it exactly right last night at the beginning of his State of the Union address when he said it is the hard-working citizens of our great nation that make the state of our Union strong, and that the United States is the best positioned country in the world to succeed in the 21st Century.

This is in spite of divisions within our great nation that continue to hold us back from achieving our full potential.

Social scientist Robert Putnam, of “bowling alone” fame, and his colleagues have done extensive research on the current attitudes and values of Americans.  They have confirmed what many of us know in our gut: the greatest thing that divides us today is politics or political ideology – not religion, not race, the two main things that divided us in our fairly recent past.  As Putnam said in a 2010 interview about his book, American Grace, “the underlying division [in America today] is not actually mostly about religion. It’s mostly about politics.”

And as a Pew poll just found, at the heart of this divide is protecting the environment: 65% of Democrats consider it a top priority, but only 28% of Republicans do – a yawning gulch of 37 points.

Here, in order, are our top partisan divisions as indicated by the percentage spread between Republicans and Democrats who consider them top priorities:

  • Protecting the environment:   37% difference
  • Helping the poor:                         32% difference
  • Reducing the budget deficit:   31% difference
  • Addressing global warming:   28% difference
  • Strengthening the military:    25% difference
  • Improving education:              25% difference

As a lifelong Republican who cares about defending the health of our kids from pollution, overcoming climate change, helping the poor, having a strong military, dealing responsibly with the deficit and debt, and improving education, I find myself in the middle of these partisan flashpoints within the American public.

In the Apostle Paul’s day, the biggest division was between Jews and Gentiles — a division he tirelessly sought to overcome.  Evangelical creation-care advocates like me are in the same business: we’re called to be bridge-builders, to heal deep-seated divisions within our communities, our country, and amongst the nations and peoples of the world.

And in the area where currently division runs deepest, protecting the environment and addressing global warming, I find myself agreeing with President Obama that our country must take strong action to reduce pollution from fossil fuels that fouls our air, makes our water impure, and helps to create one of the greatest threats to our children’s future, climate change.

I would prefer that Congress pass a law that puts a price on carbon, thereby unleashing the innovation of the marketplace to create a clean energy future.  But time is short, and absent that, I support the President’s efforts to reduce carbon pollution by using the Clean Air Act as mentioned in last night’s address.

As the Pew poll indicates, my support for the President’s leadership on climate change makes me a bit out of step with many of my fellow Republicans.  But my pro-environment stance is actually in keeping with our strong Republican heritage of environmental protection:

  • Teddy Roosevelt is the greatest conservationist our country has ever had.
  • Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act.
  • Ronald Reagan pushed to make the Montreal Protocol stronger and then secured its ratification by the Senate – the first and only international treaty on atmospheric pollutants, in this case pollution that makes the ozone hole bigger, leading to skin cancer.
  • George H. W. Bush signed the 1990 Clean Air Act, making it stronger as it went through the legislative process.

Unfortunately, today everyone is so afraid in his or her own ideology, we refuse to have reasonable dialogue and work toward the common ground these Republican Presidents found.

“My way or the highway” can at times feel like our national slogan.  But as a Christian I am called to be a bridge-builder. How?

From my understanding of faith, the answer comes from following Jesus’ way, and that way has always been love.

It’s time to break away from fear, act in love as Jesus teaches, and move beyond the shouting matches to sensible solutions from all perspectives. No one side has the answers, but if we start to care for each other, love our children, listen, and love God, we will find the way forward together.

Let me close by once again agreeing with what the President said last night.  When in the future our children ask us whether we did what was necessary to overcome climate change and leave them a safer, cleaner world, we want to be able to say to them: “Yes we did.”

The Rev. Mitch Hescox is President and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network


Will We Get Moral Leadership on Climate?

Yesterday, the President issued a challenge on climate change during Tuesday’s State of the Union Address.

Now, the good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue [climate change]while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.

But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

I for one hope Congress takes up this challenge from the President and acts. Climate change is a moral challenge for all America. It’s not a liberal or a conservative issue, but a matter of life. Each American already feels our changing climate. Food prices have risen from extreme weather events like the record-breaking 2012 drought that consumed two-thirds of our nation. Transportation slowed to a standstill on the Mississippi River as water levels reached historic lows. Superstorm Sandy devastated the Northeast, and the recent blizzard paralyzed New England. Massive forest fires, extreme weather, sea-level rise have all become the new normal. All of these events are in keeping with human-caused climate change, and the extremes will only intensify.

Last fall, I preached at a local Harrisburg, PA church. Between worship services, I talked with a disabled man living in poverty. During the summer’s long-lasting heat wave, this individual, who lives in an upstairs apartment without air conditioning, was overcome by the excessive heat and passed out. Only by God’s grace and the caring action of a neighbor who found him unconsciousness and called 911 was he saved from death.

Excessive heat, extreme weather, water shortages, and destroyed crops are just the tip of the iceberg. All America will suffer, but our poor and the world’s poor will suffer the most. Indeed, they are already suffering. Some estimates put the annual death toll from climate change at 300,000, and countless others have fled from devastated cropland, water shortages, flooding, and sea level rise. Conflict arises as scarce resources force survival competition. People already suffer, and it will only get worse unless we act now.

We need a comprehensive American plan to battle our changing climate. Climate change remains the greatest threat to our security, prosperity, and way of life. As my colleague, The Dr. Rev. Jim Ball, so forcibly states, “Climate Change is the greatest moral challenge of our time.” Yet with action now, we can limit the loss of life, and stave off the worst of the crisis. America must act and act now. Climate change no longer is up for debate. The science is clear and compelling, but meaningful action requires all of us.

The choice is simple. We can work together and forge a brighter America or shirk our responsibility and have regulations that make the choice for us. Buy-in from all America, including Congress, seems the best solution, but without Congressional leadership, we must act, our future and all God’s children depend on it.

Many American businesses already have picked up the gauntlet. They not only understand climate change threats, but also see the opportunity. Corporate giants like Wal-Mart, Dow Chemical, M&M-Mars, Duke Energy, Exelon, and many others see new markets and increased profits as they take moral leadership. Individuals across our nation reduce waste and save energy, but we must come together with a national plan.

We can start with a national effort to strengthen and coordinate planning to address the extreme weather events that cannot be avoided. Improving our infrastructure from electric transmission to bridges and highways must be a priority. Also increased energy efficiency standards need incentives. However, a price on carbon pollution remains the single most effective way to address climate change.

Pricing carbon must happen, and President Obama issued the challenge. Can Congress find a bipartisan market-based approach? Or by our in action will court-ordered Clean Air Act regulations have to take effect? Which will Congress and the American public choose?

Above all else, America needs to be the leader. The new party line for many of my fellow Republicans is, “Climate Change is real, but with China and India now as the largest carbon pollution emitters, any effort on our part would be negligible.”

First, my mother told me that two wrongs don’t make a right. Second, we are responsible for much of the existing carbon already warming our world, and third, moral leadership works.

Over the last two years, The Evangelical Environmental Network, The National Association of Evangelicals, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops worked hard to see the Clean Air Act enforced to reduce mercury emissions from coal burning that is poisoning our children. The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards became law and our efforts provided the U.S State Department the moral authority necessary to secure the first ever-international mercury treaty. While this treaty isn’t perfect, it is agreat step forward in protecting our children, especially the unborn from mercury poisoning.

Leadership works. We commend the President for his moral leadership in overcoming the threat of climate change. May Congress and all America join together, rise to this great challenge as we have done with other great challenges in the past, and work together to solve the climate crisis.

The Rev. Mitchel C. Hescox is President & CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network.