On September 17, Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) and 10 House Republican colleagues introduced a resolution calling upon the House of Representatives to work constructively to address climate change through mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities. The resolution affirms our moral obligation to steward our environment and economy responsibly for future generations and vulnerable peoples. It also recognizes the harmful effects climate change is already having upon human health, ecosystems, national security, and the economy.
This step towards bipartisan dialogue on solutions to climate change is well timed with the moral momentum Pope Francis will bring to Washington DC next week. In his encyclical Laudato Si, he said, “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” When the Pope speaks to Congress on September 24th, the resolution can be a positive response to his appeal.
The resolution seeks to move discussions away from whether Congress should address climate change, to how Congress can best address it. Congress is perhaps the most crucial institution today to pivot our nation and world decisively towards climate solutions. For the past few years, proposed legislation to directly address the root causes and impacts of climate change has been meaningful but not bipartisan. This resolution opens up the space for Congress to discuss and propose legislation that can meet both criteria.
The Pope’s visit to the U.S. amplifies the faith community’s ability to help bridge partisan divides on contentious issues through approaches that emphasize compassion, reconciliation, and cooperation. Legislators can be inspired to act through moral and non-monetary appeals. Last fall, Gibson was persuaded by an interfaith delegation of constituents to draft a Congressional resolution calling for bipartisan acknowledgement of the science and impacts of climate change and a commitment to action. Gibson told these constituents that humans are “co-creators and custodians of our world” and that climate change is “an American issue, not Republican or Democrat.”
This resolution is supported by people of faith at both the grassroots and the national level. An interfaith letter, sent to Congress on September 17 by 34 national faith leaders, states that climate change is so great a challenge that it transcends political, faith, and social divides. It articulates that “as people of faith, we feel a special calling to pray and work to overcome the divisions and fears that have prevented action to address one of the greatest threats to current and future generations.” Faith communities across the U.S. seek to use the momentum of this message and the Pope’s visit to propel even more dialogue and cooperation between peoples on how we can together steward our common home and future.
The climate resolution introduced by Gibson and 10 Republican co-sponsors is a strong vehicle to carry within Congress a renewed spirit of bipartisan dialogue on solutions to climate change, for the sake of the American people and future generations. Congress can and must lead. Now is the time.
Wirzba is policy associate for Sustainable Energy and Environment and Aguto is legislative secretary for Sustainable Energy and Environment at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobby in the public interest.