Saperstein: "At a time when the international community has come together to wage a just campaign against those who embrace terror and destruction, so too must we unite in a proactive effort to preserve the sanctity of our global environment."
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WASHINGTON, February 14, 2002 - Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement in response to President Bush's speech today on global climate change, noting President Bush's speech "demonstrates that he cares about the problem, and that he is committed to finding creative solutions. Rabbi Saperstein noted, however, that "the urgent challenge of climate change requires a more sweeping response than what is offered in the President's proposal."
The complete statement follows:
We applaud President Bush for recognizing that global climate change is a serious concern. His speech today demonstrates that he cares about the problem, and that he is committed to finding creative solutions.
Unfortunately, the profound challenge that climate change poses to the world demands a tougher approach than the plan set out by the President today. The strategy would tie voluntary emissions reduction goals to economic growth so that, for example, a 3 percent rise in gross domestic product might result in a 1 percent targeted decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. This kind of approach falls short. First, the goals set would only slow the growth of emissions, rather than reduce them. Only steep reductions in present emissions levels will avert the potential consequences of global warming. Though reductions will need to be phased in over time, our goal must be to reduce emissions.
The urgent challenge of climate change requires a more sweeping response than what is offered in the President's proposal. Economists have stated that we can both prevent further environmental damage and increase economic efficiency in the long run by emphasizing renewable energy sources and more efficient energy use. We continue to vigorously support international agreements requiring nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with specific targets and timetables.
In the coming days, the Senate will begin debating comprehensive energy legislation. This is an important opportunity to enact policies which will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, improve air quality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Particularly important are substantial increases in automobile fuel economy standards and investments in both renewable energy sources and energy conservation.
Jewish tradition insists that we care for the earth and preserve the goodness of God's creation. Genesis 2:15 teaches us that "the human being was placed in the Garden of Eden to till it and to tend it." Climate change threatens to disrupt ecosystems across the planet, wreaking havoc for myriad forms of life and contributing to the extinction of species. We must learn to live on this planet in a manner which allows the rest of Creation to thrive as well. This moral imperative is particularly salient for Americans, who encompass less than five percent of the world's population but are responsible for almost 25 percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
When President Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol last year, he sent an unfortunate message to the rest of the world about our nation's commitment to the battle against climate change. At a time when the international community has come together to wage a just campaign against those who embrace terror and destruction, so too must we unite in a proactive effort to preserve the sanctity of our global environment, to develop and use sustainable energy sources, and to ensure the health and safety of future generations.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .