Barbara Weinstein: “Climate change is one of the greatest social justice challenges of our time and establishing these standards mark a progressive step towards developing comprehensive climate and energy policy in the United States."
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WASHINGTON, D.C., November 7, 2013—Speaking today at an EPA listening session on the development of carbon pollution standards for existing power plants, Barbara Weinstein, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), submitted the following testimony to the EPA record:
“Hello, my name is Barbara Weinstein. I am the Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which advocates on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), whose 900+ congregations across North America include 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.
I had the opportunity to speak in support of the EPA’s proposed Carbon Pollution Standards 18 months ago, and I thank you for the chance to speak again today on the process of establishing standards for existing power plants. Climate change is one of the greatest social justice challenges of our time and establishing these standards mark a progressive step towards developing comprehensive climate and energy policy in the United States. As such, we welcome the EPA’s commitment to limiting carbon emissions from existing power plants and call on the EPA to maintain strength as it moves towards issuing a final rule.
We commend the EPA for addressing both the potential threat of newly built coal-fired power plants and for working with states, the power sector, environmental groups and the public in developing innovative approaches towards limiting carbon pollution from existing power plants.
Scientists and experts have long since determined that carbon pollution contributes to rising rates of respiratory and heart-related health conditions. These threats to public health disproportionately affect low-income communities, people of color, children and older adults. Additionally, carbon pollution is the primary cause of climate change and is linked to the extreme weather events and record warming in recent years.
While the world’s wealthiest nations are most responsible for climate change, poor communities and nations are most severely impacted and least able to adapt. Over the next 100 years, increasing temperatures and significant rises in sea level will displace tens of millions of people in low-lying areas.
Additionally, malaria and other infectious diseases could spread to areas that have never experienced them before, due to increased flying ranges for mosquitoes. Developing countries that lack adequate public health infrastructures are least able to prevent the outbreak or spread of such infectious diseases. As we have seen in the last few years, the United States is not immune to the detrimental effects climate change has on weather patterns and global warming. Due to Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac, more than 800,000 Americans were displaced by natural disasters in 2012 alone.
While climate change is an environmental, political and economic challenge, in the Jewish community, climate change is a moral and spiritual challenge as well. The Jewish tradition teaches that God implored, “Take care, lest you spoil and destroy my world, because if you do, there is no one after you to make it right again” (Kohelet Rabbah 7:13). The EPA’s establishment of rules to limit carbon emissions exemplifies the Jewish principle of preserving and protecting the world for the benefit of future generations. It is our responsibility to protect our children from the impact of climate change. When today’s children come of age around the year 2030, there will be more droughts, floods and storms as a result of climate change and natural disasters will have greater impact on the world’s poorest nations.
It is our responsibility to prevent our congregations and others in the states devastated by the extreme weather events of the last year. And it is our responsibility to cut our carbon emissions and combat the increasing threat of climate change. We can do so by adopting carbon standards for existing power plants – we look forward to your collaboration with state partners to fully implement such standards.”