Op-ed: U.S. should stand by the Paris Agreement on Climate Change
By Jean Hill
As President Trump meets with Pope Francis on May 24, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City urges the president and his administration to heed the words of the Holy Father,
“The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies.”
While the priorities expressed in Pope Francis’ statement apply to multiple policy concerns, the Diocese of Salt Lake City encourages the administration, and our congressional delegation, to pay particular attention to the dignity of the human person and the common good as they consider whether or not the United States will remain part of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, an international effort by most countries of the world to reduce the greenhouse gases driving climate change.
Personally, I will never forget the dire straits created by rapidly changing climate patterns on the people in the African nation of Malawi.
As part of a delegation from Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian relief organization of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I met with farmers who were trying, without cash reserves or modern equipment, to salvage a growing season after extreme flooding left behind multiple feet of silt atop fertile land.
Those same floods also stranded hundreds of families whose homes were washed away, and who don’t have the option of moving somewhere else.
None of the people I met were using the fossil fuels that contribute to climate change, but all were dealing with the fallout of such uses.
The people of Malawi are not alone.
Rising sea levels threaten fresh water supplies and erode agricultural land in low lying regions like Bangladesh.
Coffee farmers in Central America are losing entire seasons because diseases attacking their crops are thriving in the warmer temperatures, forcing many farmers to migrate to survive.
All of this has the potential to drive more global instability to which the United States will be forced to respond.
This international effort is necessary to serve the most vulnerable members of society who contribute to climate change the least.
It is imperative to protect the people of Malawi, Bangladesh, Central America and elsewhere who are finding ingenious ways to adapt to an ever changing climate, but lack the resources required to not only prevent catastrophic climate impacts, but also ensure long-term survival.
As the world’s richest nation and one of the major sources of greenhouse gases, the United States has a moral obligation and a national interest to address the causes of climate change and help the world’s poor adapt to it.
We are encouraged by Rep. Mia Love’s decision to join the House Climate Solutions Caucus, a bi-partisan body that acknowledges climate change and is working together to better understand its impacts and chart a path to addressing the problem.
We also believe that the Paris Agreement is a manifestation of the stewardship needed to bring the countries of the world together to reduce greenhouse gases that are harming the environment and the people in it.
In his encyclical “Laudato Si’,” Pope Francis makes clear that our care for one another and our care for the Earth are intimately bound together, and that good stewardship protects both the environment and society, now and for future generations.
Through the Paris Agreement we are already part of a global community working together on this issue.
For the sake of the poorest amongst us, the United States should remain in the Paris Agreement and honor the pledge we made to do our part to reduce greenhouse gases enough to avert future disaster.
Jean Hill is government liaison for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.
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