Amid the excitement of a presidential inauguration, a troubling omen: Soon after Donald Trump was sworn in as our 45th president, CNBC reported that the official White House webpage on climate change was deleted.
“The requested page ‘energy/climate-change’ could not be found” was the response if you searched whitehouse.gov.
We can only hope that climate change reappears on the site as the Trump team works to create their online profile. Last time I checked, the site mentions protecting air and water and “refocusing” the Environmental Protection Agency — but no mention of climate change or renewable energy.
Make no mistake about it. This is a vital issue and it’s a Catholic issue. With his encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” Pope Francis placed our response to this issue squarely in the moral realm.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops supports a national standard to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. In their 2001 statement on climate change, they said climate change “is about the future of God’s creation and the one human family.”
No matter our presidential pick or party affiliation, this is an issue that transcends partisanship and gravely impacts our children’s and grandchildren’s future. We can debate what to do about climate change, but we can’t deny it.
For most of my adult life, I lived in Alaska. My giant of a home state is like the canary in the coal mine of climate change.
When I first arrived there in the 1970s, winters were frigid and temperatures pretty unimaginable to most Americans. Although this year Alaska is having a more traditional winter — minus 53 degrees the other day in McGrath — for the most part recent winters have been eerily warm and lacking in the usual snow depth.
When I lived there, Alaskans would actually pray for snow, something my Midwestern neighbors find hard to fathom. But it was natural for Alaskans. The mostly dark days needed the brightness of a snow pack, and people reveled in cross-country and downhill skiing, snow machining, playing hockey outdoors.
I have friends who are avid cross-country skiers who have resorted to biking in recent winters.
But losing a little outdoor recreation time is the least of it.
In 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that the northern part of Alaska was experiencing coastal erosion at an alarming rate, averaging 4.6 feet per year since the mid-20th century.
I know friends in western Alaska, who live in coastal Eskimo villages, whose homes are threatened by the rapid rise of sea water due to the warming of water temperatures brought about by climate change. I know people who are literally being forced to relocate because their coastal villages face ruin.
Parts of coastal Louisiana and the city of Miami are among those coping with similar problems.
What can we do? We can add our own efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. Avoid unnecessary driving. Honor the Catholic tradition of meatless Fridays: The EPA says livestock production accounts for 4 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The EPA also says water processing accounts for approximately 2 percent of energy use in the U.S. We can all cut back on irrigating our yards and those lengthy showers. We can recycle more, consume less, be more mindful about buying in our disposable culture.
But we need to be advocates, too. One organization, catholicclimatecovenant.org, works to educate and advocate. You can find resources and petitions at their site.
And check out whitehouse.gov. Hold our government’s feet to the fire on developing renewable energy. Tell your representatives it’s what we want.