Science and faith must work together on climate change, say Canadians

By agency reporter
November 30, 2009

“We believe the United Nations Climate Change Conference is a place where faith and science must intersect” says an open letter posted on The United Church of Canada’s website ( ahead of the vital Copenhagen meeting.

The letter has been written by the church’s moderator Mardi Tindal and former Member of Parliament and United Church minister, David MacDonald.

Both will be attending the UN Climate Change Conference as part of an international delegation of religious leaders organized by the World Council of Churches.

“Science tells us what is and, given certain parameters, what will come to be. Spiritual values teach us what ought to be. Only the two, working together, can see us safely through this perilous time,” declares Tindal.

In the letter, Tindal and MacDonald explain they believe that religious faith offers a unique perspective on the climate change talks.

They write: “Faith groups, perhaps uniquely among human institutions, are predisposed to take a longer view. In responding to climate change processes, which play out over decades, if not centuries, these perspectives are an essential counterpoint to the pressure of thinking that can be dominated by the next quarter, or the next election.”

This is why the Copenhagen meeting is unprecedented, says the letter. “It is where people of many faiths and no faith must come to terms with the kind of world we want for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. Envisioning or creating the world we want means we need to work out a grand bargain that will allow life to survive in a hopeful and humane fashion. We will need to be prepared to make decisions, sacrifices, and gestures of good will toward one another and the planet.”

MacDonald adds: “As people of faith, we believe climate change requires not a quick technological fix but rather a transformation in how we live our lives on this fragile planet.”

“These talks will almost certainly determine the fate of coming generations. The future of our children is at stake. Finding a way forward will require that we attend to the best science available, so we are firmly grounded in reality. But it also demands that we recognise the spiritual values that have guided humans for centuries so we can work toward a vision of wholeness,” says the open letter.

“Our climate change discussions so far have tended to be dominated by economic and political considerations. These are important, to be sure, but they are not sufficient.” MacDonald explains. “It is vital that people of faith participate to ensure future-shaping decisions are not determined only by short-term considerations, such as what is least costly or most expedient.”

“Whether we are people of faith, or people of no faith, we all have a stake in the climate change talks taking place in Copenhagen,” says Tindal. “We believe Canada’s responsibility is to demonstrate moral leadership in the face of this global climate crisis.”

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