Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 20, 2013

Professor says faithful can lead the way in fight against global warming

By Carson Gerber

— The last decade was the hottest ever recorded, and 2010 was the most blistering year on record. In 2012, the average temperature in the U.S. increased by a full degree.

According the Dr. Bennet Brabson, professor emeritus of physics of climate change at Indiana University, it’s all proof that global warming has arrived in full force.

It’s also a wake-up call that things need to change, he said, and it’s area faith congregations that need to help set an example for how that change can happen.

Brabson addressed a crowd of concerned churchgoers Sunday at Christ Lutheran Church to talk about the affects of global climate change, and what churches, synagogues and mosques can do turn back the world’s thermostat and encourage environmental sustainability.

The talk also served to drum up support for the formation an affiliate chapter in Kokomo of Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light, an organization committed to promoting environmentally-friendly practices and sustainability in religious organizations.

Lenore Kane, a member of the “care for creation” team at Christ Lutheran Church, said she’s spearheading an effort to create the coalition of faith communities in Kokomo. The church will hold a meeting in February to gauge interest in forming the affiliate chapter of the organization.

During his lecture, Brabson argued climate change is largely the result of human activity, specifically the explosive surge in carbon emissions that contribute to the heating of the planet.

“Only human activity appears to adequately explain the rise in temperature during the 20th century,” he said. “It hasn’t been this gradual, gentle thing that’s come along. It’s been dramatic and direct.”

From that premise, Brabson drew this conclusion: “We have the responsibility of repairing the damage, especially as it impacts the poor, the disenfranchised and the vulnerable.”

To do that, he said believers must work to reduce the unsustainable use and inequitable distribution of world resources, and move away from using climate-damaging fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

Brabson said faith communities are uniquely situated to encourage environmental sustainability because people of faith are called to serve their neighbors and help those who are suffering.

“The point is that we really do care about our communities,” he said, noting he belongs to the Episcopalian faith. “That point of view is really powerful, and it has

the potential of reaching Hoosiers and organizing ourselves to find clever ways to help each other.”

Mark Sloss, president of the Howard County Ministerial Association, attended the talk and said he realized climate change has pushed the planet to a crucial and dangerous point. He said churches need to lead the way to avoid an environmental catastrophe.

“I think we need an ecological reformation,” he said. “We only have this one planet to live on, and we need to care for it. Everything on the Earth is connected and related, and we need to see that.”

At Christ Lutheran Church, Kane said the congregation has taken simple steps to encourage sustainability, like implementing a recycling program, installing motion-sensitive light switches and

programmable thermostats and doing away with paper plates and Styrofoam cups.

But she said there’s a lot more the church could do to reduce its environmental footprint.

“We have a responsibility to care for God’s creation,” she said. “We’re here on this Earth, and we have to live on it and sustain it, and faith communities need to be an example to the community on this.”

Carson Gerber is a Kokomo Tribune reporter. He may be reached by phone at 765-854-6739, or by email at carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com.