The southeast region of Florida is considered one of the areas most vulnerable to the impacts of global climate change and sea level rise. Consequently, the City of Miami Beach has developed adaptation strategies seeking to respond to this prediction. The city's Stormwater Management Master Plan is the first of its kind in the region.
The people of Miami Beach are trying hard to protect their city. Think of Miami Beach under water. It is a scary thought.
Fortunately for Miami Beach, however, the city has access to financial and personnel resources to respond to catastrophes. Yet, consider the globe's poorest nations. Bangladesh, for instance, a coastal nation in Asia, may experience a three-foot rise in sea level according to the Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers, prepared by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international group of climate scientists. If that happens, one-seventh of its territory would flood.
The tiny Pacific island nation of Kiribati became the first country to declare that global warming is rendering its lands uninhabitable, asking for help in evacuating its population. Such a rise would be enough to put large portions of the country literally underwater. Saltwater intrusion into the water table threatens to leave a significant number of Kiribati's 100,000 residents with nothing to drink, according to a recent report published by Scientific American.
These countries are also facing the same fate as Miami Beach, but they don't have the money or the human resources they need to respond effectively. Climate change affects all, but it does not affect us equally: the poor, both here in the U.S. and abroad, are often the hardest hit by its dangers and often least able to deal with it. In poor countries, climate change is already impacting economic growth, health, water availability, food production, and ecosystems.
A core aspect of addressing global climate change is mitigating it - reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted by the wealthy countries. We also need to engage in adaptation techniques - responding to the realities that climate change has already caused.
Among the similarities of the three Abrahamic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, two are particularly significant in developing a faithful response to the danger of climate change. Each of these religions cares deeply about poor people and requires adherents to meet their needs. Abrahamic faiths also urge believers to take good care of and protect God's creation. Genesis 2:15 says, "The Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it." As Pope Francis stated in his recent encyclical on the environment, this Genesis passage requires human beings to take responsibility for creation and not to misuse it.
The impacts of climate change must be addressed to avoid undermining or reversing the hard-won gains in building economies, wealth and opportunity in poor countries, especially those in vulnerable regions like Sub-Saharan Africa, Bangladesh and islands like Kiribati.
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a new multilateral fund designed to address the critical mitigation and adaptation needs of developing nations with the aim to foster resilience and low-emission development.
Initially conceived during the Copenhagen climate change negotiations in 2009, the GCF is intended to be the leading international climate fund to maximize funding for these purposes. To date, a total of $10.2 billion has been pledged toward the Fund's initial capitalization from more than 30 countries. The United States has committed $3 billion, and Canada has committed $300 million. Other countries have joined as well.
Providing funding to the Green Climate Fund is an essential step to support a climate change agreement by all of the nations of the world at the UN climate negotiations in Paris in December. The GCF is needed to fulfill a promise made by developed countries in 2009 to mobilize $100 billion annually for climate solutions by 2020.
Here is the challenge: President Obama pledged $3 billion and asked Congress for the first $500 million for 2016, promising to urge Congress to appropriate the rest over the next five years.
Though the Senate indicated initial support for the Green Climate Fund, Congress is bogged down in the appropriations process. Now is the time for Congressional leaders to clear the path for the President to ensure that the $500 million is given to the GCF.
It is urgent that people of all faiths contact their members of Congress to urge them to do the right thing and provide this money to poor nations. Taking care of creation and meeting the needs of the poor are too important to our religious beliefs to ignore these urgent tasks.