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Barbara Weinstein: "These proposed standards reflect our nations commitment to combating climate change, which is not just an environmental challenge, but one of the greatest social justice challenges of our time."
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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 7, 2014
In September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed strict limits to carbon emissions from new power plants. Speaking yesterday at the EPA public hearing on the Carbon Pollution Standards, Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism and the Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, submitted the following testimony:
I'm Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism and Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which advocates on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose 900 congregations across North America include 1.3 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2000 Reform rabbis. Thank you for the opportunity to speak in support of the EPA's proposed Carbon Pollution Standards for new power plants. These proposed standards reflect our nation's commitment to combating climate change, which is not just an environmental challenge, but one of the greatest social justice challenges of our time.
Our interest in this issue is rooted the Jewish traditions rich teachings about our responsibility to the Earth, to humanity and all of creation. In Biblical commentary on Ecclesiastes (Rabbah (7:13), God says to Adam, "see to it that you do not spoil or destroy My world, for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you." Our Reform Jewish values call on us to be stewards of the Earth, not just for our own benefit and the well-being of those with whom we share this planet today, but because of responsibility to the generations that will succeed us. These guiding principles inspire our support of measures to stem the impact of climate change - including the EPA's proposed regulations on carbon emissions from new power plants.
As you well know, the September 2013 report from the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change found that climate scientists are 95% confident that climate change is due to human impact, 90% certain that the last 30-year period is the warmest in 800 years and 99% sure that the rise in sea levels has accelerated over the last 2 centuries. Climate change is happening and its impact on our air, land and water is increasingly apparent. As evidenced by the recent tragedy of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, droughts afflicting Africa, and the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Sandy, climate change is contributing to more frequent and severe extreme weather events.
As significant an issue as this is for the environment itself, climate change is also causing economic, social and a range of other challenges that impact the residents of the United States and every nation on earth. And as it often the case, those who were already the most vulnerable are feeling the impact most. By this agency's own estimate, about 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty worldwide and will have particular difficulty adapting to our rapidly changing climate. Tens of millions of people living in low-lying areas will be forced to leave their homes and due to the increased flying ranges for mosquitoes, malaria and other infectious diseases are likely to spread to areas that have never experienced them before. One international report estimates that climate change causes an average of 400,000 deaths per year, the vast majority of which are in developing countries. Within the U.S., studies show a wide racial and economic gap when it comes to air pollution, with communities of color and those with less formal schooling and high poverty rates more at risk of asthma, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The United States is home to only 5% of the worlds population, yet we produce about 19% of the worlds greenhouse gas emissions. We have a responsibility to people of our own country and to our global community to address this climate crisis. Implementing the proposed federal limitation on carbon emissions from new power plants targets a key source of carbon pollution, and demonstrates our countrys commitment to the health and well-being of our planet and its inhabitants.
We applaud the EPA and Presidents Obama's leadership in strengthening and enforcing limits on harmful carbon emissions and call on you today to maintain this strong proposed rule when it is finalized.