Reaching out to Catholic community on climate change

By Trudi Jenny

Reacting to a report issued on November 21st by Public Religion Research Institute and American Academy of Religion, several members of the CCL Madison Stewardship Outreach Committee said: “We’ve got our work cut out for us!”

The report shows the results of a survey conducted among 3,000 people of faith regarding their concerns about climate change. For those who clearly see the climate crisis as a moral issue, the percentages in the report challenge all to take action within their faith communities. The following chart summarizes the report’s findings:

climate religion chartEven before seeing this report, Steve Coleman was on it. A CCL volunteer and Catholic in Madison, Wisconsin, Steve made a New Year’s resolution to learn more about global warming, become articulate about it, and chart a path where he could make a difference.   He recognized the need for building awareness among fellow Catholics. After taking an on-line course on climate change, he approached a member of his parish about making a presentation to their Knights of Columbus group. Within days he was scheduled to speak at their June meeting this year.

Steve Coleman

Steve Coleman leads a presentation at his Parish in Madison, Wisconsin.

Steve’s presentation, “A Catholic Response to Global Warming” to 65 KofC members, was very well received. Beginning with Catholic teaching on environmental stewardship, Steve quoted from the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ statement on Global Climate Change in 2001 and Pope Francis. He then went into the science of global warming: temperature increases, sea level rise, and arctic sea ice shrinking in relation to increases in carbon emissions. His slides on the consequences of global warming: extreme weather events, ice impacts, and ecosystem disruptions brought the message home.

Steve ended with recommendations on how to respond to global warming.

  1. Make life style changes: use energy efficient light bulbs/appliances; add insulation; drive and fly less; when buying a car make MPG a priority.
  2. Adopt a new mindset: realize that this is everyone’s problem to solve and become an advocate for creation.
  3. Become a clear voice for change: write to members of congress.

He clearly made an impact on the audience. Ten people signed up for a 3-part series using Katharine Hayhoe’s book, A Climate for Change, as a basis for discussion. Walking people through their carbon footprint was eye-opening. Learning about possible solutions like imposing a fee on carbon helped to buoy spirits. Understanding the importance of writing to members of congress was motivational. And practicing laser talks gave people confidence.

Steve’s pastor asked him to do another presentation for members of the parish who had not been invited to the initial event. As a result of his second presentation in October, Steve again held his 3-part book discussion resulting in the formation of a Care of Creation group at his parish. His hope is that this group will, among other things, become a letter-writing brigade, using their Catholic voice in support of a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

Steve Coleman is available to make his presentation to other congregations.  Feel free to contact him at . His presentation, “A Catholic Response to Global Warming,” can be seen on YouTube:

If you are interested in learning more and/or sharing your experience working with your faith community, feel free to join the CCL-Catholics group on CCL Community. The group meets by conference call on the first Thursday of the month at 3 p.m. PT/6 ET. The number to use is: 712-432-1500, and the code is 961084#

 Trudi Jenny is a CCL volunteer in Madison, Wisconsin.

Steve Valk is Communications Coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby. Steve joined the CCL staff in 2009 after a 30-year career with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.