Earth Day 2008: Taking Action on Global Warming/Climate Change

A coal-fired power plant leads to CO2 emissions which lead to greenhouse gases trapping heat from the sun and warming the Earth

Graphic from the MN UU Social Justice Alliance global warming poster

Global warming is the changing of our global climate because of the build-up of carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. UU Ministry For Earth believes that global warming is an urgent moral crisis that demands unprecedented changes in how we live our lives, while recognizing the reality that most of us cannot immediately give up our cars, remodel our homes with alternative energy options for heat and electricity, or avoid some air travel. As we work hard to change our behaviors and to move our society as rapidly as possible towards sustainable solutions, what can we begin to do right now?

We Can Learn & Connect

  • Read the 2006 UUA Statement of Conscience on the Threat of Global Warming/Climate Change.
  • Check out the First Unitarian Church of Portland, OR’s “Global Warming Questions & Answers” and “Response to Global Warming.”
  • Make use of the small group ministry session Hotel Earth and the Threat of Global Warming (PDF).
  • See how other faith traditions view climate change issues in “Faith Based Statements on Climate Change” by UU mother-daughter team Ellie and Lynn Whitney.
  • Ponder a description of a logical, sensible way forward to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change from Dr. James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City from 1981 to 2013 and adjunct professor in the Department of Earth And Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. He wrote this paper after the 2008 election: “Tell Barack Obama the Truth – the Whole Truth.”
  • Delve into the details of climate change through the “climate portal” maintained by UU scientists at the UU United Nations Office Climate Change Task Force website.
  • Keep up to date with Climate Change News by Delaware UU Dr. Chad Tolman, which includes the latest developments in energy and climate change science and policy.
  • Join the UU Global Warming email list: UU Ministry for Earth has organized an email list for addressing issues and actions related to the 2004-2006 Study Action Issue on the threat of global warming. Its purpose is to help UUs share technical information about the causes and implications of global warming while encouraging participants develop appropriate strategies for individuals and congregations to combat its dangers.

We Can Take Action

Reduce your carbon footprint. By calculating how much carbon is produced in our daily activities and offsetting that carbon with dollars that can be used to support the development of renewable energy sources, we can build positive change. We are all responsible for climate change when we use electricity from coal plants to power our homes, gasoline in our cars and jet fuel in planes. Everything we consume – clothes, food, electronics, etc. – is made using energy which contributes to climate change. We can all be part of the solution to reduce CO2.

Actions for Individuals

As citizens:

  • Research and join the League of Conservation Voters ( devoted to evaluating environmental credentials of candidates and voting records of incumbents.
  • Identify the local or state level group involved in evaluating the environmental voting records of local elected officials.
  • Ask your state representatives to set a renewable energy standard
  • Attend candidate forums and ask informed questions about energy policy
  • Run for local or state level office where action on climate change is currently more politically possible.
  • Write letters to editors of newspapers and magazines.
  • Advocate for energy efficiency, energy conservation building practices, and responsible fuel choices in the operations of your local government and schools.
  • Follow this news: Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joseph Leiberman (D-CT) are expected to reintroduce their “Climate Stewardship Act” (CSA) next year, as are the sponsors of a similar bill in the House. The CSA calls for a reduction in emissions of heat-trapping gases to 2000 levels by the year 2010, and creates a market-based system of tradable allowances to achieve this reduction. The UUA Washington Office will provide updates on this legislation via action alerts and website.
  • VOTE!

As consumers:

  • Pay attention to larger items FIRST, then take on smaller projects.
  • Buy the most fuel-efficient car that meets your real needs, then also carpool and combine trips.
  • Purchase your next home near mass transit line to reduce or eliminate auto travel.
  • Opt for mass transit, bicycles, and other lifestyle changes.
  • Consider replacing your refrigerator if it is over 10 years old.
  • Choose a power company offering renewable energy.
  • “Green” your household consumer purchases, i.e, buy compact fluorescent light bulbs—research online.
  • Support eco-labeling and product certification efforts.
  • Landscape with carbon-sequestering trees.
  • Participate in consumer boycotts and recycling efforts.
  • Buy produce from local organic farmers and eat less meat.

As family members:

  • If you are moving, choose a place to live that reduces the need to drive
  • Set concrete goals for reducing your automobile travel
  • Make your next vacation an “eco-tourist” trip.
  • Listen to and support what your children are bringing home from school about environmental issues.
  • If no one is talking about global warming, raise the subject and begin a family study process.

As workers:

  • Present management with proposals for conserving energy (and saving money!).
  • Change your small business in a green direction as an owner/employee.
  • Create a strategy to move your large business in a green direction as a manger/employee—greater impacts worth the extra effort.
  • Shift to organic farming and set aside land for wildlife on your family farm.
  • Choose an environmental job or career.
  • Start a workplace discussion group (see to raise awareness

As advocates, conservationists, activists:

  • Join an action alert network.  Many of the environmental organizations listed under web resources have advocacy alerts. One good advocacy organization with a focused climate change campaign in New England, Pennsylvania and Texas is Clean Air, Clean Water at In other states, contact Greenpeace USA:
  • Join the board of a local organization working on a critical issue related to transportation, sprawling development, air or water quality, energy use.
  • Join, support and engage in activities with one of the many organizations working “on the ground” at sites around the world—locally, nationally or internationally.
  • Start a book group or discussion group to discuss global warming in your community, host a film series.
  • Sign up for regular email action alerts to learn about the UUA’s advocacy efforts and find resources for getting involved. Visit for more.

As teachers and religious educators:

  • Integrate environmental themes into your curriculum at any level or in any area.
  • Spread the word, talk about these issues and what can be done.
  • Support educational programs in schools, senior centers, and at civic meetings.

As investors:

  • Research and invest in green companies and environmentally screened funds.
  • Get involved in decisions of pension funds and other institutional investors.
  • Take a shareholder petition or resolution to the annual meeting of a corporation in which you are a shareholder; OR purchase stock in a corporation you want to influence, then take a petition.

Actions for Ministers

Congregations look to their ministers to provide religious and spiritual leadership for the challenges of our times. That is especially true for environmental issues, since the predominant secular approach to the environmental crisis has kept the theological and spiritual context in the background. The more you articulate to the connection between the our faith and the Earth, the more likely your congregation will come to know at the deepest level that working to protect the Earth is a religious issue.

  • Preach on the issue of Global Warming from a spiritual perspective, then launch a congregational study group on the issue after that service.
  • Make a priority of Earth-honoring worship to celebrate the interconnected web of life, to nourish and sustain spirits, and to inspire efforts to go forth to heal this broken world. Don’t wait for Earth Day to draw the connection between Earth, spirituality, and justice. UUMFE’s worship guide Honoring Earth” is an excellent resource for sermons from a variety of perspectives.
  • Regularly refer to an Earth-spirit connection in your sermons, newsletter column, and other spiritual practice activities. Whether just in passing when addressing other issues or in an entire piece focused on nature or the environment, your attention to the connection is crucial.
  • Encourage use of Earth-related topics in covenant groups and other spiritual practice activities in your congregation.
  • Offer an adult education class on eco-theology or Earth-based spirituality during this year of study and action. This will supplement and reinforce any other courses on the science of global warming, eco-justice, or sustainable living.
  • If your community has an interfaith group for environmental issues, participate and invite members of the congregation to join you. With our inclusive UU theology, we can help create a welcoming space for un-churched seekers to participate. The visibility you gain by participating in the community can also bring new members to your congregation.

Actions for Congregations

This much is clear: global climate change will not be resolved by individual actions alone; we must gather our collective creativity and commitment, and use our congregational capacity for collaborative efforts. The Green Sanctuary Program is a comprehensive approach to actualize a new congregational relationship with our planet. There are four program elements providing a framework for action with or without formally enrolling in the program. The program elements include:

Worship and Spiritual Practice

  • Encourage your minister and worship committee to incorporate Earth honoring elements into your regular worship. The new UUMFE worship guide Honoring Earth is an excellent resource.
  • If your congregation has an active covenant group program, propose that one or more eco-theology, earth-based spirituality, simplicity, or the spirit-nature connection be offered as covenant group topics.
  • Celebrate the turning of the seasons with inter-general events that invite reflection on our connection with nature.

Environmental Education

  • This year especially, nature and environment topics should be built into the children’s religious education program. See the UUMFE RE guide Nurturing the Earth-Spirit Connection for information and resources if you need suitable curriculum materials.
  • Throughout this year, schedule regular forums, videos, book groups, and other events to help the congregation learn about the impacts of global warming and the effect on marginalized communities.  Include the scientific studies as well as the social and economic impacts. Consider bringing in alternate views, trusting that everyone has the capability to decide how they feel about the issues and what they should do in their personal lives.
  • Offer discussion opportunities for exploring the moral implications of our middle class lifestyles and imagine a collaborative solution from a spiritual perspective that would provide justice for all species.
  • Provide opportunities in the congregation to share feelings of gratitude, hope, fear, reluctance, and even anger about the damage to Earth and the impending changes that will be required in our lifestyle. Joanna Macy’s material on The Work that Reconnects is an excellent resource ( for this.

Environmental Justice

  • Based on your study of actual and projected social impacts of global warming, consider taking action on a particular issue affecting a community being impacted either in the U.S. or in another country.
  • Join or create an interfaith group in your community to take on an environmental justice project OR initiate an environmental justice project with a congregation you already work with on something else.

Sustainable Living

  • Work with Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) Movement, a religious response to global warming. State level IPL’s in many states help congregations and individuals reduce carbon emissions.
  • Encourage members of the congregation to take a pledge to act individually to decrease their energy consumption and choose more efficient transportation methods. Calculate the energy savings from these actions collectively to measure the congregation’s contribution to reducing global warming.
  • Initiate projects that will make it easier and/or more convenient for members to conserve energy, for example, sell compact fluorescent lightbulbs at coffee hour.
  • Learn about your local energy provider’s conservation and alternative energy programs. If there is a choice of energy sources, sign up for renewable sources.
  • Implement a project such as bike to church or Sunday carpools to encourage use of alternative transportation for Sunday worship and other church activities.

We Can Stay Informed

Follow leading climate science and climate change organizations to stay up-to-date on these rapidly evolving issues. Here are some of UUMFE’s top recommendations, listed alphabetically.

  • An organization aiming to build a global grassroots movement to address the climate crisis, offers online campaigns to facilitate action, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions led from the bottom up by volunteers in over 188 countries. Its name comes from the notion that 350 means climate safety – that is, scientists speculate that we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of over 400 parts per million to below 350.
  • Center for Climate and Energy Solutions: an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to advance strong policy and action to address the twin challenges of energy and climate change. C2ES is the successor to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, long recognized in the United States and abroad as an influential and pragmatic voice on climate issues.
  • Center for Global Development: works to reduce global poverty and inequality through rigorous research and active engagement with the policy community to make the world a more prosperous, just, and safe place for us all. A nimble, independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit think tank, CGD combines world-class research with policy analysis and innovative communications to turn ideas into action. CGD conducts research and analysis on a wide range of topics related to how rich country policies impact people in the developing world.
  • Climate Action Reserve: a national offsets program focused on insuring environmental integrity of Greenhouse Gas emissions reduction projects to create and support financial and environmental value in the U.S. carbon market. It does this by establishing high-quality standards for quantifying and verifying GHG emissions reduction projects, overseeing independent third party verification bodies, issuing carbon credits generated from such projects and tracking the credits over time on a transparent, publicly-accessible system. These standards not only insure the environmental integrity of using offsets, but they also bring credibility and efficiencies to the carbon market by creating a trusted and valuable commodity.
  • The Climate Ark: an Internet search tool that provides access to reviewed climate change, global warming and renewable energy conservation news, information retrieval tools, and original analysis and action opportunities. The Climate Ark promotes public policy that addresses global climate change through reductions in carbon dioxide and other emissions, renewable energy, energy conservation and ending deforestation.
  • Climate Central: dedicated to communicating the science and effects of climate change to the public and decision-makers, and inspiring Americans to support action to stabilize the climate and prepare for a hotter world. It is their belief that the climate crisis isn’t just some far-off threat: it’s a clear and present danger. Galvanized by this sobering reality, Climate Central has created a unique form of public outreach, informed by original research, targeted to local markets, and designed to make Americans feel the power of what’s really happening to the climate. Their goal is not just to inform people, but to inspire them to support the actions needed to keep the crisis from getting worse.
  • The Climate Hub: a nonprofit Australian organization that provides the wider Australian public with up to date climate change related knowledge, including a range from basic knowledge regarding climate change all the way to distribution to IPCC and NASA publications; the site also offers some of the most creative graphics in service of this work.
  • Climate Institute: The Climate Institute’s mission is to: (1) Catalyze innovative and practical solutions for climate change adaptation, mitigation, and climate stabilization, contribute to scientific research and communicate the results of that research in an accurate and comprehensive manner; (2) Create partnerships among policymakers, scientists, the public and environmental institutions at the local, national and international levels to address the climate challenge more effectively; and, (3) Provide objective and comprehensive information on climate change risks and potential responses.
  • Climate Progress strives to be a one-stop-shop for anyone who wants the inside view on climate science, solutions, and politics. Their key goal is to save readers’ time, help avoid wading through the sea of information — or outright disinformation — on climate and energy that pervades the media and blogosphere.
  • Earth Systems Research Laboratory: The mission of the ESRL Physical Sciences Division is to address physical science questions of short- and long-term societal and policy relevance within NOAA’s Climate and Weather and Water Goals, while conducting the physical process research necessary so that ESRL can help provide the nation with a seamless suite of information and forecast products ranging from short-term weather forecasts to longer-term climate forecasts and assessments.
  • Environment Canada: Environment Canada’s mandate is to (1) Preserve and enhance the quality of the natural environment, including water, air, soil, flora and fauna; (2) Conserve Canada’s renewable resources; (3) Conserve and protect Canada’s water resources; (4) Forecast daily weather conditions and warnings, and provide detailed meteorological information to all of Canada; (5) Enforce rules relating to boundary waters; and (6) Coordinate environmental policies and programs for the federal government.
  • Environmental Systems Research Institute: ESRI is the world’s largest Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software company. And while it is their specialty to make and sell software resources, ESRI states that its mission is: “ESRI inspires and enables people to positively impact the future through a deeper, geographic understanding of the changing world around them.” ESRI offers a full suite of GIS tools, a number of interactive maps available on their website, and training resources that can educate any customer as to how to use their toolkit.
  • provides information about geology and earth science to visitors without charge.
  • Global Warming Art: makes climate science data accessible to the public through a collection of figures and images that accurately highlight and describe key issues necessary to understanding our world’s changing climate. In the “spirit” of free content, the site strives to incorporate and develop materials that may be widely reused by the public at large.
  • ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability: an association of over 1,220 local government members who are committed to sustainable development, from 70 different countries. ICLEI is an international association of local governments as well as national and regional local government organizations who have made a commitment to sustainable development. ICLEI provides technical consulting, training, and information services to build capacity, share knowledge, and support local government in the implementation of sustainable development at the local level. Its basic premise is that locally designed initiatives can provide an effective and cost-efficient way to achieve local, national, and global sustainability objectives.
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: The IPCC is the leading international body dealing with the assessment and reporting on climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge on this issue and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts. The IPCC is a scientific body. Its members review and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to scientifically diverse perceptions of the issue of climate change. The IPCC serves as the “gathering place” for this information, and a direct connection to the work of the United Nations.
  • Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory: A part of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, this observatory seeks fundamental knowledge about the origin, evolution and future of the natural world. Its scientists study the planet from its deepest interior to the outer reaches of its atmosphere, on every continent and in every ocean, providing a rational basis for the difficult choices facing humanity.
  • NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies: Famous for being the home of James Hansen, NASA’s Goddard Institute performs research emphasizing a broad study of global change, an interdisciplinary initiative addressing natural and man-made changes in our environment that occur on various time scales — from one-time forcings such as volcanic explosions, to seasonal and annual effects such as El Niño, and on up to the millennia of ice ages — and that affect the habitability of our planet. Located at Columbia University in New York City, the institute is a laboratory in the Earth Sciences Division of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and a unit of the Columbia University Earth Institute.
  • NASA Science Earth: NASA’s science program seeks answers to profound questions that touch us all: (1) How and why are Earth’s climate and the environment changing? (2) How and why does the Sun vary and affect Earth and the rest of the solar system? (3) How do planets and life originate? (4) How does the universe work, and what are its origin and destiny? (5) Are we alone?
  • The National Geographic Society: The National Geographic Society believes that the current cycle of global warming is changing the rhythms of climate that all living things have come to rely upon. What will we do to slow this warming? How will we cope with the changes we’ve already set into motion? While we struggle to figure it all out, the face of the Earth as we know it – coasts, forests, farms, and snowcapped mountains – hangs in the balance. So, the Society has put together an interactive map that allows those who access it to view six areas of concern (either one at a time or all six at once): Freshwater Resources, Ecosystems, Food and Forests, Coastal Areas, Industry and Society, and Health.
  • National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center: NOAA is one of most scientific organizations when dealing with the issue of Climate Change – and, hence, one of the most “skeptical” of the sites identified. Their Mission Statement reads as follows: “We deliver climate prediction, monitoring, and diagnostic products for timescales from weeks to years to the Nation and the global community for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the economy.”
  • Natural Resources Defense Council: At NRDC’s home page (as of this writing), you will see a red/orange map of the US and the words, “Climate Change Heat Deaths in Top U.S. Cities,” and “Learn More.” Click on the map symbol and you will be able to access an interactive map containing symbols for specific locations in the US and predictions for the coming years. According to NRDC’s “Killer Summer Heat” report, more than 150,000 Americans could die by the end of this century due to the excessive heat caused by climate change. And that estimate only covers America’s top 40 cities. You will also be able to access a map of the US with symbols for projected challenges/issues.
  • New Scientist Magazine: New Scientist magazine was launched in 1956 “for all those men and women who are interested in scientific discovery, and in its industrial, commercial and social consequences.” The brand’s mission is no different today – for its consumers, New Scientist reports, explores and interprets the results of human endeavor set in the context of society and culture.
  • Oxfam International: The impacts of climate change are complex – sometimes gradual, sometimes sudden, but nearly always hitting the poor first and hitting them hardest. Oxfam has been responding to increasing numbers of very serious climatic events in recent years. Oxfam has also been helping poor communities to adapt, such as through better flood defenses or drought resistant farming techniques. While the mapping capabilities of this site are limited to those captured in organizational documents, this is an important resource, and warrants attention.
  • Practical Action: works in over 40 countries across the world. Their publications, knowledge and approach are used in almost every developing country in the world – extending the reach of their practical approach to tackling poverty, including an extensive focus on Climate Change. Practical Action was founded over 45 years ago, on the concept of placing people’s real needs at the heart of development; that remains the guiding principle to this day. Practical Action uses low cost, appropriate, small-scale development solutions to help people to help themselves. Their vision is a world free of poverty and injustice in which technology is used to benefit all.
  • Science Newsline: A website developed to publish scientific research on a number of subjects, this site offers access to university-level scientific publications, focusing on nine areas of study: Medicine & Health, Nature & Earth, Biology, Technology & Engineering, Space & Planetary, Psychology, Physics & Chemistry, Economics & Sociology, and Archaeology & Anthropology. Most of the papers on this site are peer–reviewed and require some knowledge of the area of study prior to engagement; there is, however, some very good material in this site.
  • The Carbon Brief: reports on the latest developments in climate science – and fact-checks stories about climate and energy online and in the press. They provide briefings on the people and organizations talking about climate change, and produce background materials on science issues and news stories. Acting as a service for journalists and the online climate community, Carbon Brief’s team of researchers provides a rapid response service for climate science stories. They rely on peer-reviewed science and the relevant scientists to shape their opinions.
  • The Nature Conservancy: TNC has developed a tool they call the Climate Wizard. With this tool, you can: view historic temperature and rainfall maps for anywhere in the world, view state-of-the-art future predictions of temperature and rainfall around the world, and view and download climate change maps in a few easy steps. Climate Wizard enables technical and non-technical audiences alike to access leading climate change information and visualize the impacts anywhere on Earth. The first generation of this web-based program allows the user to choose a state or country and both assess how climate has changed over time and to project what future changes are predicted to occur in a given area.
  • Union of Concerned Scientists: The Union of Concerned Scientists offers an interactive tool – called the Climate Hot Map to map for Climate Change effects based on five categories of information: People, Freshwater, Oceans, Ecosystems, and Temperature potentials, all while being able to take these assessments to greater detail. You can, for instance, map each area independently, and then differentiate down to between three and five categories for each area.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: The EPA offers a portal known as EnviroFacts, which allows those in search of information the ability to query their specific location for data regarding Air, Land, Water, Waste, Toxics, Radiation, Facility, Compliance, and Other information. The site will query you for your Address, Zip Code, City, County, Waterbody, Park Name or other location reference information, and generate area-specific maps of whichever subject (which includes the possibility of selecting all of the above) is of concern to you.
  • U.S. Global Change Research Program: USGCRP coordinates and integrates federal research on changes in the global environment and their implications for society. It began as a presidential initiative in 1989, and was mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act of 1990, which called for a “comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”
  • University Corporation for Atmospheric Research: UCAR provides services to and promotes partnerships in a collaborative community of researchers and educators who are dedicated to understanding the atmosphere and the complex processes that make up the Earth system, from the ocean floor to the Sun’s core. They manage the National Center for Atmospheric Research and UCAR Community Programs on behalf of the National Science Foundation and the university community.
  • UU United Nations Office Climate Change Task Force: The UU-UNO (a part of the UUA) promotes well-being, peace, and justice throughout the world. Crucial to this effort is combating the impacts of the man-made global warming trend of climate change. The UU-UNO’s Climate Change Initiative is implemented by its Climate Change Task Force with advice from its Climate Advisory Group.
  • What’s Up With the Weather: The overwhelming majority of scientists agree: Earth’s temperature has risen during the past century. But is it due to man’s use of fossil fuel energy? And if so, how can we prevent the catastrophic results some scientists predict if global warming continues? In “What’s Up With the Weather,” NOVA and FRONTLINE join forces to investigate the science and politics of one of the most controversial issues of the 21st century: the truth about global warming.
  • World Glacier Monitoring Service: collects standardized observations on changes in mass, volume, area and length of glaciers with time (glacier fluctuations), as well as statistical information on the distribution of perennial surface ice in space (glacier inventories). Such glacier fluctuation and inventory data are high priority key variables in climate system monitoring; they form a basis for hydrological modeling with respect to possible effects of atmospheric warming, and provide fundamental information in glaciology, glacial geomorphology and quaternary geology.
  • World Health Organization: Climate Change has the potential to affect human health in a number of ways – for instance by altering the geographic range and seasonality of certain infectious diseases, disturbing food-producing ecosystems, and/or increasing the frequency of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes. While the WHO website does not, itself, contain mapping graphics, it does provide a number of links to important information, including publications that themselves contain map resources.
  • World Meteorological Organization: WMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It is the UN system’s authoritative voice on the state and behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources. WMO has a membership of 189 member states and territories (as of 4 December 2009). It originated from the International Meteorological Organization, which was founded in 1873. Established in 1950, WMO became the specialized agency of the United Nations in 1951 for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences.
  • World Wildlife Fund: For 50 years, WWF has been protecting the future of nature. The world’s leading conservation organization, WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally. WWF’s unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature.
This is an administrative account for UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE).