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Leaders out of step with their faiths' climate teaching

  • 17 November 2016


The evangelical Christian vote no doubt assisted the climate-denying Trump to his election victory, yet it is remarkable how out-of-step it is with the general view of faith communities globally.

This view was made abundantly clear the day after Trump's victory on 10 November, with the release of an Interfaith Statement in Marrakech, Morocco, and it should stand as a challenge to those in public life who continue to block climate action.

We see a similar phenomenon in Australian politics, the dominance of politicians with climate-denying views and all its consequences. What is remarkable here is that, despite a dominant Catholic presence in Cabinet for some years, the push from among their ranks is in the opposite direction to the moral signposts in Pope Francis' environmental encyclical Laudato Si' and any number of other faith-based public proclamations.

Our politicians resist the idea they should hold certain views because of their religious beliefs. It is true people can, in good faith, come to different solutions to practical problems from others in their own faith traditions. On the other hand, faith can never be closeted away as a purely private affair. Faith has an inescapable public dimension and impacts on the ethics underlying decisions about the issues of the day.

For this reason one would hope those in public office would not consistently act in ways that are opposed to the well-reasoned, evidence-based, morally congruent positions of leaders in their faith traditions.

The Interfaith Statement was endorsed by such prominent religious leaders as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and a diverse range of others. Australian endorsements include the Grand Mufti and heads of peak Buddhist, Hindu, Uniting Church and Lutheran bodies.

The statement describes the continued use of fossil fuels as 'ethically untenable', calls for a concerted push to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C and for divestment from fossil fuels.

While statements from the religious community are becoming more sophisticated on policy, more urgent and more far-reaching in their demands for climate action, the Australian government retreats. Despite being weighted as it is with people of faith, our leadership drags the chain internationally.


"The Islamic Society of North America has committed to divesting from fossil fuels and encouraged its constituent organisations and affiliated institutions to do so as well. This marks the world's first divestment announcement from a Muslim institution."


With the consequences pertaining to nothing less than the capacity of the earth to support life as we