AJC Statement on Climate Change 2007

AJC Statement on Climate Change 2007

The Challenge

A substantial body of scientific opinion holds that trends in global climate change have the potential to threaten our lives, our values and our planet. Further, a majority of scientists today hold that climate change is attributable in large part to an increase in the volume of atmospheric greenhouse gases and that these gases are primarily a result of human activity. Man-made greenhouse gases consist primarily of emission of CO2 (carbon dioxide) from combustion of fossil fuels, as well as methane and other gases, resulting from industrial and agricultural activities.

Our dependence on others for those very fossil fuels, petroleum most of all, has exposed the vulnerability of the United States to energy security concerns. Moreover, dependence issues aside, climate change has the potential to disrupt our way of life, irreversibly harm the natural environment, create ongoing humanitarian crises, and—because these changes may foster instability as societal demands exceed the capacity of governments to cope—undermine our efforts to keep ourselves safe and secure.

While there is some controversy as to the relation between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, the weight of the evidence as to such a correlation demands, as a matter of prudence, that we devise policies directed at stemming climate change, as well as adapting to its reality. In urging these policies, we act in accordance with Jewish tradition, which commits us to the protection of life, stewardship of the earth and its inhabitants, and the well-being of future generations. Moreover, policies directed at mitigating and adapting to climate change are consistent with American Jewish Committee’s focus on national security and environmental protection as primary pillars of our energy policy. It is in this context that AJC, a leading voice in the quest for energy security, should also be a strong advocate for policies and actions directed at reducing our use of fossil fuels in order to mitigate climate change.

The Response

Risk factors militate that practical actions should be taken which could make a difference in emissions in the near term, and, even more crucially, in the intermediate and long terms. Initial steps should now be taken incorporating both currently available technology and behavioral adaptations that do not undermine our economy. While we recognize that reducing emissions will involve significant costs in the short term, we are convinced that they will be outweighed or mitigated by (a) the resulting environmental benefits, including avoided economic and social costs, (b) potential reductions in energy costs through more efficient use of energy, and (c) the economic benefits of taking technological leadership in developing corrective or mitigating measures.

We believe that a balance between regulatory and market approaches is achievable and desirable. However, market measures alone will be inadequate unless accompanied by sufficiently comprehensive regulatory measures. These measures also must be continuously analyzed to assure that they have the desired effects.

The continued use of fossil fuels should occur in accord with sound climate-change strategies, air and water quality policies, and prevention of chemical pollution. Continued growth of renewable sources of electricity and fuel, as well as nuclear power accompanied by stringent safeguards, is essential. Energy efficiency (including robust, strengthened CAFE standards), societal adaptation, and conservation must be encouraged and, at times, mandated, to reduce our per capita energy usage, thereby reducing or at least stabilizing the demand for fossil fuel usage.

We recognize that climate change is a planet-wide issue. Even if the United States adopts all of the measures we are urging, the combination of world-wide population growth and industrialization of underdeveloped nations may mean that we will continue on the path of accelerated climate change absent similar steps being taken across the globe. However, we in the United States, as the globe’s leading consumer of energy, have the responsibility to assume a leadership role.

Change begins at home, and AJC has already undertaken actions to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by, among other things, retrofitting our national headquarters so as to use less energy, and offsetting the CO2 from all our U.S. offices through a variety of measures.

AJC will work to educate its membership, staff, and the public to realize their personal contribution to national energy consumption and climate change and urge them to make behavioral changes to reduce their personal impact on greenhouse gases. AJC encourages both regulatory actions such as increased CAFE standards and voluntary steps to further these goals. Moreover, AJC intends, when appropriate, to engage in collaborative activities with religious, ethnic and other interested groups, for which these issues are also a key priority, as we advocate for national, state and local legislation directed at reducing greenhouse gases, as well as promote other initiatives within our communities.

In sum, policies directed at mitigating and adapting to climate change by reducing emissions are generally consistent with AJC’s focus on national security, environmental protection and economic health as pillars of our energy policy. Furthermore, because mankind's activities contribute to increasing climate change, the AJC will take prompt action, including education, advocacy, and policy change aimed at substantially and rapidly reducing the dangers forthcoming from mankind’s impact on climate change.

In light of the foregoing, American Jewish Committee resolves as follows:

Jewish tradition commits us to the protection of life, stewardship of the earth and its inhabitants, the well being of present and future generations, and social justice. Therefore, we should take steps to mitigate any increased dangers flowing from activities of mankind that contribute to increasing climate change. The American Jewish Committee believes that reasonable and practical actions should be taken quickly to reduce or eliminate emissions or activities that appear to play an important role in climate change.

Approved by the Board of Governors, September 10, 2007 (Incorporating revisions approved by the Executive Committee, October 24, 2007)