Reverend Richard Cizik, a respected American Christian leader
dubbed the “Earthy Evangelist” by The New York Times, will visit
Australia in November to highlight the need for urgent action on climate
Included in 2008 in TIME magazine’s list of “TIME 100”
most influential people for his work in bringing together scientific and
evangelical communities, Cizik brings a wealth of experience to
advocacy on this critical global issue.
Rev. Cizik is Vice
President for Governmental Affairs with the US National Association of
Evangelicals (NAE) and responsible for setting the NAE’s policy
direction on issues before Congress, the White House, and the Supreme
Court. He is also a national spokesperson on issues for concern for
evangelicals, and has earned a formidable reputation as an evangelical
diplomat and peacemaker. He will be in Australia to meet with Christian
leaders and politicians, and to address a series of conferences and
public gatherings on the need to work together to tackle climate change.
was first “converted” to the cause of climate change when he heard
distinguished climate scientist and evangelical Christian Sir John
Houghton speak in Oxford in 2002. Since that time, he has been an
advocate for action on climate change within the US evangelical
community and beyond. Though known as a proponent of a variety of
conservative causes, his insistence that climate issues were a vital
“pro-life” concern caused controversy among some conservatives.
Undaunted by the criticism, he was instrumental in creation of the
Evangelical Climate Initiative, a coalition of evangelical Christians
who work and pray together to combat climate change.
advocacy for urgently tackling climate change, Cizik is motivated by the
conviction that there is a strong biblical mandate to care for the
creation since Christians believe that “the earth is the Lord’s” and
human beings are called to be stewards of the earth. Biblical
scholarship and environmental crises have both opened the eyes of many
Christians that since the Creator’s ultimate will for the earth is
renewal, environmental degradation is therefore an offence against God
and even the current status quo of delay or inaction is a “sin of
However, climate change is not “just an environmental
matter”. It is also about the value of human life, and is thus a
profound issue of human justice. Climate change will affect everyone,
including young people, the unborn, and the world’s poor. Those who
have contributed least to the problem will suffer most from its impacts.
Some of the projected impacts of climate change in developing countries
include declining crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa, increased risks of
tropical disease, and hundreds of millions of people could be displaced
by the middle of the century.
Already, islands and low lying
areas in the Pacific, the Torres Strait, and south Asia are impacted by
rising seas, storms, and storm surges. These impacts include damage to
homes and infrastructure, the salinisation of fresh water supplies, and
crop losses. Some communities in the Pacific have already been forced
to move, and the entire populations of Tuvalu and Kiribati face the
prospect of having to leave their homelands altogether. Since
Christians believe we are all called to "love our neighbours as
ourselves", our responsibility to help people who are suffering from
climate change is all the greater, and particularly because we are among
those who bear a disproportionate responsibility for this situation.
As an example, Australia’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions are over
forty times those of Kiribati.
Greenhouse gas emissions continue
to rise, and the window of opportunity to protect the world and all its
inhabitants from catastrophic climate change becomes smaller by the day.
Rev. Cizik’s visit, which is jointly sponsored by research organisation
The Climate Institute, aid agencies World Vision and TEAR Australia,
and the Australian Evangelical Alliance, comes at a very important time,
both nationally and internationally.
The Australian government is
set to release detailed plans for the introduction of its Carbon
Pollution Reduction Scheme by December. The world’s leaders have until
the end of 2009 to reach an international climate agreement that will
achieve the necessary deep global emissions cuts, and that will protect
lives and livelihoods. Previously a laggard internationally on taking
action on climate change, Australia now has the opportunity to be a
positive player and join a leading group of nations who are tackling
climate change. By committing to strong emission reduction targets, and
providing funding to help developing countries switch to clean
technologies and to prepare for the unavoidable impacts of climate
change, Australia can play an important role in achieving a global
It is clear that addressing the challenge of climate
change requires a whole society response. This includes not only
governments, whatever their political shade, but also business,
households, churches and community organisations. Australian Christians
are awakening to this challenge. Many denominations have policies,
statements and programs on climate change, and approximately 40
religious leaders, including heads of churches, recently sent an open
letter to the Australian government on climate change and the Pacific. A
growing number of church congregations are taking practical action to
reduce their environmental impact.
However, much more needs to be
done for creation care to become recognised as a core part of Christian
mission and witness. Rev. Cizik is a Christian who has taken this call
to heart. He demonstrates that Christians have a distinctive voice on
this issue, and that all of us can make a contribution within our
day-to-day lives and our own sphere of influence.
Rev. Cizik will speak at the following public events: