Weather or Not: Here Climate Change Comes

Part of our job as legislative assistants, in addition to staying on top of policy and doing direct lobby visits, is to help Reform Jews – from high school students with us for the L’Taken Social Justice Seminars to rabbis and congregational lay leaders attending Consultation on Conscience – speak to the offices of their elected officials.

Recently, I accompanied two incredibly talented and well-spoken high school students here with Mitzvah Corps DC to a Senate office to talk about climate change. One of the students gave an impassioned speech about how climate change has impacted her life through the increased severity and frequency of extreme weather events. After listening to the speech, the Senate legislative staffer we were meeting with challenged her, telling her that extreme weather was not a result of climate change.

There are those – even some who agree that climate change is real, happening now, and caused by humans—who fail to recognize the connections between climate disruption and extreme weather like floods, storms and droughts. However, there is in fact a strong and clear correlation. In the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration’s 2011 State of Climate report, top experts could already see that the increase in global temperatures caused by carbon emissions was upsetting normal weather patterns across the world and causing extreme and unusual weather events.

Examples of these extreme weather events include things very familiar to most Americans, like Super-storm Sandy, which impacted the entire Northeastern seaboard, particularly New York and New Jersey. Hurricane Katrina, whose effects poor communities and people of color in Louisiana still feel today, is another case of extreme weather disrupting the lives of whole communities in the United States. The National Wildlife Federation has published research on how hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, floods, wildfire and intense winter weather are all effects of climate change.

Climate change is a structural issue that has uniquely global impacts. On many social justice issues we can speak to our elected officials and draw clear links between a problematic cause and effect, and how legislation can be a key step to ameliorating that problem. However, because the impacts of climate change are so large and multi-pronged, we know that carbon emissions from a power plant effect those in Alaska who are seeing their entire communities sink and those in California who are struggling with drought at the same time.

As Reform Jews, it is our obligation to pursue justice, champion the poor and needy in our communities, and act as environmental stewards in partnership with God protecting creation. We do this in many ways, and one of the most important and impactful is addressing our elected officials, whether they be local, state, or national, directly and armed with information. You can let your Members of Congress know today that you care about the environment by filling out this action alert in support of the Green Climate Fund.

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Liya Rechtman

About Liya Rechtman

Liya Rechtman is a legislative assistant from Brooklyn, New York, where she is a member of Brooklyn Heights Synagogue. Liya graduated from Amherst College.

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