Climate change activists find ally in Orthodox Church leader
SPETSES, Greece (AP) — Leading climate change experts and campaigners said Wednesday they would work with the leaders of the Orthodox Church and other religions to fight global warming, after expressing concern that their message was not reaching people fast enough.
Scientists, campaigners, and economists involved in the climate change debate gathered on the Greek island of Spetses at a conference organized by the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew — dubbed the “Green Patriarch” for his support of environmental causes — inaugurated the two-day conference.
“We have a strong sense of obligation when it comes to the modern crisis of the environment,” Bartholomew told Orthodox parishioners packed into a small chapel for a welcome service.
“This challenge has taken us to Greenland and the Mississippi Delta, but we also think about those closer to home,” he said.
The meeting in Greece comes just over a year after President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Senior environmental experts are attending the event on the island about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Athens.
“Faith can help us because we scientists have tried everything. We can’t say what’s happening in a more compelling way when we warn about the end of civilization,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, an adviser to the German government on climate issues and founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “Other social forces need to weigh in.”
Church bells rang and hundreds of islanders — including welcoming parties in traditional dress — greeted Bartholomew upon his arrival by boat. Conference delegates, including long-breaded Orthodox priests, were transported around the island’s main town in golf carts and horse-drawn carriages.
Now age 78, Bartholomew has organized nine international conferences on the environment since the mid-1990s.
“A response to the environmental crisis has to be universal. Religious people in the past have resisted science,” Father John Chrissavgis, the patriarch’s adviser on the environment, told the AP. “But both science and more recently religions have recognized that they can be immensely strong mobilizing forces. They can awaken people’s consciences.”
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