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Global warming could bring worse disasters

BY STEVE GUST | Baltimore, MD | June 12, 2000

With widespread drought and wildfires already burdening many states, and the season's first tropical depression worrying others about flooding, some

forecasters are predicting that global warming could make it all even worse.

A highly charged issue in the political arena, global warming has also gotten the attention of disaster responders.

The stakes could be very high if global warming isn't curbed, said Kara Rinaldi of the World Wildlife Fund. As the combustion of fossil fuels adds gases to

the earth's atmosphere, the planet is heating up, she said.

Her group, based in Washington D.C., is interested in the preservation of the environment for wildlife. "The ecosystems affect the living conditions and

habitats of living creatures everywhere," Rinaldi said.

Soon the international World Wildlife Fund will release a report by European scientists on a warmer earth. More severe droughts and floods are possible

by a world climate thrown out of whack by global warming, Rinaldi said.

In the faith community, some are concerned with being good stewards of the earth. One of those groups is the Michigan Interfaith Global Warming

Campaign -- one of 16 similar statewide efforts. Its coordinator is Kim Winchell. She said the group works in cooperation with the National Religious

Partnership for the Environment and the Eco-Justice Working Group of the National Council of Churches.

"Our desire is to raise awareness among congregations and synagogues," she said.

Warmer temperatures, she said, could raise water levels and cause widespread flooding in coastal towns.

"It's a matter of justice because the poor of the world and those living on low-lying island nations and in the inner cities will suffer first and the most from

rising ocean levels, heat waves, severe storms, and the spread of disease," Winchell said. "Justice demands that we be accountable and be among the first

to act."

Others in the group, founded during an especially hot summer in 1998, also see the threat, including Anne Leavitt-Gruberger of Ann Arbor, MI.

"I think that the extreme weather patterns that have become apparent in the past few years are evidence of that," she said. "I feel that all people of faith

regard these issues as worthy of their time."

Rinaldi thinks industrialized nations, especially the United States, need to shoulder the most responsibility for the situation. The key is the use of clean

energy technology, she said.

"This is something that already exists that reduces greenhouse gas emissions," she said. Winchell thinks it's an issue involving all faiths and religions. "I

think we've seen temperatures climb by one degree this century," she said. "A warmer climate also tends to give storms more energy to make them


"We provide faith-based educational resources on the issue of global warming and information on energy efficiency," Winchell said. The group advocates

for recycling, less driving, fuel-efficient cars, Energy Star labeled appliances, and petitioning lawmakers for the use of cleaner and renewable sources of


There's also a video offered by the Union of Concerned Scientists, called "Keeping the Earth -- Religious and Scientific Perspectives on the Environment."

The Michigan group also has seminars to improve energy efficiency at homes of worship. Winchell sees the effort as a long battle but one worth waging.

Leavitt-Gruberger agrees. "I feel that all people have been placed on this earth as stewards, or protectors, of this earth," she said. "It becomes our burden

to ensure that there will be an earth that is healthy and sustainable for generations to come."

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