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Religious Groups Lobby for Poor Impacted by Climate Change

Religious groups are stepping up their lobbying efforts in support of climate change legislation, focusing on a goal all of their flock can agree on: helping the poor and vulnerable impacted by global warming.

A number of Jewish and Christian groups are choosing to bypass climate issues that are contentious within the faith community, such as whether global warming is man-made, and are instead zeroing in on proposals in Congress to provide international aid for people impacted by the negative effects of climate change.

The push for "international adaptation aid" is also part of a broader awareness effort launching today called "Day Six," which aims to make the public and members of Congress more conscious of the moral imperative to pass legislation regulating carbon emissions.

"On the sixth day God created us, and he made us stewards of his creation," Katie Paris, the communications director for the group Faith in Public Life, said Thursday on a conference call with reporters. She also explained why religious groups are focused on international adaptation aid: "Those who are hurt most and worst should not be helped the least and last," she said.

Groups involved in the "Day Six" campaign are directly reaching out to hundreds of thousands of people in the faith community today with tools to build grassroots support for climate change legislation.

The campaign features a Web site with a 60-second video pressing the issue, social networking tools and an online petition to Senators, urging support for climate legislation with adequate funding for international adaptation programs.

The House of Representatives in June passed a climate change bill that allocates 1 percent of its funding for international adaptation funding, which amounts to approximately $500 to $700 million, said Reverend Jim Ball, senior director of the climate campaign for the Evangelical Environmental Network.

Ball called that "woefully inadequate," citing reports from the World Bank that the annual cost of adapting to climate change in developing economies could reach between $75 billion and $100 billion over the next 40 years.

"The impacts are going to fall the hardest on those who Jesus describes as 'the least of these,'" Ball said.

Ball's organization is part of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, which is pushing for the Senate to include it its climate bill a starting figure of $3.5 billion a year for international adaptation aid. Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced a climate bill last week.

"We met with Sen. Kerry a couple weeks ago, and he told us he was going to be working very hard to increase the funding from what it is in the [House] bill," Ball said. "We're asking him to be a leader... but it's also part of our responsibility to then support people who are going to lead on morally important things."

He said adaptation is a goal the entire faith community should support because of the religious imperative to help those in need.

"Sarah Palin is someone [whose] views are fairly representative of some parts of our community," Ball said. "She said she believes global warming is happening, but she's not yet sure how much humans" contribute to it.

"For somebody in her position, adaption is something she should be in favor of as well," he said.

Bill O'Keefe, the director of policy and advocacy for the Catholic Relief Services, said addressing climate adaptation is "going to take the sustained commitment of resources at the level that only governments can provide." He added, however, that the money needed is a "drop in the bucket" in comparison to the funds used to bail out the financial industry.

"We are witnessing the real inconvenient truth that those who contributed the least to the problem are going to be affected the most," he said.