Climate Knowledge and Sacred Work


Chad Tolman (center) at the Peoples Climate March.

Chad Tolman leads climate-change action.

AMONG THE 28 MEMBERS OF FIRST UNITARIAN CHURCH who joined about 1,500 other UUs at the Sept. 20 Peoples Climate March in New York, perhaps none was more excited and committed than 75-year-old Chad Tolman, who has spent two decades studying and working on the issue of climate change.

According to the UU Ministry for the Earth (UUFME), Chad was a co-author instrumental in providing the scientific underpinnings for the Unitarian Universalist Association’s groundbreaking Statement of Conscience on Global Warming and Climate Change. The statement was adopted by the UU General Assembly in 2006.

The preamble to the statement asks, “As Unitarian Universalists, how can our faith inform our actions to remedy and mitigate global warming/climate change?” It then declares that Unitarian Universalists “will not acquiesce to the ongoing degradation and destruction of life that human actions are leaving to our children and grandchildren.”

Eco-Justice Super heroes

In 2013, Chad and fellow FirstU member Donna Gonzalez were honored by the UUMFE as “eco-justice super heroes” by the UUMFE for their “multiple innovative and inclusive projects,” including the designation of First Unitarian Church as a Green Sanctuary and the creation of the Delaware chapter of Interfaith Power and Light.

At the time, Chad wrote, “I see the closely coupled issues of energy and climate change as the greatest scientific, economic, political, and moral issues of our time . . . By sharing in this sacred work I have found meaning and value in my life .” Donna added that this work “has helped me to see life more holistically, that everyone and everything matters.”

At the 2014 General Assembly, the UUA put its money where its mouth is. Delegates overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on the Board of Trustees of our denomination to divest itself from profits from fossil fuel extraction from the Earth. Chad Tolman was not at GA this year, but he deserves some credit for this historic move on the part of a religious movement.

Learn from Chad’s blog

Chad writes a monthly blog called Climate Change News that focuses on energy and climate change science, public policy, public opinion, and ethics. Like Chad, a PhD chemist, the blog is a little technical and geeky, but it’s full of facts. Climate change deniers beware, because Chad has the true story!

The November edition of Climate Change News summarizes key points of the latest United Nations reports. It’s a sobering view. A sample:

Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.

I just “joined” Chad’s blog, meaning that once a month I’ll get a message telling me that there’s a new post from a trusted source on climate science. I hope you’ll follow the link and join Climate Change News. Chad Tolman, with his quiet, scientific manner and deep commitment to this issue, is a shining example of what can happen when you combine scientific knowledge and our sacred work.

—Jeff Lott

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