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NC Faith Leaders See Climate, COVID-19 as Moral Issues


Wednesday, April 22, 2020   

RALEIGH, N.C. -- On Earth Day, faith leaders are reflecting on how they believe climate change and the coronavirus crisis will change humanity.

Susannah Tuttle directs Interfaith Power and Light, a North Carolina Council of Churches program that works with congregations to promote renewable energy and raise awareness about the climate crisis. The group celebrates its 85th anniversary this year.

Racial and economic inequities are amplified as communities face hurricanes, drought and other effects of climate change, Tuttle said, "and, as a moral imperative, we must be making the connections of the COVID-19 pandemic to our shared global climate emergency."

According to EPA data, North Carolina's climate warmed one-half to one degree Fahrenheit over the last century, and the state's coastal waters are rising about one inch every decade, leading to eroding beaches and severe flooding.

Tuttle said she believes the coronavirus offers an opportunity for state lawmakers to improve air and water quality, and curb greenhouse-gas emissions, even as the Trump administration continues to unravel federal environmental regulations.

"If they only put the economy and business first, with the very economic system that has created the problem in the first place of inequality and injustice, in this country and in North Carolina," she said, "then it'll be crystal clear what they value most."

Studies have shown that low-income neighborhoods and communities of color disproportionately are located near coal-fired power plants, hog farms and industrial manufacturers, emitting toxins linked to cancer, lung disease and other health burdens. Emerging research also indicates that people of color are becoming sick and dying of COVID-19 at higher rates than other groups.

The EPA's North Carolina data from August 2016 is online at, racial health data is at, and COVID-19 data is at

Disclosure: North Carolina Council of Churches contributes to our fund for reporting on Environment, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Immigrant Issues, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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