Resolution on Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change


Congregation B’nai Israel,
Temple Beth Am,
Temple Beth El,
Temple Beth Sholom,
Temple Israel of Boston,
Temple Kol-Ami Emanu-El,
Congregation Kol Tikvah,
Temple Shaarei Shalom,
Temple Shir Tikvah of Winchester
Temple Solel
Submitted to the URJ Biennial


The Union for Reform Judaism has consistently spoken about the importance of action to conserve and preserve our environment. In our 1965 resolution, “Conservation and Development of Natural Resources,” we affirmed the human impacts on environmental degradation, our responsibility to take steps to protect communities from those impacts, and, when possible, reverse them. In our 2009 “Climate Change and Energy” resolution, we stated that “climate change is fundamentally a social justice issue that marries our mandate to be good stewards of the earth with our call to care for the least among us.”  We called for “urgent and serious” action in the face of climate change. We also called for “our synagogues and congregants to make wise use of limited natural resources in our personal and communal lives.”[1] Today, as the impacts of climate change are increasingly felt, including by our congregations and communities, it is time to take further action.[2] 

In Genesis (9:15-16) God promises not to destroy the earth by flood, stating, “I will remember My covenant between Me and you and every living creature among all flesh, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.” God does not, however, preclude the possibility that humanity, by our own shortsighted behaviors, may destroy the earth by flood or other means. Today, our careless disregard for the environmental impact of our actions has set us on a path that is damaging and could ultimately harm human health and desolate our planet. The devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and by the severe droughts, floods, and wildfires in California and other states and provinces, illustrates the ways in which climate change, caused in significant part by human behavior, is destroying homes, communities, and human lives.

What has changed since our prior statements? The urgency. Climate change has increased the rate of sea level rise: by 2035, it is expected that 170 coastal communities will experience chronic flooding.[3]  In addition, the number of wildfires ravaging forests and communities is increasing, a trend that experts predict will worsen as global temperatures continue to rise.[4]  Because of climate change, some parts of North America have experienced significantly increased precipitation, while others have experienced increased drought.[5] Additionally, research suggests that hurricanes are increasing in intensity.[6] All of these changes affect human life and the other organisms with which we share the earth. Economically vulnerable communities are especially hard-hit by these extreme weather patterns as fishing, farming, and tourism jobs are lost, as property is destroyed, and as extreme heat or cold threaten health.

Since the United States’ reversal on its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, 372 mayors have taken it upon themselves to uphold the commitments of the agreement in their own municipalities.[7]  State and municipal jurisdictions, recognizing that they can implement practices that can dramatically curb the effects of climate change, have endeavored to partner with each other and international players to work toward their shared environmental goals.

When flooding, fire, or hurricanes have devastated communities around the world, the URJ has taken action. We’ve led relief fundraisers, sent volunteers to disaster sites, and hosted displaced people. Now, in the face of increasing disasters caused by climate change, we must act to prevent further global warming, help communities prepare for environmental disasters, and provide relief to those affected.


  1. Encourage congregations to advocate from the local to federal levels of government to uphold or go beyond the commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement;
  2. Encourage congregations to:
    1. Take steps to educate and prepare themselves and their neighbors for the impacts of sea level rise, wildfires, increased extreme weather events, drought, and other impacts of climate change; and
    2. Work with local organizations to provide relief to those affected by these events.
  3. Continue to advocate for legislative, regulatory, and judicial action to protect all communities from the damaging impacts of climate change;
  4. Continue to advocate for the Canadian and U.S. governments to uphold our international responsibilities to decrease the human impacts of climate change; and
  5. Encourage congregations to work with interfaith and other partners within their communities to advocate for and work to implement climate change solutions.