U. law professor: An obligation to our environment

By James A. Holtkamp

For Mormon Times

Published: Saturday, March 7 2009 12:06 a.m. MST

Four law professors from the University of Utah answered an invitation

from Mormon Times to examine current issues related to their areas of

expertise. They look at their chosen topics not only as lawyers but

also in light of their membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of

Latter-day Saints.


Climate change is well on its way to becoming the defining issue of the 21st century. The majority of the Ph.D.s on the planet who deal with climate issues are convinced that human activity since the advent of the industrial revolution is significantly affecting the planet's climate balance. I have both practiced and taught climate change law and air pollution control law, and I have come to appreciate how men and women of good will and creativity can resolve the most daunting problems.The Obama administration has indicated that it will take aggressive action to deal with climate change, including using existing authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases, pushing through a comprehensive climate change bill in Congress and actively participating in the negotiations leading to a new global climate change treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol (which expires at the end of 2012). All of this is a dramatic reversal of the Bush administration's policy of opposing mandatory climate change regulations.Mormons tend to be conservative Republicans, which is a cultural and not doctrinal characteristic of the faith. As a result, there is much suspicion about the new administration's plans to enact a comprehensive new government regulatory program. However, Mormons also understand the concept of stewardship, which denotes mankind's individual and collective responsibility to care for this God-given home we live on. There are many Mormons who have become very active on environmental issues that affect their communities, families and health. Attacking climate change will require action by individuals, companies, universities and governments — indeed by all entities.Moroni prophesied that in the latter days \"there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth\" (Mormon 8:30). These pollutions are both spiritual and physical. We have an obligation to overcome both.

James A. Holtkamp is an adjunct professor of law at the University of Utah.Professor Christian Johnson on how advice from LDS general conference during the Great Depression gives needed perspective to current challenges.Professor Ralph R. Mabey explores how the struggle between “yearnings” and “earnings” is at the heart of the slowing economy.Associate professor Lincoln L. Davies likens Obama’s

actions on energy issues to the Mormon ethic of preparedness.

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