Environmental stewardship is an act of compassion toward the poor, say mainline Protestants and evangelicals, who are joining with other faith groups to reduce the effects of global warming.

In an uncommon display of unity, the religious groups are supporting the controversial Kyoto Protocol. Thirty-eight nations met in Japan last December, agreeing to reduce fossil fuel emissions by 7 percent of 1990 levels.

Clergy and lay leaders are gathering in Columbus, Ohio, October 25-26 for the Midwest Interfaith Climate Change conference to prepare a grassroots lobbying effort.

"Our main goal is to protect God's creation and the less powerful through climate change," says Jim Ball, director of the Evangelical Climate Campaign, which formed in January to push for adoption of the treaty. The poor in developing countries are most at risk from global warming, Ball says, because of decreased agricultural output and increased threat of disease. "Our role here is to speak about principles, not percentages," says Paul Gorman, executive director of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, which includes the National Council of Churches (NCC), the U.S. Catholic Conference, the Coalition on Environmental and Jewish Life, and the Evangelical Environmental Network.

"When evangelical Christians take a position on the environment, it's noticed," says Gorman, referring to evangelicals' influential support of the Endangered Species Act in 1995.

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