By: Hind Al-Abadleh
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) started releasing reports on their fifth assessment of the status of the climate starting in September 2013. The latest report on adaptation and mitigation came out last Sunday, April 13. The reports are the synthesis of scientific studies on climate science from field, laboratory and modeling work, which shows with greater levels of confidence that humans are the main driving force behind a changing climate.
Mainly, the high carbon, consumer-driven life style powering industrial civilizations and those aspiring to catch up are saturating the planet with the junk we continue to pump into the atmosphere. We are currently experiencing the impacts(1): faster rates of melting ice caps, ocean acidification, depletion of fresh water resources, increased severity of storms, floods and droughts with impacts on crop production, in addition to rising surface and atmospheric temperatures.
I’ve written before(2) on how Islamic teachings provide an ethical worldview of Nature based on Quranic verses and traditions of Prophet Mohammed – PBUH. Motivated by these teachings, and in response to the call of the IPCC for humanity to adapt and mitigate climate change, I believe that Muslims can take a leadership role in this arena.
The goal would be to reduce their carbon footprint by 40-80% as a community inspired by its faith by staring now through practical steps to be implemented in their mosques, community centres, businesses and homes:
1) Energy conservation: One old-fashioned way of adapting to climate change is to conserve energy. We need to become more efficient in energy and material consumption. In our minds and deep in our hearts, we need to connect being conscious of God (having taqwa coupled with internal accountability) with how many light switches we keep on or off and how long we keep the cars idling for no good reason. We need to embrace behavioral changes that monitor our energy consumption everywhere we go. Requesting energy audits to mosques, busineses and homes are necessary, and following up on the recommendations by improving insulations, and replacing old appliances with energy efficient ones, will not only save money in the long run, but also reduce carbon emissions dramatically.
2) Smart and environmentally-friendly Sharia investments: To keep global warming to 2 degrees this century, we need to keep 66-80% of proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground.(3) This means that we need to burn about 20-30% strategically as transition fuels to clean energy generation. Currently, Sharia-compliant investment firms invest in fossil fuel energy companies because oil is considered an ‘asset’ like gold and silver. Well, if we are to truly live up to teachings of our religion, Muslim investment firms should be among the early birds in divesting from fossil fuels, and investing instead in emerging clean energy technologies likes solar and wind, and in technologies that aim to capture carbon from large point emission sources to prevent its addition to the atmosphere.
3) Abolishing factory farming: Muslims are among the largest consumers of red meat and poultry around the world. As a fast growing visible minority in Canada, the halal industry is expecting to grow substantially to meet their needs.(4,5) It has been estimated that producing 1 kg of beef results in more CO2 emissions than going for a three-hour drive while leaving all the lights on at home.(6) The root cause of the high carbon emissions is the factory farming practices driven by high consumer demands. I’ve written before on Muslims relationship with food, and the need to care for animals’ well being and not only how they were slaughtered.(7) This area of the economy that is driven by Muslims consumer demand for halal food present a golden opportunity to ‘vote with our wallet’ to abolish inhumane factory farming practices that are carbon-intensive, and to encourage natural and organic ways of raising animals for food.
Climate change is symptom of a disease that infected humanity at large and threatens its survival. Inspired by a belief system that places the human being as a steward of the Earth and the rest of God’s creation, and by a rich heritage and history that embodies how a human civilization could thrive in harmony with Nature, Muslims ought to revive the spirit of their commitment to living by the message in the Quran and traditions of Prophet Muhammad –pbuh. I sincerely pray that Allah make us from among those who reflect and follow the best of what is being said.
1) 'What We Know' initiative on Climate Change from AAAS:http://whatweknow.aaas.org/get-the-facts/
2) Through religious lens: combating climate change: http://iqra.ca/2009/through-religious-lens-combating-climate-change/
3) Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0081648
4) Halal in Toronto: http://vimeo.com/16597158
5) Canadian Halal Meat Market Study:http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/afu9886
6) Meat production 'beefs up emissions': http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2007/jul/19/climatechange.climatechange
7) Our relationship with food – should we really care?’:http://iqra.ca/2011/our-relationship-with-food-–-should-we-really-care’/
Hind Al-Abadleh is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, ON. She could be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org