How Does the World’s 1.5 Billion Muslims Relate to Climate Change?

Maurice Picow

How Does the World’s 1.5 Billion Muslims Relate to Climate Change?

 | December 21st, 2009
climate change muslim world

Are the “Sons of the desert” doing their utmost to curtail climate change?

One out of every 4 human beings on this planet is a Muslim.  As such, are members of this planet’s largest religious group doing enough to combat the growing problems of global warming and climate change?

Much of the world’s known petroleum reserves are located in or off-shore from Muslim dominated countries in South Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. Overgrazing and other environmentally damaging agricultural practices in many of these countries are resulting in “desertification,” a term that not only refers to the abuse of once fertile pasture land, causing it to become arid or desert-like, but also the expansion of existing deserts – especially in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and in  many parts of Asia as well.

Soon after the beginning of the just completed COP 15 climate change conference in Copenhagen, an article appeared in a Canadian Islamic web blog, Muslim Presence.com by the author, Dr. Hind Al-Abadleh , an assistant professor of Chemistry at Wilfrid Laurier University, and who teaches courses in Environmental Chemistry, dealing with the relationship between Islamic religious teaching and the preservation of the environment – particularly in regards to climate change. Professor Al-Abadleh asked the following question: “With all the science behind climate change, is there room for religion to say anything about it?”

Within the course of her article, Professor Al-Abadleh covered religious teachings that covered the relationship between mankind and natured noted that “one has to understand the type of knowledge that scientific studies are providing regarding the contribution of human activities to climate change, and the religious teachings that shed light on the relationship between humans and the natural world.”

As a scientist, Professor Al-Abadleh notes that many scientists believe that climate change is being caused by an over abundance of carbon dioxide that leads to the formation of “greenhouse gases” which are composed of  natural gas and methane, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons and nitrous oxide which causes the extra warming, which raise temperatures and causes climate change.

She went on to say that while only about 4% of total CO2 amounts are caused by humans, the annual increase of these gases have resulted in increases in surface temperatures much higher than “natural” temperature increases which amount to only around 0.5 degrees C every 1,000 years.

The irresponsible manner in which humans are disturbing the natural aspect of climate patterns has a strong connection with religion, according to Prof. Al-Abadleh, and to back up her ideas, she notes passages from the Quran that relate to the responsibility that God (Allah) gave to Mankind in regards to taking care of the earth including perhaps the most noteworthy one: It is He (God) who has made you (people of Adam) the successors, stewards, vicegerents on the Earth”.

Prof.  Hind Al-Abadleh
By referring to this passage, Prof. Al-Abadleh notes that we, the inhabitants of this plant are responsible for preserving the world that God created and gave to us; and that devout Muslims are supposed to heed this responsibility as guardians of the natural world and help maintain a proper “balance” between the world of Man andthe natural world with corruption being regarded as environmental mismanagement.

While the western world is largely responsible for much of the pollution and greenhouse gases that are said to be contributing to global warming, there is much that the Muslim world can do to lesson its contribution to greenhouse gases, especially countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, where more that 80% of natural rainforests have been destroyed; much of it by slash and burn land clearing methods toplant crops such as palm trees for making palm oil.

Efforts are being made to  “green” the deserts by planting certain types  of grass and shrubs that can flourish in harsh desert climates and help reduce the effects of desertification, including a project being planned by the UAE state of Qatar. Other environmental sustaining projects are also underway in various parts of the Middle East, such as Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City, which when completed, will be the world’s first carbon neutral community.

There is still much that the Muslim World can do, however, to show that its large portion of humanity can unite and help reverse the effects of global warming and climate change. The apparent disconcert by many Muslims was evident when one of our reporters met up with some OPEC delegates at the COP 15 conference in Copenhagen.

As a part of the world from whence half of all petroleum production comes from, the World Islamic Community should do more to heed the words written in it’s most holy religious work – the Quran: “Corruption has flourished on land and sea as a result of people’s actions and He will make them taste the consequences of some of their own actions so that they may turn back” (Quran 30:41).

Photo: National Geographic

Sources: Heidi Strebel GreenOptions.com, Muslimpresence.com, News.mongabay.com, The Quran

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