Islam and Climate Change

- chart - Islam and Climate Change


Firstly it is important to have a basic understanding of the concept of climate change as understood in the twenty first century.
Natural Climate Change:
Climate change is the natural cycle through which the earth and its atmosphere are going to accommodate the change in the amount of energy received from the sun. The climate goes through warm and cold periods, taking hundreds of years to complete one cycle. Changes in temperature also influence the rainfall, but the biosphere is able to adapt to a changing climate if these changes take place over centuries.
Human influence in climate change:
Human intervention is currently causing the climate to change too fast. (Climate models predict that the mean air temperature will increase with an estimated 2°C over the next century.) Plants and animals may not be able to adapt as quickly to this “rapid” climate change as humans can, and therefore the whole ecosystem is in danger. Climate change is already happening and represents one of the greatest environmental, social and economic threats facing our planet. The Earth’s average surface temperature has risen by 0.76° C since 1850. Most of the warming that has occurred over the last 50 years is very likely to have been caused by human activities. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that, without further action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the global average surface temperature is likely to rise by a further 1.8-4.0°C this century, and by up to 6.4°C in the worst case scenario. Even the lower end of this range would take the temperature increase since pre-industrial times above 2°C – the threshold beyond which irreversible and possibly catastrophic changes become far more likely.
 chart  - chart - Islam and Climate Change
What causes climate change?
The global climate system is driven by energy from the sun. Several gases in the atmosphere act to trap the energy from the sun, thus warming the earth. These gases are called greenhouse gases and the process is the greenhouse effect. Human activities over the last 200 years, particularly the burning of fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) and the clearing of forests, have increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This is likely to lead to more solar radiation being trapped, which in turn will lead to the earth’s surface warming up – called the enhanced greenhouse effect. The concentrations in the atmosphere of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) have all increased markedly since 1750, and now exceed by far their pre-industrial levels.
Scientific evidence that proves that the climate is changing due to human activities
There is new and stronger evidence that most of the world’s warming observed since the Industrial Revolution is attributable to rising greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Evolving computer models, alongside increasing evidence in the form of rising temperatures, more frequent extreme weather events and other effects are in line with scientists’ predictions about climate change. Modelling also shows that temperatures should continue to rise during the 21st Century, affecting nature and mankind.
Key to the collaboration of climate scientists has been the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) by the United Nations in 1988. The IPCC brings together hundreds of scientists who assess and peer-review studies and other relevant information in order to establish a global scientific consensus on climate change.
The IPCC’s fourth major report was published in late 2007, following six years of work. The report establishes beyond all reasonable doubt that greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are generating global warming, a rise in average temperatures worldwide that could have a devastating impact on people, our economies and our environment.
The report confirms that climate change is a reality and that temperatures are rising faster and faster, with ever more serious impacts, such as more tropical cyclones and storms in the north, higher sea levels and increasing desertification in the southern hemisphere.
However, the report also supports the European Commission’s analysis that considerable scope exists to reduce global emissions at relatively low cost.
Many technologies already exist to help us reduce emissions – through measures such as greater energy efficiency, renewable energy sources or better waste management. The problem is that barriers – such as conflict, poverty or lack of information – often stand in the way of exploiting these technologies.
Governments around the world need to prioritise the removal of these obstacles, says the IPCC, adding that unless climate change is controlled, all other goals of progress and sustainable development may be in danger.
What can we do to limit climate change?
Based on the scientific evidence, the EU believes that the global average temperature increase should be limited to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. This would still allow us to cope with the changes and effects. Staying within the 2°C limit will require global greenhouse gas emissions to stop rising by 2020 and then be cut to around half of their 1990 levels by 2050. This is going to require substantial changes to our energy and transport systems, and the contribution of all sectors of society and individuals.
The Islamic View on Climate Change
The Basics
The teachings of Islām cover all facets of life. Precepts on the relationship between human beings (either directly or indirectly) and the environment are primarily available in the primary sources of Islām viz. the Qurān and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad Ahadith (his sayings) and Sunnah (his practical examples).  The other two sources of knowledge on the subject matter in focus, are  Ijma (consensus of the scholars) and Qiyas (analogy). However, the Qurān and Ahadith are regarded as the pivotal sources of most of the primary literature related specifically to the environment.
Protection of the environment
The environment is the creation Allāh (TA). The creation of this earth and all its natural resources is a sign of His Wisdom, Mercy, Power and His other Attributes and therefore serves to develop human awareness and understanding of Allāh (TA).
Humanity should seek to protect and preserve the environment because by so doing they protect Allāh’s (TA) creatures which pray to Him and praise Him. Humankind might not be able to understand how these creatures praise Allāh (TA but this does not mean that they do not do so, Allāh (TA) says in Qurān: (The seven heavens and the earth, and all that is therein, glorify Him and there is not a thing but glorifies His Praise. But you understand not their glorification. Truly He is Ever Forbearing, Oft Forgiving.) (Al-Israa’ 17: 44)
In Islam, humans are expected to protect the environment since no other creature is able to perform this task. Humans are the only being that Allāh (TA) has “entrusted” with the responsibility of looking after the earth. This trusteeship is seen by Islām to be so onerous and burdensome that no other creature would ‘accept’ it. Allāh says: (Truly, We did offer Al­Amânah (the trust or moral responsibility or honesty and all the duties which Allāh (TA)has ordained) to the heavens and the earth, and the mountains, but they declined to bear it and were afraid of it (i.e. afraid of Allāh’s (TA) Torment). But man bore it. Verily, he was unjust (to himself) and ignorant (of its results).) (Al-Ahzab 33: 72)
One of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is Laa darara wa laa diraarThere should be no harming nor reciprocating harm.”  (Malik:1994:Vol2:300 no.1461).  In terms of the environment humanity is constrained from harming animal or plant life.
The earth is not for one generation but for every generation, past, present and future and that would include humans as well as other creatures on this earth.
The issue of climate change
Human activities in the twenty first century cause destruction of the environment. This is due to mankinds’ corruption on earth . Allāh (TA)says in the Qurān Evil has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of man has earned  (Qurān: Rum. 30:41). Allāh (TA) withholds water, crops and fruits when man spreads evil on earth. When humanity does not obey the laws of Allāh (TA) he will also not respect the environment.
Climate change became a problem when humanity deviated from its natural state towards the endless pursuit of superficial attractions. Associated with this process is an economic injustice, which the material wealth of the world are placed into the hands of a few, whilst simultaneously causing the future to be discounted. The increased proportion of greenhouse gases and the changing climate that follows is one of its unpleasant fruits. The need for greenhouse gases to be reduced is urgent, yet global emissions continue to rise.
We must condemn and act against multinational corporations and regimes destroying nature in addition to the cynical economic system. One way of undertaking such action would perhaps be to join the emerging global movements and networks demanding economic and environmental justice, as long as these movements act according to Islamic principles. The process of climate change is taking place, and global CO2 emissions are climbing at an increasing rate. Islam encapsulates an environmental ethic that helps outward behavior to be more aligned with conservation principles. It also encourages spiritual development, which is believed to help nurture an inner state that eases the actualisation of these values.
Growing more trees. CO2 is absorbed by trees during photosynthesis.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:”There is none amongst the Muslims who plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, but is regarded as a charitable gift for him.” (Bukhari:1986: Vol.3 : 295 no. 2320). I another narration Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said “No Muslim plants a tree then whatever is eaten from it is charity for him, and whatever is stolen from it is charity for him, and whatever the beasts eat from it is charity for him, and whatever the birds eat from it is charity for him, and whatever is lost from it is charity for him” (Muslim : 1993:Vol.3A:31 no. 1552).
Islam is against the cutting or destruction of plants and trees unnecessarily as is evident in the following hadith: “He who cuts a lote-tree [without justification], Allah will send him to Hellfire.” (Abu Dawud -Abi Tayeb: 1990: Vol. 7: book no 14: 102: no. 5228).
We should be striving to lead the way as conservationists. Possible actions include:

  1. Use of alternative energy sources, e.g. wind and solar power
    2. Use of public transport whenever possible
    3. Investment in bio-fuels
    4. Water conservation
    5. Minimising waste disposal
    6. Recycling of waste
    7. Planting trees wherever possible

Renewable energy
* We should invest in and learn about development of technology to harness wind & solar power for the masses (e.g. solar energy to power water de-salination plants)
* Micro-generation of wind & solar energy at a local level (wind is free and blows in most parts of the world).
We must therefore be looking to lead the way when it comes to protecting the environment and conserving our finite resources. Initially, by learning about the environment and how to protect it. Then by implementing practical solutions, for example (but not limited to):
* For every barrel of oil extracted, there could be a tree (costing perhaps just a few pennies) planted somewhere in the world.
* Use of small scale wind turbines for rural communities, particularly for water extraction
* Micro-generation using wind and solar power to supplement domestic properties
* Use of grey water (i.e. collected rain-water) for use in our gardens and where possible to flush our loos
* Use of public transport wherever possible, (or use a bicycle for short journeys)
* Ensure that our vehicles burn fuel efficiently and produce minimal emissions. [Developing countries should introduce stringent MOT style tests to ensure that road vehicles, especially government vehicles, comply with emission reducing requirements.]
* Wherever possible, protect the rights of animals (of any species). ) The Prophet (PBUH) said: ” If you kill a sparrow senselessly, it will hasten to Allāh (TA) on the Day of Judgment saying : O Rabb! so and so killed me for play and not for use!” .”(An- Nisai :1990:  Vol. 4 Book no.7 : 239: no. 4427)  One will face justice on the Day of Resurrection for killing animals without a just reason.  It is forbidden in Islam to kill an animal cruelly or for mere play. Islam has forbidden wastage of animals and plants in peacetime and even in time of war.
As a community we should be practicing green policies that will contribute safeguarding the environment for our children, grandchildren and all future generations. As current, custodians of the planet, we bear the responsibility for our actions or indeed our in-action. Yet it is future generations that will suffer the consequences of our ignorance and selfishness. .