No doubt we must have noticed that the Sun has not been friendly recently. The temperature of the earth surface is sky rocketing. One of the colossal challenges we are facing in this century is global warming and there needs to be a global warning. A severe warning to be given by scientists and religious scholars on the need to save the earth, to save our home. Though it may seem there is awareness about it since even celebrities are going green like Leonardo Di Caprio who was involved in the documentary, the 11th hour but on the whole people are still in the dark about this menace.
But how did it all begin after all Allah (SWT) says in the Qur’an:
‘...On earth will be your dwelling place and your means of livelihood for a time.’Q2.36
And also Allah says
‘He it is that has made you inheritors in the earth.’ Q 35: 39
From the above verses we can see there in the evidence that earth is meant to be our dwelling place, our home and not the Moon or Mars or some other planet. The earth was not like this some centuries ago so who messed things up? We, humankind did. We that Allah put in charge. We that the creator made the inheritors of the earth. Is this how we will act if we inherited a company from our parents? We are all guilty of making the earth what it is today. Scientists have laid down the root cause for this situation as the increase in the amount of carbon dioxide let out to the atmosphere by our industries and automobiles. Our fast cars, our luxury life our excessive love for this dunya all brought us this catastrophe. Allah says in the Qur’an:
‘Mischief has appeared on land and sea because of (the meed) that the hands of men have earned that (Allah) may give them a taste of some of their deeds: in order that they may turn back (from Evil)’ Q 30:41
If the global warming situation continues the drastic climatic changes would cause devastating results in seasonal winds, melting of polar ice caps, and rise in sea level and land inundation especially in crowded areas. New diseases would spring up which may be challenging to the medical world.
As described in an article in Science Human domination of Earth’s ecosystems, ‘‘Between one-third and one-half of the land surface has been transformed by human action; the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has increased by nearly 30% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution; more atmospheric nitrogen is now fixed by humans than by all natural terrestrial sources combined; more than half of all accessible surface fresh water is put to use by humanity; and about one-quarter of the bird species on Earth have been driven to extinction . . . All . . . trace to a single cause, the growing scale of the human enterprise. The rates, scales, kinds, and combinations of changes occurring now are fundamentally different from those at any other time in history; we are changing Earth more rapidly than we understand it. In a very real sense, the world is in our hands and how we handle it will determine its composition and dynamics, and our fate.”
Presently, we are already feeling the impact and effects of this situation. It is not an issue of the scientist alone; every individual has to join hands on saving the earth from global warming. Though it is really going to be tough to save our home,
Practically all kind of motor vehicles including cars, buses, airplanes, ships, and off-road vehicles, Chemical and petroleum refineries, Manufacturing facilities, Commercial operations such as dry cleaners, bakeries, and garages. Plants that generate electric power by burning coal or oil are not left out. They all cause global warming since they produce green house gases as the population grows, consumption per individual grows. Technologies are becoming larger too. Thus, the scope of all the activities just mentioned grows too. Without concerted effort to prevent it, pollution and other forms of environmental degradation will also grow.
Visible Effect of Global Warming:
· Increase in earth’s temperature
Climate models developed by scientists indicate that the Earth’s oceans will warm before the Earth’s atmosphere. This is resulting in sagging roads, sinking pipelines, and rapid multiplication of insects that feed on the state’s spruce forest. Africa’s highest mountain is in Kenya, Mt. Kilimanjaro with its famous ‘‘Snows of Kilimanjaro.” As compared with a 1912 survey, 82% of the icecap has melted. If current rates continue, melting will be complete between 2010 and 2020.Also mountain glaciers in places as far apart as Peru and Tibet are also melting shows Peru’s Qori Kalis. This glacier shrank
33 times faster between the years 1998 and 2000 than it did in 1963 to 1978.
Another visible effect is the ozone layer depletion. This will be discussed in details later.
GREEN HOUSE GASES
Carbon dioxide- More than just a greenhouse gas.
CO2 is the major greenhouse gas accounting for more than 50% of the current warming when all greenhouse gases (except water vapor) are added together. CO2 does not powerfully absorb infrared radiation. However, its concentration at 370 ppm is much higher than other
Greenhouse gases. It is also persistent, with an atmospheric lifetime of over 100 years. Human activities emit more than 6 billion tons (5.4 billion tones) of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.
Carbon dioxide sources
Worldwide the major source of CO2 is fossil-fuel combustion (coal, petroleum, and natural gas), contributing about 80% of anthropogenic CO2. Coal has the greatest carbon content among fossil fuels, and emits more CO2 when burned than petroleum does. Natural gas emits the least CO2. Coal-burning electric power plants are the major CO2 sources in many countries from the United States to China and India. Petroleum-burning motor vehicles contribute about 25% of the CO2 in the United States. Deforestation contributes too because when felled trees are burned, their stored carbon is released as CO2. At the same time, deforestation leaves fewer trees to take up atmospheric CO2. Trees that are grown on a sustainable basis make no net CO2 contribution. In sustainable growth, as much tree biomass is grown as is harvested on an ongoing long-term basis. Natural CO2 sources include releases from oceans and land, and plant respiration.CO2 is a waste gas respired by animals, plants, and many bacteria. Some people sometimes express belief that an increasing human population breathing out CO2 is the reason that atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing. This is not true.
The major reason for increased CO2 is fossil-fuel burning and, secondarily, deforestation. CO2 is also an acid precursor. In the presence of atmospheric moisture, part is transformed to carbonic acid. CO2 reaching water bodies is converted into carbonic acid, bicarbonate, and carbonate. Carbonate accumulates in shells and coral, and eventually in ocean sediments.
There is concern that, because oceans are such a large sink for CO2, the pH of ocean water may eventually decrease enough to damage ocean life. This is an area of active investigation.
· Methane (CH4)
Methane (CH4) is a simple hydrocarbon gas accounting for about 20% of the greenhouse effect. It is second in importance only to carbon dioxide. Its atmospheric concentration is only 1720 ppb or 1.72 ppm. This is a level more than 200 times lower than that of carbon dioxide but molecule for molecule, methane has almost 25 times greater ability to absorb infrared radiation from the Earth than carbon dioxide. Fortunately, it has a much shorter atmospheric lifetime, about 12 years.
Agriculture is a major anthropogenic source of methane. Domestic ruminant animals, especially cattle and sheep, emit about 15% of all methane. Rice paddies produce methane too. Landfills produce almost as much methane as agriculture. The anaerobic bacteria within landfills degrade organic wastes such as food, paper, wood and plant debris. By themselves
Other sources are methane leaks during coal mining, and flaring of natural gas from oil wells. _ Natural methane sources include Arctic tundra and wetlands where anaerobic bacteria break down organic material. Tropical termites release methane as a result of their symbiotic relationship with microorganisms; so do millipedes, cockroaches, and scarab beetles. Tropical insects or those living indoors, for instance, cockroaches, produce especially large amounts.
Other greenhouse gases
The synthetic chemicals, CFCs, are potent greenhouse gases, but the Montreal Protocol has banned CFCs, and they may become insignificant as greenhouse gases. The per fluorocarbons (PFCs) are byproducts of aluminum smelting and are also used in semiconductor manufacture. Some other industrial chemicals are potential greenhouse gases but these are under control.
The Ozone layer
The lower 10 km of our atmosphere is called the ‘‘troposphere.” It is the atmospheric layer within which we live. The troposphere contains about 90% of all air molecules. The stratosphere lies just above the troposphere, 10 to 50 km above Earth. Although it contains but 10% of the atmosphere’s air molecules, it has 90% of its ozone. Only 10% of ozone is in the troposphere. Stratospheric ozone absorbs more than 95% of the sun’s UV radiation, which would otherwise reach and damage human, animal, plant, and microbial life. In the stratosphere there is an ongoing natural cycle in which ozone is formed, destroyed, and reformed.
Reaction 1. The energy of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation breaks diatomic oxygen (O2) into single oxygen atoms (O).
O2 + UV radiation → O + O (oxygen atoms)
Reaction 2. An oxygen atom reacts with O2 to form ozone (O3).
O + O2 → O3
CFCs, halons and related chemicals are released at ground level, and later reach the stratosphere. There, the sun's ultraviolet (UV) light breaks them down releasing chlorine and bromine atoms. Chlorine and bromine lead to stratospheric-ozone destruction. Less ozone means more UV radiation reaches Earth. More UV light increases the risk of adverse effects on:
• Plant growth on land and phytoplankton growth in oceans and other waters;
• Animal skin, eyes, and immune system.
Reaction 3. UV radiation dissociates an O3 molecule into O2 and one oxygen atom.
O3 + UV radiation → O + O2
Reaction 4: Remaking ozone.
O + O2 → O3
Destroying ozone with CFCs
CFC-12 (Freon) is the best-known CFC. Its formula is CF2Cl2. Below are reactions that result in ozone destruction.
CF2Cl2 + UV radiation → CF2Cl + Cl (single chlorine atom)
Cl + O3 → O2 + ClO (chlorine monoxide)
ClO + O → Cl + O2
Net reaction of 2a and 2b is:
O3 + O → 2O2 (the ozone has been destroyed)
One ClO molecule can catalyze the destruction of many thousands of ozone molecules. Chlorine is eventually converted to a water-soluble chemical such as hydrogen chloride (HCl), which can then be deposited from the stratosphere.The ozone depletion observed so far, is due to only a small fraction of the CFCs already in the atmosphere. Even when-and if-production of CFCs is completely stopped, their maximum effect will be felt decades in the future. They are waiting up above us like a time-bomb.
Making your Deen Green
Muslims have ignored this part of their deen. Our emphasis in schools, khutbahs, lectures, Islamic courses is primarily on rituals, on spiritual growth at the expense of this very practical aspect of Islam. If we believe that everything belongs to Allah and that we are just transiting then we have to treat the earth as His amanah – a trust of which we are the guardians, the khulafah. We need to approach science with Tawheed.
Abu Sa’id Khudri reported that Allah’s Messenger said:
“The world is sweet and green and verily Allah is going to install you as vicegerent in it in order to see how you act.”(Muslim)
So many hayat of the Quran are devoted to reflecting on nature. If we cannot take care of the gardens of earth, how can we aspire to live in the garden of Jannah?
Look at our state today? We have become so caught up in the consumerism, in gratuitous consumption, that we do forget that we will be held accountable in front of Allah for all our deeds. We look for convenience over doing what is right. This has caused disequilibrium in the balance that Allah has created and we see the consequence is the excess in the developed world and the deprivation and hunger in other parts of Allah’s world. Have we forgotten this verse?
‘O children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: but waste not by excess for Allah love not the wasters’ Q 7:31
According to a hadith narrated by Tirmidhi, “The worldly comforts are not for me. I am like a traveler, who takes a rest under a tree in the shade and then goes on his way.” So let us use the symbolic tree for shade, to nourish our self, but let’s also follow the Sunnah and leave the symbolic tree intact so that the next traveler can use it. What are we going o leave for the unborn generations?
When man acts, instead of a trusted custodian and architect of the earth, as its most dangerous destroyer, driven by greed rather than need. Then the result is havoc. We are obliged not to do injustice to the rest of creation. These will be witnesses for or against us on the Day of Judgment.
Dr. Soumaya Pernilla Ouis, a senior lecturer at Lund University, Sweden, coined the phrase Islamic eco-cosmology. The idea is that nature in itself is Muslim; that we look around us and recognize every organism as our Muslim fellow being. That really changes the relationship, doesn’t it? We know that everything from thunder to ants hymn the glory of Allah, all beings therein, declare His glory. Allah says in the Qur’an:
‘There is not a thing but celebrates his praise: and yet ye understand not how they declare His glory. Q17:44
If we look back at our heritage, the principles of reuse, recycle, clean energy are NOT new – “Muslim potters heated their kilns by burning fruit husks, fruit stones, pine-cones and vegetable waste. Millers ground their corn in mills turned by the wind. Both windmills and animals were used to lift water into irrigation channels.” The industrial uses of tidemills and watermills in the Islamic world date back to the 7th century. As Muslims let us not make the same mistakes that some developing countries are making. This is the importing inappropriate technology, setting up industry without studying the environmental ramifications. We have the opportunity to inculcate Islamic injunctions into eco-consciousness, and to be leaders saving our planet, our home.
The book ‘RECYCLE’ by Soumy Ana is a must read for environmental conscious Muslims. She tells us how to save our home in a story format. In a way we can relate to. The major themes involved in earth’s protection are Conservation and efficiency. Measures in conservation include encouraging electric utilities to use ‘‘co-generation” to allow more of the energy that they produce to be used, and developing more energy-efficient industrial motors and household appliances. Many simpler measures are important too. One is improving appliance circuits so they don’t draw current even after they are turned ‘‘off.” Developing more environmentally compatible energy sources is also critical. In addition, because trees sequester carbon we need to prevent further deforestation and promote the planting of additional forests.
Surely the ingenuity that has produced all this substances that has caused these problems can devise ways of disposing the waste they create: the problem is neither of science nor technology but of sociology and ultimately of Politics. Let us save earth because it is the only home we have.
P.S. This write-up was published in the maiden edition of KNOW! magazine, a publication by Pure and Applied Sciences Muslim Students Association. Other contributors to the write-up include OLAYIWOLA MUSTAPHA , KHALEEL ADEYINKA and MIFTAUDEEN ODELEYE