My Notes for Climate Change

Jul 2017
Kettering, Ohio USA
Section 6: Reducing Deforestation and Planting Trees 42

There are two main ways in which forestry or trees are vital to global attempts to mitigate or slow down global warming. The first role is as a carbon dioxide (CO2) storage mechanism. This is achieved through forest conservation or efforts to reduce deforestation and forest degradation. The main global strategy for forest carbon storage is through national programs of “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation” (REDD+).
It is roughly estimated46 that about 10-15% of global greenhouse gas emissions are due to deforestation and forest degradation. Forest ecosystems are estimated to store about 70% of the world’s terrestrial carbon. The peat forests of Southeast Asia are especially important for carbon storage. It is not just tropical forests that are essential – boreal forests in Russia, Canada, Newfoundland, Mongolia and other countries have a key role in preventing or slowing down the melting of the permafrost layer because of their vast methane47 reserves. This is due both to the shade effect of trees and the peat layer that covers most of the permafrost layer. The peat layer acts as a kind of insulation layer over the methane48 and it will gradually dry out without forest cover49
The second role is to remove (or “sequester”) CO2 from the atmosphere. This is achieved by planting trees and restoring natural forests. During its growing stage, a tree absorbs more CO2 than it emits or releases in the process of photosynthesis and conversion of the CO2 into wood. In this role, trees are “carbon sinks” for industrial CO2 emissions. Trees grow much faster in the tropics – therefore for mitigating climate change it is better to invest in tree planting in tropical countries than temperate countries (although the latter is still very worthwhile). At present, planting trees and restoring natural forests (or “forest restoration”) are the only strategies for removing CO2 from the atmosphere that we can be certain will not have negative environmental side-effects, in contrast to the various potential engineering or chemical technologies that are under consideration.
The main global initiative for carbon storage and reducing CO2 emissions from forests is known as “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation” (REDD+). If a country can reduce its rate of deforestation it can qualify for international REDD+ payments that partially compensate it for the costs of the actions required to slow down or prevent deforestation. This may sound quite easy, but is quite complicated and difficult in practice.
The first difficulty is that there are vested interests in deforestation since it is generally very profitable, and in many countries the political and military elites are involved in it. Reducing deforestation and forest degradation therefore involves tackling corruption, illegal logging and other difficult problems. Secondly the clearance of forests for agriculture, hydro projects, mining and other economic projects is often high on poor countries’ development priorities. It is difficult and ethically flawed for richer nations to say to poor developing countries that they should not clear their forests for economic development, given that this is what most industrialized countries have done. Also the financial compensation through REDD+ is currently very low compared to the foregone economic or development benefits. This reflects the low international value or price of carbon, which is itself a reflection of the low level of international political will for climate change mitigation.
Finally it is important to remember that trees and forests provide various essential ecosystem services – it is not just about climate change mitigation and adaptation. The most important services are maintenance and regulation of water flows (or hydrological services) and the maintenance of biodiversity (forests are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity). Forests are also a significant human habitat for indigenous peoples, including in Amazonia, Indonesia and the Congo Region. It has been estimated that up to 1.6 billion people rely on forests for their livelihoods, and that 40% of the “extreme rural poor” – about 250 million people – live in forest and savannah areas.50
There are several “win-win” mitigation strategies that can deliver positive environmental and social outcomes, for example, through provision of land rights and financial support for indigenous and other local communities to manage and conserve the forests they depend on for their livelihoods. This will however require increased levels of national and international political will (linked, for example, to the international value of carbon) than is currently the case, since it involves standing up to vested interest groups benefiting from unsustainable and/or illegal forest exploitation. Therefore justice, equity and the environment are inextricably linked when thinking about the role of forests and trees in the struggle to counter global warming: as pointed out in a letter from the National SpiritualAssembly of the USA to the American Baha’i community “destabilization of the global climate system is in large measure a moral challenge, requiring humanity to develop a greater sense of stewardship and responsibility for the environment, as well as a greater awareness of the interdependence and oneness of all the earth's inhabitants.”51

Section 7: Garbage – an Obsolete Concept

Waste contributes to global warming in many ways. Landfills release significant amounts of methane, garbage trucks emit CO2, and most of the things we throw away could be recycled to produce consumer goods with much less energy than from new materials. Society got used to throw away towels, napkins, plates, cups, handkerchiefs, shopping bags etc. Even reusable products and machines are usually not manufactured with longevity in mind, only with reduction of production costs.
“The throwaway economy is on a collision course with the Earth’s geological limits. Aside from running out of landfills near cities, the world is also fast running out of the cheap oil that is used to manufacture and transport throwaway products. Perhaps more fundamentally, there is not enough readily accessible lead, tin, copper, iron ore, or bauxite to sustain the throwaway economy beyond another generation or two.
“The challenge is to replace the throwaway economy with a reduce-reuse-recycle economy. Officials should worry less about what to do with garbage and think more about how to avoid producing it in the first place.” 52
San Francisco is at the forefront of American cities in waste reduction. It recovers 72% of the materials it discards and has created the first large-scale urban collection of food scraps for composting in the country. The city’s goal is to achieve zero waste by 2020.53

Section 8: Economic Changes

Mitigating Climate change demands transforming our economic system.
Our current financial system is based on loans and interest. It requires continuous growth to work. “Debt is the reason the economy has to grow in the first place. Because debt always comes with interest, it grows exponentially – so if a person, a business, or a country wants to pay down debt over the long term, they have to grow enough to at least match the growth of their debt. Without growth, debt piles up and eventually triggers an economic crisis.” 54 However, it is impossible to have unlimited economic growth on a finite planet. That's why, tackling the climate problem requires a rethinking of our economic system.
One specific problem in the current system is that the “external” economic costs of burning fossil fuels are not incorporated in the price of fossil fuels. These are the costs of fossil fuels to society. They include the costs of cleaning up oil spills, the cost of health care for all the people who are getting sick from air pollution, and the costs incurred by natural disasters caused by climate change, etc. This cost is usually referred to as the Social Cost of Carbon.
Therefore, one of the best economic tools to reduce carbon emissions is a carbon tax or fee imposed on the burning of carbon-based fuels. It is fair, because polluters pay for the damage caused by their emissions. It is a powerful market tool to switch to clean energy and to strengthen energy efficiency. The money raised with the carbon fee could either be distributed among the population or used to implement clean energy and to help poor people who may be adversely impacted by the fee. Carbon taxes should be designed so that they don't hurt the poor, and it is important that they don't exclude other regulatory measures such as putting a moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure, e.g. fracked-gas powerplants and pipelines.
It is also clear and evident that fossil fuel subsidies must end. “A fossil fuel subsidy is any government action that lowers the cost of fossil fuel energy production, raises the price received by energy producers, or lowers the price paid by energy consumers.” 55 According to a US government report, the US pays USD 4.7 billion in tax provisions alone for the fossil fuel industry annually. This number does not include other fossil fuel subsidies.56 When you include indirect subsidies, the number is around 20 billion $.57
It is estimated that, “internationally, governments provide at least $775 billion to $1 trillion annually in subsidies”. 58 These subsidies put fossil fuels at an economic advantage compared to other energy sources. Of course, it doesn't make any sense to put public money towards finding and burning more fossil fuels at a time when it is so urgent to reduce and eventually abandon their use.
An IMF report estimates that when you include the environmental damage from oil, gas, and coal, the real annual costs of fossil fuels globally are $5.3 trillion. Dirty energy only seems cheap if you don't properly account for all the destruction it does.59
The economic initiative of divestment is very promising. Several universities, financial institutions, charities, and religious organizations have started to divest from fossil fuels. British universities are leading the world in that effort. 60 The assets of religious organizations that are divested usually include congregational endowments and staff pension funds. The United Church of Christ was the first major religious organization in the U.S. to vote to divest from fossil fuel companies. Rev. Jim Anthal wrote "This resolution becomes a model for all faith communities who care about God's creation and recognize the urgent scientific mandate to keep at least 80 percent of the known oil, gas and coal reserves in the ground. . . By this vote, we are amplifying our conviction with our money." 61 Many other religious organizations around the world have already or are considering divestment from fossil fuels.

Mitigating Climate Change – What Can We Do as Individuals?

Choose green, carbon-free power. In many parts of the world, electricity providers offer green power at a slightly higher price than regular power. Insulate your home. Turn your thermostat down in the winter. If you live in a hot climate, only use air-conditioning if absolutely necessary and turn the thermostat up. Hang up your laundry instead of using the dryer. Wait with doing laundry until you have enough clothes to fill your washing machine. Take short showers. Heating water uses energy. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with LEDs or compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. Turn off your computer, TV, lights etc. after use. Unplug chargers when not in use. Reuse water containers; purify tap water instead of buying bottled water. Reuse and recycle whatever you can. If your roof is sunny, install solar power.

Go car-free if at all possible: cycle, walk, ride the bus, or carpool and carshare. Use and support public transportation. Buy a fuel-efficient car if you can’t go without. Don't let your car idle. Avoid any unnecessary car trips and flights. Combine shopping trips into one big trip rather than a bunch of small ones. Encourage your city to establish bike lanes to grocery stores, farmers' markets, and other frequently visited businesses. Use a bicycle to make small, frequent trips, instead of using a car to make one big one. It's good for the environment, and good for your health.

Reduce your meat consumption, especially beef. Generally eat lower on the food chain, which means fewer animal products. Grow some of your own food. Participate in a community garden. Buy locally grown and produced food. Shop at your local farmers' marketplace. Buy organically grown food. Avoid products with a lot of packaging. Compost your kitchen scraps with your yard leaves and lawn clippings.
In general, just use less and live mindfully. Buy only what you really need. Consider the life cycle of everything you take into your hand. Where did it come from? Who made it and under what conditions? What were the costs to the environment and to people to grow or manufacture this item? How far did it travel? What will happen to it when it is broken and needs to be discarded?

In addition to the suggestions above, you can also
Try to generate less household garbage. Use cloth shopping bags. Naturalize your lawn and replace chemicals with alternatives. Plant trees. They soak up CO2, make shade, block wind and prevent soil erosion. Continually educate yourself. Read some of the many books on climate change. Also read inspiring books about actions you can take, for example about permaculture and community gardening. Take your footprint quiz. You can search on the internet for a site where you can calculate your own carbon or general ecological footprint. See , for example. Discuss climate change with your family and friends to help them become more aware of these issues. Teach a sustainable lifestyle by example. Encourage action. Be an advocate for environmentally responsible actions in your family, at your workplace, in your religious community and social circle. Support and vote for new laws and policies that help mitigate climate change.
Jul 2017
Kettering, Ohio USA
Unit 7 - Discourse on climate change

In 2013, only 42% of American adults understood that “most scientists think global warming is happening” and 33% said, “… there is a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether or not global warming is happening.” Twenty percent said they “don’t know enough to say.”1
Americans look to experts for guidance. If people believe the experts are in doubt about whether global warming is happening, it is no surprise that they will have less confidence in their own beliefs. Perceived expert disagreement has other consequences for the American people. Research shows that Americans who think the scientific experts disagree about human-caused climate change are less likely to believe that it might have serious consequences. Failure to appreciate the scientific consensus reduces support for a broad societal response to the challenges and risks that climate change presents.3
Extreme weather is not just an abstract concept. It is a reality that affects people across the country. In 2013, two out of three Americans said weather in the United States has been worse over the past several years, up twelve percentage points since spring 2012. Many (51%) say weather in their local area has been worse over the past several years. Not surprisingly, then, the gap between what we know as scientists (that global warming impacts are here and now) and what Americans perceive is narrowing: About six in ten Americans already say, “Global warming is affecting weather in the U.S.”
Some air pollutants increase with climate change, with the potential to aggravate heart and respiratory diseases. Some plant products such as ragweed pollen reach higher concentrations for longer stretches each year, affecting people with allergies.37
With our future health and well-being at stake, it is common sense to consider the tail risks of climate change as a part of future plans. Consider the example of a seaside community in Florida. There are three futures to consider. Even under the most optimistic scenario (very aggressive greenhouse gas reductions and minimal melting), sea level is projected to rise about 1 foot this century.49 The middle-ofthe-road projection for the current pathway is about 2 feet. This is a fairly likely possibility. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates the probability of a sea level rise of 2 to 3 feet to be more than 60%.50 But the tail risk projection as forecast by the U.S. National Climate Assessment sees the community contending with a sea level rise of nearly 7 feet.51
According to the IPCC, given the current pathway for carbon emissions the high end of the “likely” range for the expected increase in global temperature is about 8° F by the end of the century.52
Globally, if human society follows the high-end scenario, extreme heat events that currently occur only once every twenty years are projected to occur annually.54
Sea level rise projections over the next century vary considerably, with the high-end scenarios yielding a rise of up to 6 or 7 feet by 2100.55,56 About 7 to 8 million people in the United States live within 6 feet of the local high-tide line, and storm surge can extend flooding far beyond the high-tide line, as witnessed in Superstorm Sandy.57 Coastal flooding events that currently occur once every hundred years will occur much more frequently, possibly as often as yearly for many locations, rendering many cities and communities uninhabitable as is.58
If human emissions cause temperatures to increase toward the high end of our projections, we increase the risk that we will push parts of our climate system past certain thresholds that lead to abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes to our planet and impacts for Americans and people worldwide.

The 1.5C global warming limit vulnerable countries fought hard to include in the Paris Agreement may already be out of reach.
There is slim chance of stabilising temperature rise at that level without controversial negative emissions technology, according to a study published in Nature.
It is a blow for those living near the coast of Bangladesh or low-lying islands like Kiribati, which is preparing for an exodus as rising seas swallow homes.
Coral reefs dying and tropical heatwaves are also expected to kick in at moderate levels of global warming, affecting millions of people worldwide.
In the most up-to-date analysis available, researchers found national climate pledges were consistent with temperature rise of 2.6-3.1C above pre-industrial levels.
The grim numbers do not rule out eventually bringing average temperatures back below 1.5C, but this will involve sucking carbon dioxide out of the air.
That could mean using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage: growing plants to absorb CO2, burning them for energy and pumping the emissions underground.
Bioenergy is contentious because it puts energy crops in competition with food production for land, water and nutrients.

The Challenge for All of Us

Section 1: Dealing with the Emotional Stress Caused by Climate Change

Becoming aware of the immensity of the climate crisis can be emotionally stressful. A variety of emotions can strike:
Loss and grief: The disappearance of plants and animals, of glaciers, of nature as we know it. The loss of a beloved place is sometimes referred to as solastalgia.
Anger: at big polluters or at people in power who have been ignoring the issue and resisting decisive action to mitigate climate change.
Guilt: at being part of a society that pollutes the atmosphere with greenhouse gases.
Fear: for the immediate future of many vulnerable people, for the future of our children, for the well-being of all life on Earth, and even for the survival of our civilization.
Despair - about the complexity of the crisis and the inability of existing institutions and systems to avert a deepening of the crisis, and for the people suffering from the effects of climate change, and for the world we are leaving to future generations;
Frustration with the the lack of acceptance and action by our political leaders and fellow citizens in the face of the overwhelming scientific evidence;
Confusion: not knowing what to do, what to believe, and whom to believe.
An increasing number of people are also traumatized by climate disasters, such as storms or floods. Many are suffering from post traumatic stress disorders.
Openly acknowledging the potential devastation of climate change is a quite severe mental test. However, tests can purify us and can help us to progress in our spiritual development. The story of Job in the Jewish and Christian traditions tells us of his untold suffering and unwavering belief in God. It shows that God’s justice and mercy are a mystery, way beyond our understanding.
The Bahá'í Writings offer the following about suffering:
“The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering.... Man is, so to speak, unripe: the heat of the fire of suffering will mature him. Look back to the times past and you will find that the greatest men have suffered most. ... To attain eternal happiness one must suffer. He who has reached the state of self-sacrifice has true joy. Temporal joy will vanish.”
“O Son of Man! If adversity befall thee not in My path, how canst thou walk in the ways of them that are content with My pleasure? If trials afflict thee not in thy longing to meet Me, how wilt thou attain the light in thy love for My beauty?
"O Son of Man! My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy. Hasten thereunto that thou mayest become an eternal light and an immortal spirit."
It takes great courage to recognize the scope of the threat of climate change. We can gain that courage by developing our capacities to know and to love, the most essential functions of the human being.6 This is the same spiritual love which is at the heart of all religions: the love for our Creator, the love for creation and nature, and the love for our fellow human beings, including those we don’t know personally and who may live in a different country or a different continent. We need to include in that love future generations who will suffer the full extent of the impacts of climate change. Also, we may want to include the love for our own culture and the many diverse cultures all over the world, for music and art, and for all the positive aspects of our civilization, because they are also threatened by the long-term impacts of climate change.
Religion provides us with spiritual disciplines and tools that can sustain us on our journey. We know that prayer can strengthen us to cope with any situation. It also can support and guide us in our actions to mitigate climate change. Meditation can help us get a deeper understanding of our place as humans in the universe. During meditation we feel connected to God, to nature, to all other human beings who have lived in the past and in the present, and who will live in the future. This experience provides us with motivation, courage, and spiritual strength. Summoning that courage we can continually educate ourselves about the reality of the state of our planet and the living conditions of people all around the world. Economics professor and advisor to the United Nations for sustainable development Jeffrey Sachs puts it this way: “As individuals, our most important responsibility is a commitment to know the truth as best we can, truth that is both technical and ethical. Our saving grace will be a broadened scientific awareness combined with an empathy that enables us to understand the plight of the poor, the dispossessed, the young people without hope, or the rural communities challenged by bewildering change. Gandhi called his life an experiment in ‘living in truth’. That approach will have to become the experiment of our generation as well.”
Psychologist Daniel Jordan explained how the Bahá'í teachings can help us cope with the present-day challenges: “The Writings reduce general anxiety and doubt to manageable proportions by making sense out of human history and the world's present state of perpetual crisis. This means that we need not pretend the crises do not exist or refuse to face them. Thus understanding something of the problems which face us not only reduces anxiety but attracts courage.”
Going out into nature can also help restore our body and soul. Working the soil with our own hands and growing plants is healing. It also provides the satisfaction that comes with creating beauty and at the same time taking good care of a small part of creation by nurturing soil quality, by helping to maintain biodiversity, and by growing some of our own food, which reduces one's personal carbon footprint.
Most importantly, we can choose purposeful action that is carried by a deep sense of meaning. For example, we can reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions; we can join an organization that is similarly concerned; we can make a contribution to the betterment of the world by working together with others on some aspect of mitigating climate change. In the next unit, we will talk about action within our faith communities, especially about the many opportunities for education. Our actions don’t need to be grandiose; the small efforts of millions of people can accomplish much change, including the necessary changes in laws and policies. Our individual life-circumstances will present each of us with different opportunities, but action to help solve a problem is a good antidote to the potential psychological damage of a “doom and gloom” outlook.
“When we face an existential or moral crisis, we can pull back into paralyzed inaction or rush about in panicked, ineffective, chaotic action. But choosing between paralysis and panic is not our only option. Instead, we can enter a state of consciousness in which we become highly focused and purposeful, pour our resources into solving the crisis, and accomplish great feats.
“Margaret Klein Salamon, ... the Founding Director of The Climate Mobilization, calls this 'emergency mode.' She considers emergency mode a particularly intense form of flow state, which has been described as an 'optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.' She cites Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist who pioneered the study of flow and who described it as: 'Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one… your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.'”

Section 2: The Role of Religious Communities

Religious communities are especially responsible for responding to the moral imperative to take action to counter climate change, to apply spiritual principles to action, and to initiate the necessary changes in lifestyle. It is heartening to see how environmental awareness and ethical response in religious communities are growing. There are now many faith based environmental initiatives. The United States, for example, has the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Studies, the Eco Justice programs of the National Council of Churches, and the Interfaith Power and Light Organization, which is an interfaith religious response to global warming. 18 Similarly in the UK, we find the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences19, the Christian Operation Noah20, and Big Green Jewish, a Jewish webbased environmental resource21. In Australia, the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change22, a multi-faith network, is committed to taking action on climate change. Another highlight is the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC)23, a secular body that helps the major religions of the world to develop their own environmental programs, based on their own core teachings, beliefs and practices.
It is necessary though that this movement doesn’t remain at the fringes of religious life, but becomes a priority in every community and in the heart of every individual.

Section 3: What is Progress?

Every crisis is also an opportunity. Climate change is an issue that demands global cooperation on a level never before attained. It is quite possible that the climate crisis will pressure humankind to come together in order to survive. “Whether in the life of the individual or that of society, profound change occurs more often than not in response to intense suffering and to unendurable difficulties that can be overcome in no other way. Just so great a testing experience, Bahá'u'lláh warned, is needed to weld the Earth's diverse peoples into a single people.”
Thus, the urgency of the climate crisis may well lead to the unification of humankind, which would set the stage to solve other social problems as well. Abandoning war and weapons production could provide more than enough resources to build a carbon free economy, to restore such natural resources as forests and fisheries, to eradicate poverty, and to provide education and health care for everyone on the planet.
There is no question that such propositions challenge long held, but obsolete, values, such as the limitless liberty of individuals to do whatever they want or the myth of unlimited economic growth. Thus we may need to redefine what constitutes true progress. In the past, a growing economy could justifiably be considered desirable, and this still holds true for many poor people and countries of the world today. However, for the rich countries and for the planet as a whole, we have reached the limits of growth; in fact we have already surpassed them. The current capitalistic economy exploits the Earth and destroys its life-support system. It also exploits many people and exacerbates the extremes of wealth and poverty. A mental and spiritual re-orientation is necessary which embraces the concept that a sound economy depends on a healthy environment.
“We need a change of heart, a reframing of all our conceptions and a new orientation of our activities. The inward life of man as well as his outward environment have to be reshaped if human salvation is to be secured.”

Section 4: A Promise and a Responsibility

“One generation goes and another generation comes; but the Earth remains forever. “ 28 Ecclesiastes 1:4, Judaism
"Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead." 29 Bahá'u'lláh
New ethical principles and standards of moral conduct have emerged and are becoming part of mainstream thought. For example: The concept of the equality of men and women, although not established everywhere, has become a commonly accepted standard of human civilization. Slavery, although unfortunately still widespread, is rejected as an unacceptable practice in our time. The concept of the planet as one homeland for one human family has started to permeate the thoughts and feelings of people all over the globe. And within only a few years, the knowledge about climate change has dramatically increased; we could say it has truly exploded. More and more scientists in many branches of science, ranging from geology to biology, are intensely studying the innumerable aspects of climate change. That knowledge is available to the general public. Movements to mitigate climate change are sprouting up in large numbers in all corners of the world and are gaining increasing momentum and strength. And governments and people in leadership positions have begun to take the issue seriously and to take action.
In many religions and traditions there are prophecies or visions of a glorious future for humankind.
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.”
“Justice is, in this day, bewailing its plight, and Equity groaneth beneath the yoke of oppression. The thick clouds of tyranny have darkened the face of the earth, and enveloped its peoples.
Through the movement of Our Pen of glory We have, at the bidding of the omnipotent Ordainer, breathed a new life into every human frame, and instilled into every word a fresh potency. All created things proclaim the evidences of this world-wide regeneration. This is the most great, the most joyful tidings imparted by the Pen of this wronged One to mankind. Wherefore fear ye, O My well-beloved ones?”
These assuring religious prophesies and visions provide us with hope and encouragement. Far from being a license for inaction, religious teachings call on us to take responsibility for the global situation in which we find ourselves today. The Universal House of Justice writes:
Humanity’s crying need... calls... for a fundamental change of consciousness... that the time has come when each human being on earth must learn to accept responsibility for the welfare of the entire human family.
“Climate change is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, challenge ever faced by human society. But it is a challenge that we must confront, for the alternative is a future that is unpalatable, and potentially unlivable. While it is quite clear that inaction will have dire consequences, it is likewise certain that a concerted effort on the part of humanity to act in its own best interests has great potential to end in success.”
A spiritual transformation of humankind is required to solve the climate crisis. It is quite exciting to be part of that process. Consider the following statement by `Abdu’lBahá:
And the honor and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world's multitudes should become a source of social good. Is any larger bounty conceivable than this, that an individual, looking within himself, should find that by the confirming grace of God he has become the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage to his fellow men? No, by the one true God, there is no greater bliss, no more complete delight.
Can we succeed at building an environmentally and socially sustainable economy and a spiritually ever-advancing civilization? Quite possibly—but that clearly will require great effort on the part of each of us!
“Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.” 36 Bahá’u’lláh
“Be the change you want to see in this world.” 37 Anonymous, often attributed to Gandhi
“Great is the station of man. Great must also be his endeavours for the rehabilitation of the world and the well-being of nations.” 38 Bahá’u’lláh
Jul 2017
Kettering, Ohio USA
On Climate Science Denial

Section 2: Why Do Some People Consider Climate Change to be a Controversial Issue?

One extreme position is religious fundamentalism: Some “Christian fundamentalists feel that concern for the future of our planet is irrelevant because it has no future. They believe we are living in the End Time, when the son of God will return, the righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire. They may also believe … that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed – even hastened – as a sign of the coming Apocalypse.” v While many people would dismiss such beliefs as ridiculous, they do have influence on some media and politicians.
A more widespread strand of beliefs is based on ideology. In the United States, there is a strong culture of defending individual freedom at all costs and of limiting the power of government. Climate change mitigation requires the regulation of greenhouse gases on the local, national and international level, which is not compatible with this ideology.
Climate change denial originated from the minds of people who strongly favored “free enterprise, limited government, and the promotion of unfettered economic growth”. vi In the early 1980s these people began to say that they didn't “believe” in the science of climate change. It was the same group of people who shed doubt on the science that tobacco causes lung cancer, and who criticized the science about the harmful effects of acid rain and the depletion of the ozone layer. vii They were fighting any government regulation in all of these issues for ideological and political reasons.
In the case of global warming, the fossil fuel industry was quick to support the efforts of such deniers by pouring huge amounts of money into a disinformation campaign about the science of global warming.viii These people who prefer to call themselves climate skeptics include very few scientists, mostly from other fields of research. “While the claims of these actors sometimes differ and evolve over time (there is no warming, it's not caused by humans, it won't be harmful, etc.) the theme of 'no new regulations' remains constant.” ix Climate skeptics cannot back up any of their claims by research that is documented in a peerreviewed journal. All they are able and want to do is to shed doubt on the science in order to delay action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Their strategies include fake experts, false interpretations of scientific research, selecting data that support their views while deliberately ignoring other data, conspiracy theories, and undermining the credibility of certain scientists.
Unfortunately, the well-funded disinformation campaign has been successful in misleading many honest people. The media bear some responsibility for the confusion as they apply the principle of “equal time”, developed to ensure balance in political debate, to what is an issue of science education. This allows them to present the view of climate skeptics as a legitimate alternative view to science, which is part of the skeptics' strategy. xii The arguments of the climate science deniers are very clever and appear to be logical. It is easy to fall prey to them if you haven't studied the science before reading their literature or watching their manipulative videos. We don't blame any honest people who have been misled and simply speak up for what they think is the truth. However, the intent of the people responsible for misleading the general public about climate change is morally irresponsible. Delaying action for the benefit of short term corporate and political interests will cause much more suffering and death and even put human civilization at risk.

Section 3: The Independent Investigation of Truth

Yet, how do we know that the science is correct and that the claim of anthropogenic global warming being a myth is wrong? Unless you are both a geologist and climate scientist yourself and can double check the measurements and calculations about the energy system on Earth, you have to judge whom you trust.
Bahá'u'lláh advises us to consult “competent physicians” when ill. It would make sense to consult competent climate scientists as well.
Do you trust the overwhelming majority of scientists in all countries of the world representing many different scientific disciplines? Or do you trust a few individual scientists and front groups who claim that global warming is a conspiracy? How likely is a conspiracy encompassing Swiss climatologists, Rhode Island oceanographers, New York geologists, Australian marine biologists, African fishers, Arctic Inuits, and Brazilian health workers among hundreds of thousands of others?
You can also check arguments for truthfulness, because many arguments by science deniers are contrary to scientific knowledge that is accessible to the general public. For example, one favorite argument by science deniers is that the Antarctic ice is growing, not melting. That is supposed to prove that the Earth is not warming. They deliberately ignore the fact that (with extremely few exceptions) all glaciers throughout the world are melting including the West Antarctic Ice sheets and the Antarctic Peninsula. The likely reason for the growth of the East Antarctic ice is more precipitation due to global warming. Pointing out the one area of the world where ice is growing and concealing the fact of world-wide dramatic ice loss is one often used method by climate science deniers, called “cherry picking”.

Section 6: Elevating the Dialogue with Spiritual Principles

The Harmony of Science and Religion

Climate change is a field where the principle of the harmony of science and religion finds a practical application. Science provides the facts about climate change, and religion the ethical framework. We need both for a meaningful response.
The Bahá'í Teachings emphasize the importance of science. While Bahá'ís are often in a situation to stand up for the truth of spiritual reality, they are now also called to speak up for the truth and importance of science.

Wisdom Applied in the Precautionary Principle

“Be ye guided by wisdom in all your doings, and cleave ye tenaciously unto it. Please God ye may all be strengthened to carry out that which is the Will of God, and may be graciously assisted to appreciate the rank conferred upon such of His loved ones as have arisen to serve Him and magnify His name.” xxv Bahá'u'lláh
The precautionary principle is usually applied to situations where there is considerable scientific uncertainty. As there is overwhelming consensus among scientists that climatechange is real and poses a serious threat to humankind, most people want to address the problem with actions to mitigate the danger. However, climate skeptics doubt that climate change is real or that humans are responsible for it. As they are unsure whether to trust the science, they may like to apply the precautionary principle.
The precautionary principle holds that when significant risks to public health or safety are suspected, efforts should be made to reduce those risks, even when scientific knowledge is inconclusive.
It implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm. The greater the potential consequences to life or property if a forecast is true, the lower the probability needs to be before taking mitigating action. The precautionary principle is used by everyone in daily life under the motto “better safe than sorry”.


A prerequisite for unity is the avoidance of backbiting, which is forbidden in the Bahá'í teachings. The intent of the people who disseminate wrong information about climate change is not to discover the truth but to destroy trust and confidence in science by planting seeds of doubt. Smearing the reputation of honest climate scientists is particularly disturbing. For example, some skeptics say that the science is tainted by biased funding, but the truth is that the scientists who gather all the data for the IPCC from research done by many thousands of scientists all over the world are volunteering their time.
And last, but not least, even when standing up for the truth, we respect the views of others and try to find common ground. Many people have experienced that rational and scientific arguments are usually not convincing to climate skeptics. Discussions about arguments such as refuted above may therefore not be productive and just lead to discord. It may be better to aim to establish common ground. Skeptics may be more open to see the reality of increasing water pollution and scarcity, of air pollution, or of the increasing toxicity of our food due to heavy applications of herbicides and pesticides. Or they may see that fossil fuels and other natural resources are limited and that we will run out of them sooner or later. Many actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change are the same as addressing the above problems. Most people would not deny the importance of clean air, unpolluted and sufficient water, and uncontaminated food. On this level it may be possible to create common ground with some of the climate skeptics. In this context it may be appropriate to repeat these exhortations by Bahá'u'lláh:
“Show forbearance and benevolence and love to one another. Should any one among you be incapable of grasping a certain truth, or be striving to comprehend it, show forth, when conversing with him, a spirit of extreme kindliness and good-will. Help him to see and recognize the truth, without esteeming yourself to be, in the least, superior to him, or to be possessed of greater endowments.”
“The heaven of true understanding shineth resplendent with the light of two luminaries: tolerance and righteousness.”
Jul 2017
Kettering, Ohio USA
Unit 8 - Service and Social Action

The Bahá'í teachings guide us all toward a very lofty goal. It may be helpful to bear in mind that Bahá'ís are just ordinary human beings and not more endowed than their fellow humans. We are still at an embryonic stage both in our spiritual and community development. We are part of a young growing spiritual global community and at the same time part of a decaying old world order. Again, we can find guidance in the words of Shoghi Effendi: "In such a process of purgation, when all humanity is in the throes of dire suffering, the Bahá'ís should not hope to remain unaffected. Should we consider the beam that is in our own eye, we would immediately find that these sufferings are also meant for ourselves, who claimed to have attained. Such world crisis is necessary to awaken us to the importance of our duty and the carrying on of our task..."
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