Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan’s think-tank estimated that 300,000 deaths result annually from human-induced global warming, the world’s greatest humanitarian challenge. Poorer countries are particularly disadvantaged. In 2011, US agency NOAA reported prolonged drying in the Middle East believed linked to climate change (image: drier areas, 1971-2010). The 2006-11 drought contributed to unrest that stoked Syria’s civil war by devastating 75% of Syria’s farms reducing millions to extreme poverty. Many migrated to cities that became dissident hot-beds and ultimately led to their mass emigration as refugees. 

Melting ice caps and glaciers and thermal expansion, expected to raise sea-levels 0.3-1 metre by 2100, already impact coastal areas. Kiribati in the South Pacific is requesting countries accept its citizens as climate refugees. UN experts believe by 2050 most of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef will be bleached resulting from anthropogenic climate changes.

The 2015 Paris Agreement entered into force and has been ratified by 118 countries representing 70% of world greenhouse gas emissions, taking action to ensure global warming doesn’t exceed an assessed disaster trigger level of 2 degrees Celsius. The Marrakech Conference (COP22) was held 15-18 November to facilitate global action by developing an accepted ‘rulebook’.  Much work remains to ensure the Agreement is effectively implemented.

Religious institutions provide moral support to the great majority of people and their leaders have called for immediate action to stem global warming. In 2015 leading activists from the Muslim world released The Islamic Declaration on Climate Change – arguably the most decisive religious statement on global warming – calling for effective action to replace fossil fuel use with 100% renewable energies by 2050, and facilitate social equity in affordable energy. It stressed: “Our species, though selected to be a steward (khalifah) on earth, has been the cause of such corruption and devastation that we are in danger of ending life as we know it on our planet. This current rate of climate change cannot be sustained, and earth’s fine equilibrium (mizan) may soon be lost.”

Muslim Gulf countries are the world’s worst per capita emitters. Climate change impacts will increase causing harm. By 2025 impacts are expected to reduce renewable water resources in the Arab region by 20%, acerbating scarcity. Shouldn’t wealthy GCC countries who contribute disproportionally to desiccation be held responsible? As Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) stressed many times against harming neighbours, I propose a GCC Compensation Fund be established to compensate neighbouring countries most impacted by global warming. Validity of such fund under Islamic law deserves investigation. GCC countries (with perpetual sunshine) should adopt an RE agenda. Affluent Australia is not much better lying 11th globally amongst highest per capita emitters; shouldn’t we compensate affected Pacific island countries?

37 Australian faith leaders supported by the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) joined the groundswell of 303 senior leaders from 58 countries who signed the COP22 Interfaith Climate Statement submitted to UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, at Marrakech. It described continued fossil fuel use as “ethically untenable” and urged institutions to divest trillions of investments into RE. The Islamic Society of North America, one of the first religious institutions to announce divestment plans, displayed an excellent leadership example.

Expanded research funding is needed to improve RE’s reliability for base load generation. Civil society also needs to prod the Big Business-dominated LNP Government, which is doing little to change the archaic bad energy economy. Citizens everywhere can willingly reduce wasteful consumption and live sustainably, and with savings achieved, show preparedness to pay a little more for RE, which however will show cost reductions as mass efficiencies are gained.

These are big steps towards returning Earth’s systems to balance, harmonising our spiritual existence with that of the natural environment, and achieving greater social equity in using resources.  This exemplifies a responsible khalifah leaving a legacy of a vibrant beautiful, bountiful world for future generations.