by Minhaj

Global Warming, the rise in temperature around the earth’s atmosphere, is one of the biggest issues facing humans nowadays. By far the biggest contributor to the overall +1.7°C global temperature anomaly is human-caused climate change. Overall, humanity’s effect on the climate has been a global warming of about 1.2°C. The record-high rate of greenhouse gas emissions means we should expect global warming to accelerate too. Levels of several important greenhouse gases have increased by about 25 percent since large-scale industrialization began around 150 years ago. The global climate change accord signed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992 addressed the so-called ‘green-house gases,’ gases which trap heat in the atmosphere and lead to a global warming trend. The Rio Accord and the Kyoto Protocol (1997) call for a reduction in greenhouse gases emissions but little progress has been made as the United States, a major generator of greenhouse gases, never signed the treaty and President George W. Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol outright.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

A greenhouse gas is the one that contributes to the warming of the earth’s atmosphere by reflecting radiation from the earth’s surface, e.g. methane, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, ozone or water vapour. The greenhouse effect connotes warming of the earth’s surface as a result of atmospheric pollution by gases. Greenhouse gas emissions bring about temperature changes and fluctuations, as well as contribute to smog. Many chemical compounds found in the earth’s atmosphere act as greenhouse gases. These gases allow sunlight to enter the atmosphere freely. When the sunlight strikes the earth’s surface, some of it is reflected back towards space as heat. Greenhouse gases absorb this infrared radiation and trap the heat in the atmosphere, causing the atmospheric temperature to rise. During the past 20 years, about three-quarters of human-made carbon dioxide emissions came from burning fossil fuels. Human activity is thus one of the significant genetic factors of greenhouse gases. The concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are naturally regulated by numerous processes, collectively known as the carbon cycle. The movement of carbon between the atmosphere and the land and oceans is dominated by natural processes, such as plant photosynthesis. While these natural processes can absorb some of the net 6.1 billion metric tons of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions produced each year, an estimated 3.2 billion metric tons is added to the atmosphere annually. The earth’s positive imbalance between emissions and absorption results in the continuing growth in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The anthropogenic accumulation of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere has caused surface air temperatures and sub-surface ocean temperatures to rise. However, variation in natural processes do have some role to play in warming up the atmosphere. This kind of environmental pollution makes the ozone layer thinner and intensifies the effects of global warming.

Coal-Fired Power Plants

One of the strategies to fight a power crisis is setting up coal-fired power plants. However, eyes should not be shut to the fact that these plants are massive environmental polluters, defiling water, air and land simultaneously. The pollution caused by coal plants is equivalent to that of nine other top polluting industries combined; their waste is 100 per cent toxic as compared to 50 per cent toxicity of other industries.2 Coal plants cause significant and irreversible water pollution. The major constituents of the waste streams are arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, boron, selenium, bromides, nitrogen and phosphorus. These plants also release greenhouse gas emissions causing particulate air pollution. They are the top sources for emissions of carbon dioxide, a major global warming gas. A typical coal plant generates about 3.5 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. In addition to haze, smog and acid rain caused by emissions from coal plants, the emissions contain many toxic constituents. When the coal is burned, polluting by-products are created, and the leftover wastes and ashes become toxic to the surrounding area. This harmful waste should be disposed off properly, but it is usually just dumped into pits or nearby lakes. Such disposal pollutes the water and land in the plant area, which creates enormous environmental pollution. A worrisome loss of biodiversity exists in the environment—animal and plant species become extinct at an alarming rate. There is an increased risk of catastrophic industrial accidents, such as the one that occurred in Bhopal, India. The tremendous cleanup costs of hazardous waste dumps, and the difficulty in disposing off these chemicals safely, assure that water, land, and air pollution will continue to be a problem for generations to come.

Tree plantation & reduction of Greenhouse effect

Photosynthesis is a process in which the energy of sunlight is used by organisms, especially green plants. Through photosynthesis, green plants absorb carbon dioxide and water from the environment and convert them into carbohydrates and consume them as energizing food. Oxygen is the by-product of photosynthesis which the trees emit in the air. The trees, by absorbing carbon dioxide, not only help to cleanse the environment but also provide us with oxygen to inhale. Trees help the atmosphere cool down. As a result, a lesser amount of energy will be consumed on the one hand, and the level of pollutant emissions will drop off on the other. As shady areas are cool and soothing, trees leave dampness in the air through transpiration and refresh humans.

Scientists term urban areas as hot islands because the temperature is two to ten degrees Fahrenheit greater than suburban areas. It is so because urban populations abound in concrete, charcoal and high buildings and lack greenery. Trees play a key role in maintaining the underground water level high. The underground water level in the forests is higher than that of the developed areas. It is so because tree roots, holding the neighbouring earth together, reduce soil erosion and stop any change in the position of mountains. The rainwater, on the tree leaves and branches, gathers in the roots, which help maintain the underground level of water high and lessen the chances of flood. Annually, one hundred fully grown trees absorb 2.5 Million or so gallons of rainwater. Moreover, trees clean water when it passes their roots on their way to join underground water.

It amazes one to observe trees play a wide variety of roles. All phenomena are interconnected; different parts of the environmental system play multidimensional roles which, at times, the human eye fails to appreciate. That is why a series of issues crop up when humans interfere in the environment. As Muslims, we have the Quran and hadith alone to guide us in our lives. Trees, a chief source of human survival, also find mention in Islamic literature. Keeping in view the great significance of trees on the planet earth, the Quran dwelled on their beneficial aspects at different places.

Biological science points out the fact that life commences with water. Almighty Allah disclosed the fact in the last revelation:
He is the One Who has sent down for you water from the sky. (Some) of it is to drink and (some) of it is for plantation. (You grow  with it plants, vegetation and pastures) wherein you take (your cattle) to graze..(16:10)

Observe how the seas and rainwater contribute to sustain life. Trees as well as water play a key role in the preservation and conservation of life. All the economists of the world unanimously agree that a country, for its survival, depends on two things: forests and water resources. Forests benefit humans on the one hand and reduce environmental pollution in many ways. Plantation is a part of agriculture. In the Islamic economy, agriculture—that is, plantation and farming—is an important source of livelihood which humans have exploited since the creation of human life on the planet earth. A tradition of the Prophet Muhammad(peace be upon him) also points to the fact that, when the Prophet Adam(AS) settled on the face of the earth, he took to farming for livelihood.
The Prophet Adam(AS) was a farmer. [•al-Qurtubi in al-Jami li-ahkam al-Quran, 11:132. •Ibn Hajar al-AsqalanÏ in Fath al-Bari, 4:306]

The Holy Quran directs human attention to Allah’s attribute as the Creator: Well, give your view: the (seed) that you cultivate—is it you who make (the crop) grow from it, or are We its Grower? [56:63–64]

When a farmer sows the seed in the soil reliant on Allah’s bounty that He will cause to grow it into a lush crop, this profession helps one to cement one’s relation with the Creator. Many Quranic verses, directly or indirectly, highlight the great value of trees. When we discuss the uses of trees, we in fact, recognize their importance in protecting us against environmental pollution.
When we turn our attention to hadith literature on the advantages of trees and ponder on their vast scope. With regard to launching a campaign for growing trees and cultivating lands, these Prophetic quotes are revolutionary in their very nature. If these traditions are genuinely put into action, they not only can help resolve economic crisis but also turn our surroundings into greenery, which in turn, will protect human life too.

Reference Book : Islam on Environmental Protection by Sahibzada Dr. Hussain Qadri
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