Contemporary Global Environmental Issues
Climate Change and Religions:
The Importance of Religion in Climate Change
Yeung Chung Yiu, The University of Hong Kong
Despite our deep scientific understanding in climate change, little is known about the relationship between religion and climate change. This paper argues that religion plays a critical role in climate change, by both the worldviews and values portrayed and emphasized by religions, and the reach and influence of modern religious groups on the society. The analysis is based on a wide range of materials consulted, including the book “Religion in Environmental and Climate Change” written by 15 professors and scholars. The analysis indicates significant religious influence on climate change and the environment, in both ancient and modern times. The importance of religion in climate change implied the importance for politicians and environmentalists to focus more on the cultural dimension of climate change, such as human-nature relationship, apart from emphasizing the scientific findings on the urgency of the need for immediate actions to fight against climate change and global warming.
Facing so many environmental issues in the current decade, including global warming, heavy pollution and energy crisis, scientists have done tens of thousands of researches into them, providing countless scientific evidences to convince people that these issues are real, and we must react immediately to alleviate the situation. According to IPCC Synthesis Report in 2012, 70 percent of Americans believe global warming is real (Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies). However, global temperature is still on an alarming rising trend. As a result, it is my belief that scientific evidence standalone would not be enough to alter people’s behaviors significantly.
In mitigating the current environmental issues, global and national conferences are often held to discuss how we can reduce emission of greenhouse gases. However, these discussions often only touch the science, economics and politics sides of climate change, such as backed by scientific researches, how countries can reduce global warming by economic and political measures. Objective and quantified consequences of prolonged pollution are often emphasized, while ethical considerations are often ignored (Posas, 2007), especially on why human are responsible for climate issues, apart from the environmental consequences written in scientific terms.
However, religion, a system of belief associated with a specific set of moral codes and values (“Religion”, n.d.), has the power to explain why we are ethically responsible for climate change. With the power of religions and their widespread global influences on believers, especially large religious groups like Christianity and Islam, it is possible to not only convince them the importance of our environment through religious worldviews, but also make it an intrinsic part of their decision-makings in daily life (Gerten & Bergmann, 2012), such that they would be constantly “thinking and acting green”.
Therefore, this paper aims to investigate the importance of religion in fighting climate change, by analyzing the ways religions can positively or negatively influence believers, consequently our environment. Meanwhile, examples from major religious groups, including Christianity and Islam, will be included for illustrations. MATERIALS AND METHODS
This research is on a cultural topic. A wide range of materials including books and internet sources were consulted to give a comprehensive analysis on how religion plays a role in environmental and climate change. The major reference is on ‘Religion in Environmental and Climate Change’, a book edited by Gerten and Bergmann. This book incorporated articles by 15 writers, most of whom are professors in religious studies, environmental anthropology and geology. RESULTS: HOW RELIGIONS...
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