Author Topic: Climate Change is a Moral Issue  (Read 2146 times)

Offline Dharmakara

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4233
    • View Profile
Climate Change is a Moral Issue
« on: September 26, 2015, 09:53:31 pm »
A Buddhist Reflection on the Pope’s Climate Encyclical, Laudato si’
http://buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=70,12434,0,0,1,0
by Bhikkhu Bodhi


On June 18, Pope Francis issued an encyclical letter, Laudato si’ (Praised Be), “On Care for our Common Home,” pointing to climate change as the overriding moral issue of our time.

The encyclical boldly proclaims that humanity’s capacity to alter the climate charges us with the gravest moral responsibility we have ever had to bear.

Climate change affects everyone. The disruptions to the biosphere occurring today bind all peoples everywhere into a single human family, our fates inseparably intertwined. No one can escape the impact, no matter how remotely they may live from the bustling centers of industry and commerce. The responsibility for preserving the planet falls on everyone.

The future of human life on earth hangs in a delicate balance, and the window for effective action is rapidly closing. Tipping points and feedback loops threaten us as ominously as nuclear warheads. What heightens the danger is our proclivity to apathy and denial. For this reason, we must begin tackling the crisis with an act of truth, by acknowledging that climate change is real and stems from human activity. On this, the science is clear, the consensus among climate scientists almost universal. The time for denial, skepticism, and delay is over.

Our carbon-based economies generate not only mountains of commodities but also heat waves and floods, rising seas and creeping deserts. The climate mirrors the state of our minds, reflecting back to us the choices we make at regional, national, and global levels. These choices, both collective and personal, are inescapably ethical. They are strung out between what is convenient and what is right. They determine who will live and who will die, which communities will flourish and which will perish.

Ultimately they determine nothing less than whether human civilization itself will survive or collapse.

Since religions command the loyalty of billions, they must lead the way in the endeavor to combat climate change, using their ethical insights to mobilize their followers. As a nontheistic religion, Buddhism sees our moral commitments as stemming not from the decree of a Creator God but from our obligation to promote the true well-being of ourselves and others.

The Buddha traces all immoral conduct to three mental factors, which he calls the three unwholesome roots: greed, hatred, and delusion. Greed propels economies to voraciously consume fossil fuels in order to maximize profits, ravaging the finite resources of the earth and filling its sinks with toxic waste. Hatred underlies not only war and bigotry but also the callous indifference that allows us to consign billions of people to hunger, drought, and devastating floods without batting an eye. Delusion—self-deception and the deliberate deceiving of others—is reinforced by the falsehoods churned out by fossil-fuel interests to block remedial action.

We thus need to curb the influence of greed, hatred, and delusion on the operation of social systems. Policy formation must be motivated not by narrow self-interest but by a magnanimous spirit of generosity, compassion, and wisdom. An economy premised on infinite expansion, geared toward endless production and consumption, has to be replaced by a steady-state economy governed by the principle of sufficiency, which gives priority to contentment, service to others, and inner fulfillment as the measure of the good life.

The moral tide of our age pushes us in two directions. One is to uplift the living standards of the billions mired in poverty, struggling each day to survive. The other is to preserve the integrity and sustaining capacity of the planet. A rapid transition to an economy powered by clean and renewable sources of energy, with transfers of the technology to developing countries, would enable us to accomplish both, to combine social justice with ecological sustainability.

At the very outset, we must start the transition by making highly specific national and global commitments to curb carbon emissions, and we must do so fast. The Conference of the Parties meeting in Paris this December has to show the way. The meeting must culminate in a climate accord that imposes truly rigorous, binding, and enforceable targets for emissions reductions. Pledges and promises alone won’t suffice: enforcement mechanisms are critical. And beyond a strong accord, we’ll need an international endeavor, undertaken with a compelling sense of urgency, to shift the global economy away from fossil fuels to clean sources of energy.

Pope Francis reminds us that climate change poses not only a policy challenge but also a call to the moral conscience. If we continue to burn fossil fuels to empower unbridled economic growth, the biosphere will be destabilized, resulting in unimaginable devastation, the deaths of many millions, failed states, and social chaos. Shifting to clean and renewable energy can reverse this trend, opening pathways to a steady-state economy that uplifts living standards for all. One way leads deeper into a culture of death; the other leads to a new culture of life. As climate change accelerates, the choice before us is becoming starker, and the need to choose wisely grows ever more urgent.

-----------

The above essay was originally written for OurVoices, an interfaith initiative bringing faith to the climate talks.

Offline Dawnstar

  • Member
  • Posts: 10
    • View Profile
Re: Climate Change is a Moral Issue
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2015, 03:19:39 pm »
Thank you! it's indeed a concern for everyone!
But one very important aspect that is almost always failed to get mentioned in this context is the animal agriculture, it's one of the biggest environmental destroyer but yet most talk is about energy consumption and carbon dioxide. This matter should get lifted much higher than it is today. Maybe we should e-mail the pope? :fu:

Offline Dharmakara

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4233
    • View Profile
Re: Climate Change is a Moral Issue
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2015, 04:11:56 pm »
Although I'm not sure if there's really been any substantial movement among World powers to address the issue of animal agriculture's impact on climate change, it in fact gets mentioned often enough, with over 3 million results listed in a basic Google search:

https://www.google.com/#q=animal+agriculture+climate+change

As for whether animal agriculture is the biggest contributor --- well, it depends on which special interest group is doing the talking --- for example, it doesn't appear to be supported by EPA research data:


Offline Dawnstar

  • Member
  • Posts: 10
    • View Profile
Re: Climate Change is a Moral Issue
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2015, 04:25:58 pm »
(Edited here: I would.. I don't know, they don't really speak about food when they think environment and climate. I guess the animal agriculture is a big economy, It don't cost anything to breed animals and kill them for their meat. but humanity still will pay the price for it eventually. I try to look at so many areas as possible, land, sea, air, forests, and there for I see it as a too big and unnecessary contributor for the climate. when humans don't even need to eat meat every single day. done editing :) )

http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1839995,00.html

In a 2006 report, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concluded that worldwide livestock farming generates 18% of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions — by comparison, all the world's cars, trains, planes and boats account for a combined 13% of greenhouse gas emissions. Much of livestock's contribution to global warming come from deforestation, as the growing demand for meat results in trees being cut down to make space for pasture or farmland to grow animal feed. Livestock takes up a lot of space — nearly one-third of the earth's entire landmass. In Latin America, the FAO estimates that some 70% of former forest cover has been converted for grazing. Lost forest cover heats the planet, because trees absorb CO2 while they're alive — and when they're burned or cut down, the greenhouse gas is released back into the atmosphere.

Pollute the seas, use our fresh waters, cut down Amazons to grow corn and soy that we feed for the animals, and cows fart and burp methane which is worse than carbon dioxide. ect ect.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2015, 04:48:25 pm by Dawnstar »

Offline Dharmakara

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4233
    • View Profile
Re: Climate Change is a Moral Issue
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2015, 12:31:26 am »
Hi Dawnstar.

I'm not really sure that it's appropriate to cite a 2006 report, especially when there's more current info in FAO reports from 2013 and forward --- for example, beginning in 2013 the FAO not only noted major cuts of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock was within reach through the wider use of existing best practices and technologies[1], but in 2014 the following statement was made by the FAO[2]:

Quote
FAO's data based on country reports show that while those emissions continue to increase, they are not growing as fast as emissions from fossil fuel use in other sectors – actually decreasing over time the share of agriculture and other land use out of total anthropogenic emissions.

The largest source of emissions within agriculture is enteric fermentation – methane produced by livestock during digestion and released via belches. In 2011, this accounted for 39 per cent of the sector's total greenhouse gas outputs and increased 11 per cent between 2001 and 2011.


Mind you, I'm pretty sure that they're referring to 39% of the total agricultural sector itself, not the total of emissions from all sectors, but in hindsight this also leaves us with a few questions that are certainly worthy of consideration, first and foremost would be whether the emissions from our friendly neighborhood cows are more dangerous than the emissions from fossil fuel usage, as well as the various synthetic gases that are released during the process.

It should also be noted that the primary reason World governments appear to be more focused on fossil fuels is because it has been deemed easier and more cost efficient to implement changes within the other sectors, whereas the same can't be said of the agricultural sector and any attempt to change the diets of others at this time --- more or less, the other sectors are viewed as the path of least resistance.

I guess when all is said and done, the World needs to start somewhere in addressing these issues, where some action is better than no action.

By the way, for future reference, we have a policy that material and discussions related to vegan vs. meat-eating are only permitted within the Danger Zone section, so earlier tonight your post in regard to the movie "Cowspiracy" was moved to that section:

http://www.freesangha.com/forums/the-danger-zone/is-meat-eating-compatible-with-buddhist-practice/msg81925/#msg81925

Metta,

DK

----

[1] http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/216137/icode/

[2] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47563#.VghyWJUg-Uk

« Last Edit: September 28, 2015, 01:27:45 am by Dharmakara, Reason: grammar »

Offline Dawnstar

  • Member
  • Posts: 10
    • View Profile
Re: Climate Change is a Moral Issue
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2015, 08:15:48 am »
Yes, I didn't think about that it's almost 10 years old, :D 2006 feels like yesterday for me, sorry.
But I still see animal agriculture as a section that could and should be reduced, note: not stopped entirely. meat should be treated with more respect and value than it has today.
and last, I didn't know there is a vegan vs. meat-eating section. now I know. Thank you. : )

Offline Ron-the-Elder

  • Member
  • Posts: 4474
  • May all beings live rightly and harmoniously.
    • View Profile
Re: Climate Change is a Moral Issue
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2015, 09:30:29 am »
Hi, all.

I am personally glad that "The Catholic Pope" has weighed-in regarding everyone's and every nations obligation to be good stewards of our planet, which we all share.

As for our obligation in this regard being "moral", I am not sure.  I think it makes good, perhaps not so common sense to live by The Three R's:  reduce, reuse and recycle, but failing to do so I don't think meets the requirement of being a "sin" in the context of Abrahemic Religions.  Most of that sort of thing involves disobeying God.  After all God gave man all the Earth's resources to use, but not the wisdom to see when he was abusing it.

Buddha, on the other hand, pointed out that we must cause no harm to sentient beings.  That is sufficient to encourage me, or any other Buddhist to follow the Three R's, or am I wrong?
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Dharmakara

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4233
    • View Profile
Re: Climate Change is a Moral Issue
« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2015, 09:58:04 am »

Offline VincentRJ

  • Member
  • Posts: 175
    • View Profile
Re: Climate Change is a Moral Issue
« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2016, 10:06:33 pm »
Hello,
This is my first post on the forum. I've been reading various topics here for a number of days and thought I would like to contribute to the discussions.

The moral issue of Climate Change caught my attention because it reminded me of two situations I've encountered, relating to Buddhism.

A few years ago, when in Thailand, I recall having a conversation with a Thai monk who spoke fairly good English because he'd worked in Australia for some time. He was rather worried about climate change, and we discussed the subject for a while.

I eventually made the point that, as I understood it, a major Buddhist principle is that nothing is permanent and everything is subject to continuous change. Why should climate be different, I asked him? He didn't have an answer but tended to agree with me..

Some time later, whilst reading about Buddhism, I came across the Kalama Sutta for the first time, and was very impressed. The sutta essentially appears to be advising a group of skeptical villagers, not to accept or believe in something merely because the authorities claim it is true, or because traditional practices or scriptures claim it is true, or even because a teacher claims it is true.

One should accept something as true only after understanding and testing for oneself that what a wise person claims to be true, is actually good for oneself and for others.
That this advice was 'supposedly' delivered about 2,500 years ago makes it all the more remarkable. The situation of the Kalamas, who regularly experienced wandering ascetics and religious teachers passing through their village offering contradictory advice, is surely similar to the current situation of modern man who is continuously exposed to a huge variety of differing, authoritative opinions on a vast array of subjects.

Climate Change is just one of those subjects. In my opinion, the real moral issue might not specifically relate to CO2, which is a clean, colourless and odourless gas which is necessary for all life, but should perhaps relate to other undeniable, known pollutants associated with the emission of CO2, such as various nitrous oxides, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, traces of heavy metals, and the emission of fine particles of carbon which cause haze and smog.

The terrible atmospheric pollution experienced in many parts of China is due to cheap, old-fashioned, coal-fired power stations with inadequate emission controls, combined with a more recent proliferation of diesel and gasoline-propelled vehicles, as the country develops.

I fear that demonising CO2 instead of attacking the real culprits, might have unfortunate consequences for those who are already poor, as a result of the higher cost of energy. That is perhaps the real moral issue here.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

  • Member
  • Posts: 4474
  • May all beings live rightly and harmoniously.
    • View Profile
Re: Climate Change is a Moral Issue
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2016, 07:20:01 pm »
Quote
Vincent RJ: I fear that demonising CO2 instead of attacking the real culprits, might have unfortunate consequences for those who are already poor, as a result of the higher cost of energy. That is perhaps the real moral issue here.


Hi, Vincent.  You make a good point, but it misses the mark in that the greenhouse effect, which causes global warming is CO2 as a well as other greenhouse gases such as CH4, methane and of all things H2O, or water.

The fact of global warming is no longer in question as both the average temperature of our planet's climate and the average temperature of our oceans is climbing, resulting in increased sea levels due to melting of our glaciers and ice shelves at the poles.

Methane is now being released by the tundra and beneath what to used to be frozen lakes, and methane ice, known as methane Clathrate.  The problem with methane is that it later decomposes into CO2 as well as being a direct greenhouse gas itself.

To stay current regarding this very complex issue my suggestion would be to subscribe to this site:

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline VincentRJ

  • Member
  • Posts: 175
    • View Profile
Re: Climate Change is a Moral Issue
« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2016, 10:19:30 pm »
Quote
Vincent RJ: I fear that demonising CO2 instead of attacking the real culprits, might have unfortunate consequences for those who are already poor, as a result of the higher cost of energy. That is perhaps the real moral issue here.


Hi, Vincent.  You make a good point, but it misses the mark in that the greenhouse effect, which causes global warming is CO2 as a well as other greenhouse gases such as CH4, methane and of all things H2O, or water.

The fact of global warming is no longer in question as both the average temperature of our planet's climate and the average temperature of our oceans is climbing, resulting in increased sea levels due to melting of our glaciers and ice shelves at the poles.

Methane is now being released by the tundra and beneath what to used to be frozen lakes, and methane ice, known as methane Clathrate.  The problem with methane is that it later decomposes into CO2 as well as being a direct greenhouse gas itself.

To stay current regarding this very complex issue my suggestion would be to subscribe to this site:

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/



Hi Ron,
Have you heard of the concept of 'selection bias'? Whenever a situation is complex, such as Climate Change or human biology, or the long-term effects of certain medicines and diets etc, you can virtually make any case you desire by giving more prominence to evidence that supports your case, and less prominence to evidence that undermines your case.

This is why the Kalama Sutta advises against accepting something as true, simply because the 'authorities', or 'teachers', or 'scriptures' claim it is true.

I'll take a quote from the 'authoritative' article to which you linked.

"The global average surface temperature rose 0.6 to 0.9 degrees Celsius (1.1 to 1.6° F) between 1906 and 2005".

In other words, the average global temperature rose just 0.3 degrees C in a hundred years!! Show me a true Buddhist who would be worried about that.

Let's analyze the claim, as the Kalama Sutta advises. How on earth could anyone provide accurate global temperatures of such a huge area as planet earth, for over a hundred year period? Today, we have sophisticated satellites. 100 years ago, how sophisticated were our temperature devices, and more importantly, how widespread were they across the planet?

Just consider the opportunities for selection bias. During that period of 100 years or so, there will be many fluctuations of global temperature guesstimates.
Choose a rather high global temperature in one particular year, before or after 1906, and a rather low global temperature before or after 2005, then you might get an even less alarming result. For example, when comparing 1896 with 1995, the global temperature rise might be only 0.1 degrees C. I don't know that this is the case, but looking at any graph of global temperature changes shows some significant fluctuations from decade to decade.

That the climate is currently in a warming phase is not in dispute. To what extent increased CO2 levels might be exaggerating this current warming, if at all, is not known.
But religion has a role to play here. We have known for a long time that the use of fossil fuels to produce the cheapest form of energy also produces significant pollution which affects human health. We also know that people and governments ignore the inevitable consequences of such harmful effects, in the interests of some other goal, such as economic development

An additional fear is often required to get people to act sensibly. Just as in Christianity the fear of everlasting hell, when people die, if they don't behave well in this life, might help them change their habits, the equivalent Buddhist fear of being reincarnated as a cockroach if a person behaves badly in this life, might have a similar, positive effect on a person's behaviour. That's my point. I'm all in favour of the development of solar power and electric cars, but I'm not going to delude myself about the facts on climate change.


Offline Ron-the-Elder

  • Member
  • Posts: 4474
  • May all beings live rightly and harmoniously.
    • View Profile
Re: Climate Change is a Moral Issue
« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2016, 07:20:50 am »
How Clean & Green Is Our Digital World?:

Interesting article from ABC Science, our friends (mates) from Down-Under:

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2016/05/31/4470866.htm
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline VincentRJ

  • Member
  • Posts: 175
    • View Profile
Re: Climate Change is a Moral Issue
« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2016, 02:26:24 pm »
How Clean & Green Is Our Digital World?:

Interesting article from ABC Science, our friends (mates) from Down-Under:

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2016/05/31/4470866.htm


Energy is a fundamental requirement for all human activity in modern societies, and its use tends to be proportional to our economic  prosperity.
To realize the dream of providing everyone on the planet with an Australian quality of life would eventually diminish our reserves and supplies of fossil fuels, leading to a global catastrophe if we became dependent on such fuels.

Nuclear power is the obvious alternative but presents its own dangers. The Fukushima disaster is just one example of how badly things can go wrong.

Efficient solar power, efficient transmission of such power over long distances using HVDC power lines,  efficient battery storage and the development of the electric vehicle, use of fossil fuels only as a back-up, and for other purposes such as the production of carbon-fibre plastics which can replace steel, is the way to go, for sound practical reasons.

CO2 is a clean and odourless gas essential for all life. Plants love it and grow better in higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, or when the CO2 is artificially injected into greenhouses.

If we were able to magically reduce overnight the current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, to what they were during pre-industrial times, there would a massive world-wide food shortage. This is a fact which is so often ignored by climate change alarmists, and is an excellent example of 'selection bias'.

It cannot be clearly demonstrated that increased levels of CO2 alone will adversely affect our climate. But it can be clearly demonstrated that many food crops grow better in elevated levels of CO2, with the same amount of water and fertilizer. Whenever the desert blooms in Australia after a rare downpour of rain, it blooms more magnificently than it did during pre-industrial times.  :)

 


SimplePortal 2.3.3 © 2008-2010, SimplePortal