Did Climate Change Create the Perfect Storm?

As you probably aware, Typhoon Haiyan was one of the biggest tropical storms in recorded history, with the strongest storm surge since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Philippines has been devastated.  The last report I heard was that currently 2 million people are hungry, and it’s a race against time to provide aid before many of them die.

You can lend support by contributing to the Global Red Cross Response Effort.

As Haiyan made landfall, representatives of more than 190 countries were gathered in Warsaw to work on a new UN framework to address the global climate problem. Yeb Sano, head of the Philippines’ delegation, broke into tears in front of the representatives as he talked about the impact of the storm on his country and called for the world to accept “stark reality” of climate change.

It’s too early to say how climate change affected Typhoon Haiyan, or if it did at all. Climate change is a phenomena that resists preciseness. More powerful, more devastating storms appear to be one consequence of global warming, yet in the Atlantic this is one of the quietest hurricane seasons in 20 years, and storm activity is about average in the Pacific.

Doubters and deniers of climate change may want to use that to strengthen their hand but a new report from the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leaked ahead of its official release date warns of potential disasters, calling Earth “a planet in peril.” According to the LA Times, the international panel of scientists say,

“Climate change will disrupt not only the natural world but also society, posing risks to the world’s economy and the food and water supply and contributing to violent conflict . . .

The report describes a planet in peril as a result of the human-caused buildup of greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution, where glaciers are shrinking and plants and animals have shifted their ranges in response to rising temperatures. As global warming continues through the 21st century, many species will face greater risk of extinction, marine life will shift toward the poles and seawater will grow more acidic . . .”

Global warning deniers claim that the scientific community is divided over the question of whether climate change is largely man-made or not. That’s not true. The scientific consensus is overwhelming in support of global warming.

The real question is what we, as individual inhabitants of the planet, everyday citizens, can do to help rectify the situation. One step is to educate ourselves about climate change and raise the consciousness of others. If we love this planet, then we must be an advocate for it. Raising the consciousness of those who are uninformed about the issue or want to dismiss climate change can be effective. Recently, we’ve seen how a change in attitude has powerfully affected issues such as marriage equality and medical marijuana.

And there’s more. The Vietnamese Zen teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, says

“We should speak more of spiritual pollution. When we sit together and listen to the sound of the [meditation] bell . . . we calm our body and mind. We produce a very powerful and peaceful energy that can penetrate in every one of us. So, conversely, the same thing is true with the collective energy of fear, anger and despair. We create an atmosphere and environment that is destructive to all of us. We don’t think enough about that, we only think about the physical environment.”*

In other words, we need to deal with the root causes for climate change, which is our lifestyles, our consumerism, our lack of respect for nature and all living things. Thich Nhat Hanh warns that “Without collective awakening the catastrophe will come.”

Because the world and its people are linked in a chain of causes and conditions, the awakening of one person contributes to the awakening of the planet. And we need to awaken now.

“We need to live as the Buddha taught us to live, in peace and harmony with nature, but this must start with ourselves. If we are going to save this planet we need to seek a new ecological order, to look at the life we lead and then work together for the benefit of all; unless we work together no solution can be found. By moving away from self-centeredness, sharing wealth more, being more responsible for ourselves, and agreeing to live more simply, we can help decrease much of the suffering in the world,”

from the Buddhist Statement on Ecology 1996.

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* Zen and the art of protecting the planet



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