A Global Climate Accord (The Paris Agreement) was signed by leaders of 195 countries some time ago. On page 1 in a report by “nature.com” 1 we read:
The ambitious 32-page package contains a multitude of provisions to accelerate the world’s transition from fossil fuels to solar, wind, nuclear, hydropower and other clean energy sources.
Use of fossil fuel can be described by the Vedic term “ughra karma” or greatly destructive work; but changing to other forms of energy does not address the real problem. Human beings will continue to be a major burden to the Earth until we acknowledge that we are not the owners of the Sun, wind, water or atoms; these are produced and owned by God, and any energy we derive from them must be used for His pleasure. However great the population may be, we are not a burden to the Earth when we use energy in Krishna’s service. But we cannot avoid adverse reactions when we misuse energy for our sense gratification. As a society of Brahmana’s, it is the duty of ISKCON members to inform those who place their faith the Paris Agreement that it does not identify the real problem or give the real solution. This may make us unpopular, but people are suffering due to ignorance, so how can we not tell them the truth?
There is another factor which makes it impossible for devotees to agree with the assertions of the Paris Agreement. As shown below, during Vedic times anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) production exceeded what the agreement asserts is a safe level to avoid catastrophic climate change -and no adverse ecological affect was produced in Vedic times. In short, we cannot accept the Srimada Bhagavatam as the absolute truth and, at the same time accept the premise of the Paris Agreement, even regarding the so called “scientific” data.
In his purports to SB 4.18 6-8, Srila Prabhupada plainly states that planning for economic development for sense gratification and eating food not offered to Krishna is thievery; therefore, at present the world is full of thieves. “ …a thief cannot be placed in a comfortable position…”. Thieves are always a burden to Mother Earth but she is happy to maintain any number of godly citizens. In SB 3.3.14 Srila Prabhupada writes:
Therefore, there is no question of an increase in population causing a burden. The earth became overburdened due to dharma-gläni, or irregular discharge of the Lord’s desire. The Lord appeared on the earth to curb the increase in miscreants, and not the increase in population, as is wrongly put forward by the mundane economist.
Of course, these same points are repeated by Srila Prabhupada numerous times. Srila Prabhupada also pointed out, numerous times, that anyone can see all the vacant land and conclude that the Earth could easily support ten times the current population. On a similar note, we hear descriptions of Vedic societies on Earth where the population was, in fact, many time greater than today. One example is, 9 billion men were given to Krishna in a dowry by a single king (SB 10.58.52).
A large population of Vedic followers means there is a large population of cows. Srila Prabhpada writes “For a Sanätanist (a follower of Vedic principles) it is the duty of every householder to have cows and bulls as household paraphernalia, not only for drinking milk, but also for deriving religious principles”(SB 1.17.3). And during the time of Sukadeva Goswami “Even the poorest of the householders keep at least ten cows, each delivering twelve to twenty quarts of milk” ( SB 1.19.29).
Cows produce tons of GHG. This has been researched and documented. In accordance with the Kyoto Protocol, in 2014, the United Kingdom submitted a national greenhouse gas emissions report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change2. The research showed the average enteric production of methane (belched gas) of a cow is 110.7 k per head per year (P. 673, Table 3.5.3). Methane(CH4) has a high “Global Warming Potential” (GWP). GWP is the level a gas can trap heat in the atmosphere relative to CO2. According the U.S. EPA, The GWP for CO2 = 1 and the GWP for CH4= 253. So, converted to the standard unit of GHG, every dairy cow produces 110k x 25= 2.75 metric tons annually.
The first page of the report on the Paris Agreement, by nature.com, shows a graph with the 2014 world total GHG emissions at a little under 40 billion metric tons (BMT) annually. It shows the goal of bringing this down to 20 BMT by 2030. This has a 66% chance of keeping global warming down to 2 degrees Celsius. But this would still mean a 2.7 degree rise by 2100 and “This is deep into the territory that scientists expect would prompt catastrophic, irreversible climate changes.” (P.2). So, the Paris Agreement seeks to ultimately set the goal at 1.5 degrees. The report cites Steffen Kallbekken (research director at the Center for International Climate and Energy Policy in Oslo) as saying the 1.5-degree goal would require cuts of 70-95% by 2050. So to avoid catastrophe, according to the highest possible estimate, we would need 40BMT cut 70% = 12BMT.
To put it in perspective, according to the science accepted by the Paris Agreement, at 2.75 metric tons annually per cow, the maximum GHG for a safe world would equal that produced by the breathing alone of 4.5 billion cows. The Bhagavatam describes Vedic societies with every householder owning at least ten cows and human populations of tens of billions, if not trillions. In such a society, the cows breathing alone would produce far more GHG than the scientist say is safe for the planet. But the Scriptures say it is no problem if people are using Krishna’s energy properly in His service.
The United Nations estimates the human population will be 9.7 Billion by 20504. A maximum of 12BMT global emissions, means less than 1.33 metric tons of GHG per person annually. That is 2.66 metric tons for two people. At 2.75 metric tons, a year, a cows breathing would be the entire GHG budget of two people. In addition to methane production, the literature on climate change has abundant descriptions of numerous burdens the cows are putting on the Earth, soil erosion, deforestation, fresh water depletion, etc. Obviously, the vision of the global planners designing things like the Paris Agreement is a future with very few cows. But the cows aren’t the burden, it is humans using the Earth’s resources for sense gratification. It is the duty of ISKCON devotees to use sound reasoning to condemn foolish materialistic plans and their makers. If, instead, we endorse them, intelligent seekers of the truth will be compelled to look for it elsewhere.