Climate Talks in Paris

Countries around the world are finally in agreement that change is now or never. Leaders from over 172 nations met in Paris, Monday, November 30, 2015 to begin the annual United Nations Conference of Parties on climate change. This two week long event takes place in Le Bourget, France, which also happens to be a suburb of Paris that was affected by the recent terrorist attacks. With heightened security in a devastated and mourning city, all of these heads of state are showing strong political signals to unite for the planet, and also against the terrorism struck down on Paris. Over 150 countries have submitted national plans for how they would aid the global fight against climate change. The long-term goal of an agreement between all of these nations is a net zero carbon emissions in the second half of this century. That means that by offsetting the carbons that we as humans release from our environments around the world with an equivalent amount of sequestered carbon, or by buying carbon credits to make up the difference, we will have a net zero carbon footprint.

Currently China and the U.S. are two of the top carbon emitters in the world, but both are taking a leadership role in this summit. President Obama admits that the U.S. is at least partly to blame for the detrimental environmental climate changes thus far. “I’ve come here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and the second-largest emitter,” President Obama stated, “to say that the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.” Pope Francis says it our moral duty to take action.

Leaders attending this monumental meeting now recognize the urgency of the problem and are at the table to come up with a plan for change. There is an overall sense of hope if we act here and now, but with a steep and long climb. Experts agree that the fact that everyone is coming to the table, it’s the beginning of a new starting point, but the fight is far from over. The science is becoming clearer and the evidence proving real. “Fourteen of the fifteen warmest years have occurred since 2000 and 2015 is on pace to be the warmest year of all.” President Obama. Global warming causes floods, droughts, extreme storms, and rising sea levels among other things. These disasters in turn effect clean water, agriculture, food supplies, and can even cause the spread of deadly diseases. Prediction models show entire islands that were countries submerged, cities along coastlines under water, and New York with a climate of Miami. The devastating probabilities are overwhelming.

The goal of the agreement is to limit global warming before it’s too late. Models forecast an increase of 2 degrees centigrade, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit max before causing disastrous consequences. So far the EU is cutting emissions by forty percent by 1990 levels, the U.S. is cutting by twenty-seven to twenty-eight percent, and China will peak their emissions by 2030. More than 180 countries have produced pledges, which count for ninety-five percent of the world’s emissions today. Unfortunately we won’t see or feel the results of whether this agreement is a success for 15 years, but we are showing signs of progress in a process that has been stagnant for decades.

Billionaire Bill Gates, leading twenty-seven other governments, philanthropists, and business leaders announced the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, which has a combined total of $350 billion in private and government wealth. This money is double what was available previously, and will be used on research and development on clean energy innovation over the next 5 years. This is adding to the optimism in laying the right foundation moving forward.

There are still many hurdles to deal with like smaller countries that can’t afford to make the changes necessary, however the UN countries are dedicated to assisting these countries for the greater good. India is currently seeing an up rise in their economic growth and does not think their economy should have to suffer by them producing less coal to make up for the damage already caused by countries like the U.S. and China. Currently they are on the growth path of producing much more emissions. Obama has promised money to help poor nations transition their economics to use less fossil fuels.

“The developing countries like China and India have a legitimate gripe–the industrialized West did create the problem.  But what’s important now is not who created the problem, but what can be done about it.  The answer is neither to punish the industrialized nations nor to inhibit the industrial growth of developing countries, but to find a way for everyone to enjoy the benefits of industrial growth without causing more damage to the environment.  I just read an interesting statistic today.  The US spends $325 million dollars a year on researching alternate energy sources.  Meanwhile, the world is spending $5.3 trillion dollars a year on fossil fuel subsidies.  Yes, you read that right–millions to trillions.  Not just the industrialized West or the developing East, but everyone, has to change their ways.” Lawrence Lujan, World History, Professor NDNU.

Unfortunately some of this progress is also overshadowed in the U.S. as the Republicans in Congress are actively trying to make sure this project is an Obama failure by making it clear that they will make sure that the U.S. doesn’t live up to any of it’s commitments in the agreement. If the U.S. Senate opposes the agreement with the U.N., it will not be made a formal treaty. “The US has to take the lead on this, in cooperation with the UN.  But I doubt if the US will even agree to a serious commitment.  Obama is a very lame duck, and I don’t see anyone replacing him who has the will, or the leadership skills to do any better. Hope you’re a good swimmer–we may soon all be up to our necks in hot water.” States Professor Lujan, NDNU.

As hundreds of millions of dollars are being pledged in Paris for clean energy and steps to prevent climate change, thousands upon thousands of empty shoes were left in an area where people would’ve been in the streets protesting climate change and supporting a world saving agreement at these Climate Talks. But as the area is locked down by security due to the terrorist attacks, the shoes were laid down in peaceful protest. The next two weeks will determine the state of our climate affairs moving forward.


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