The Paris Climate
This article is also available on our YouTube channel as an informational video; both dive into the 2015 Paris Agreement with just the facts, and the objective data behind this bold, international accord.
As of Spring 2020, 189 nations have ratified the agreement. The official U.S. exit date, which can be no earlier than November 2020, would put the U.S. in a group with Libya, Angola, Eritrea, and a few others; essentially a small minority group that I’m quite certain is not something to be proud of…as Trump is.
As a result, there is a lot of misinformation floating around on the internet about the Paris Climate Agreement, and Climate Change in general, so how can you, the reader, better understand the topic at hand, and be better informed?
Our 2 areas of focus are:
- What exactly is the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, and what’s in it?
- An argument for why the U.S. needs to stay in the agreement, and formally announce its intention to NOT leave, effectively un-doing what President Trump announced in 2017
“Today, the American people can be proud because this historic agreement is a tribute to American leadership. Over the past seven years, we’ve transformed the United States into the global leader in fighting climate change.
…So we cannot be complacent because of today’s agreement…no nation, not even one as powerful as ours, can solve this challenge alone. And no country, no matter how small, can sit on the sidelines. All of us had to solve it together.”
– U.S. President Barack Obama
1) What is the 2015 paris climate agreement, and what’s in it?
In late 2015, the UNFCCC, or the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held COP21, or the conference of parties #21, where 197 parties, or nations, convened to negotiate over, and finalize what we now know as the 2015 Paris Agreement. It was a massive conference, with over 50,000 participants, and over 25,000 official delegates from all forms of organizations: Government, NGOs, the United Nations, and civil society. The video below is a highlight reel of the event and was posted directly by the UNFCCC.
The agreement was adopted on December 12, 2015, and the document officially lists as key objectives to:
- Acknowledge Climate Change as a common concern of human kind,
- Recognize the need for an effective response to the urgent threat of climate change, and
- Strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change
The primary aims of the agreement are to:
- One, hold increases in global average temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and
- Second, pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as below this threshold we can potentially avoid some of the more catastrophic risks of Climate Change
Former President Barack Obama had this to say about the agreement:
The Paris Agreement also lays out a few other key objectives and articles such as:
- Making finance flows consistent with pathways towards low greenhouse gas emissions, which means working out a system under which wealthier nations, such as the U.S., and those in Europe, would assist developing nations in transitioning their energy systems to clean, renewable energy, instead of utilizing coal or fossil fuels to power their electricity sectors.
- Noting the importance of the concept of “climate justice,” where the most disadvantaged and vulnerable populations on our earth, and communities with livelihoods heavily reliant on agriculture, or coastal resources, will be subject to the highest amounts of climate change risks, even when these populations emit magnitudes less carbon than the wealthiest in society.
The United States, China, & Europe account for roughly half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and much of the negotiation difficulties centered around the fact that there must be some onus on the developed countries to really “lead the way” and serve as an example for those still developing.
The Paris Agreement is in no way legally binding, but instead allows for each country to take up responsibility and formulate their own action plan, dubbed “NDCs,” or Nationally Determined Contribution. NDCs are essentially each party’s effort to contribute to meet the objective of the convention’s accords. The agreement states that parties, or each nation involved, shall communicate their NDCs every 5 years, with full transparency. Each successive 5-year meeting aims to be more ambitious, and set economy-wide greenhouse gas reduction targets, so that our world can move towards a carbon-free power & energy sector. Unfortunately, as we are all well aware, President Trump has continually mocked the Paris Agreement, and by November 2020 the United States will be eligible to formally withdraw, which leads us to the 2nd part of our article:
2) why the u.s. needs to stay in the agreement & serve as a leader in the international climate change negotiation space
How do Americans actually feel about these issues, and what do public opinion polls say?
Around 70% of registered US voters believe that the US should remain and participate in the Paris Agreement, with roughly 17% undecided. This means that President Trump is only acting on behalf of 13% of US voters! When it comes to Climate Change, over 75% of voters are very worried about the impacts of Climate Change, and over 70% of them believe that it is an absolutely priority to cut our Greenhouse Gas emissions.
And that brings us to the data on Climate Change. We have a separate video titled “Why Climate Change Matters” that dives deeper into the severe and tragic impacts of climate change, and continuing to pollute our earth with more greenhouse gases than it was designed for.
At a high level, the United States is one of the most egregious emitters of greenhouse gases in the world, producing more than 20 times the amount of CO2 per capita than the rest of the world. The U.S. energy sector is still heavily reliant on the fossil fuel industry, for both power generation, and transportation. Renewable energy only accounts for roughly 11% of the country’s primary energy consumption, whereas petroleum, natural gas, and coal account for approximately 80% of total energy consumption.
The IPCC, the United Nations’ intergovernmental panel, is forecasting global average temperatures to rise roughly 3-4 degrees Celsius by 2100. This is the likely case if humanity, and the US continue its course, with little action taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Consensus findings, and belief amongst the world’s scientific community maintain that severe weather events are expected to intensify as the earth continues to heat up, and that the forecasted impacts of climate change will be catastrophic. Life-threatening droughts, severe flooding, heat waves, and large-scale wildfires will amplify in number as our biosphere rapidly changes.
Ultimately, we Americans have to dig deep down to be introspective, and ask ourselves:
- What kind of country do we want to create for future generations to come?
- What kind of planet do we want?
- Do we want to be people who only look after our own needs, or will we be focused on how our actions impact our fellow citizens across the globe?
We must, as a collective society, be brave enough, bold enough, and sincere enough to fight for meaningful, societal change. When our kids, our grandkids, and those in future generations ask us what we did to save our one and only planet, I hope that we don’t carry the shame of saying that we didn’t do enough, and I hope that we can say that we did everything we could. The responsibility of being caretakers for this earth falls upon us, and it is our duty as one collective humanity to come together to solve this climate crisis, as well as tackle the ills of inequality, greed, & corruption that plague our society.
It is important to have a heart that feels for others, and put yourself in the shoes of those who are less fortunate than us…who will be disproportionately impacted.
This is our home, this is our country, this is our planet, and there is no planet B.
Thanks for reading everyone, and I will leave you with this quote to end by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), from his 1937 inaugural address.
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
– President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (F.D.R.)