Many are breathing a sigh of relief that the Climate Talks in Paris have resulted in a global agreement. But this is no time for resting on our laurels.
What did Paris give us?
- Recognition of the risks associated with climate change. An understanding that if we don’t act now, doing as much as we can as soon as we can, there will be drastic and catastrophic consequences to us all.
- Global agreement between giant nations and little island nations to reduce emissions as much as we can with a set max of 2°C target (above pre-industrial levels) for warming and an aim of 1.5°C.
- Guaranteed monies to developing countries to go green and adapt to the changing climate. There is a commitment to provide $100B annually, starting in 2020, with negotiations for upping that figure in the future.
What does this mean?
Countries have to set goals to reduce emissions. They will revisit this agreement every five years starting in 2023 (8 years from now so they can hopefully get a jump on making some headway). And all countries have to report their progress on a planet-wide accounting system.
- There are NO details on HOW this will be done. No mention of a carbon tax which many agree would be our best hope for quickly reducing greenhouse gases. There is no current technology to remove CO2 from fuel and the atmosphere, though many keep blind faith in a breakthrough that will save us all. Forests can absorb carbon, as can good farming practices, and much is being done to implement these methods. But in the face of a constant call to increase GDP and growth, along with our ever-increasing human populations, how do we keep forests from being culled to build new infrastructure?
- There are no punitive consequences to not adhering to the agreement. No enforcement and compliance provisions. The hope is that the transparency provisions will be enough, though these are still being developed. The idea in this agreement is that, every few years, we can talk more about this to negotiate the target down in the future. And, because they are not legally binding, the agreements can reportedly be done with only presidential authority, removing the do-nothing Congress from blocking this work.
- 2°C is NOT ENOUGH. We already are seeing catastrophic consequences around the world with drought, floods, earthquakes, fires and more.
In the end, Paris doesn’t seem to have accomplished much more than kicking the can down the road once again. You can read more details here: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/12/13/459580031/4-pieces-you-should-read-about-the-global-climate-deal
- Many of us knew whatever happened at Paris would not be enough. We know there is a lot of work to make the needed changes to get us where we need to be and this conference was mainly going to show if we could COMMIT to making the changes as a planet. So that was accomplished.
- Because of the overwhelming support, even if a Republican does get into the White House in 2016, it will be unprecedented for that person to back out of this deal due to the widespread global acceptance. The rest of the world knows and accepts the science of climate change even if there is still a large contingency of deniers here. And we are seeing even the US deniers come to their senses with the recent Gibson Resolution (http://citizensclimatelobby.org/gibson-climate-change-resolution/) and GOP Senate group on Environment and Energy (http://citizensclimatelobby.org/ccl-applauds-new-gop-senate-group-on-environment-and-energy/).
- The focus on 2°C max ensures that we accept reductions in burning fossil fuels. It means keeping 80% of the remaining fossil fuels in the ground. Bill McKibben explains this here: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719 Thankfully, this does give a signal that we’re moving to the end of the fossil fuel economy.
Paris has given us an understanding that WE ALL MUST take action to prevent environmental catastrophe by reducing the carbon and methane in our atmosphere. To prevent exceeding the 2°C max, we MUST leave 80% of the fossil fuels remaining in the ground and develop new means of powering our lives. It is not enough to hope and pray for a technological breakthrough to miraculously save us.
The challenge now is for all of us to do our part. The most important first thing we each can do is reduce personal use of fossil fuels. The gluttonous and thoughtless burning of these precious commodities has to end. You can:
- Drive a car with high MPG and consolidate trips and errands to reduce driving. Walk or bike when possible.
- Turn off unneeded lights and keep the thermostat under 70° this winter.
- Buy local. Local foods have less fuel miles making them fresher and better tasting. Local goods provide for a more sustainable community and keep money in our neighborhood.
Find out more here: https://www.carbonfund.org/reduce
Then, encourage your Representatives to support Carbon Fee and Dividend which will provide not only the most rapid way to reducing greenhouse gases (short of mandatory draconian regulations), but will also give all Americans a cash dividend. The fossil fuel companies have long been subsidized with our tax dollars while they rake in billions in profits without bearing responsibility for the costs to our environment. It’s time they started paying their fair share… to us!
Learn more at http://citizensclimatelobby.org/
The good Earth — we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy. ~ Kurt Vonngut in “A Man Without a Country”