With nearly 200 delegates from all over the world signing on to the Paris Agreement today in France, it was an historic moment for significantly slowing climate change. For the past two weeks, it’s been anyone’s guess if the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) would result in much more than exhausting travel budgets and giving Republicans fodder for their campaigns.
But all that worry was for naught – sort of. The “father” of climate change awareness, James Hansen, called the Paris talks a “fraud” in an interview with the Guardian and in other outlets. Formerly of NASA, the gifted scientist who first introduced how greenhouse gases work decades ago, stressed that the talks on halting temperature rise beyond 2020 were just, well, talk.
However, Pres. Obama just went on prime time television to tell a national audience that The Paris Agreement is a huge success, reminding viewers that when he first took office, he promised that combating climate change would be vital. Two weeks ago in Paris, at the start of COP, he stressed the need for an “enduring” agreement, he reminded viewers. This agreement, which was overseen from the U.S. delegation by Secretary of State John Kerry, was a proud day for America, the president seemed to say.
However, America is only one country in a very vast world of developed and more importantly, developing nations. The deal is critically important for its stipulation of funding (to the tune of providing, by 2020, $100 billion annually to) developing countries, including small island nations that are already facing submersion due to rising seas.
On the other side of the coin, heavy polluter China has clearly come around – excellent timing considering that smog choked parts of the country and caused school closings this past week, prompting a collective gasp from across the globe.
The agreement reached in Paris tonight is a commitment from the world to halt temperature to below a 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit rise that would eventually make the planet uninhabitable. Article 2, 1a) states:
Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
Parts of the agreement are voluntary and parts are not. Some elements of the document call for “flexibility” for developing nations who may need it “in light of their capacities.”
Read the Paris Agreement.