A Layman’s Look At The Paris Accord
When I heard of the President’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement, I was discouraged, but when I thought about it: his decision reminded me of a line from one of my favorite movies. In the movie the Wrath of Khan, in an anti-climatic scene, a dying Spock whispers to Captain Kirk “Logic dictates that the needs of many outweigh the needs of the few.” In the president’s mind, the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.
When I first heard of the Paris Accord I wanted to shout from the rooftop. This was the first time these many nations came together to agree on a strategy for a major crisis. That is other than war. So when Trump announced that the U. S. was going to withdraw from the Paris Accord. In my mind, I heard “the needs of the few outweigh the the of the many.”
148 nations met adopt green energy resources and to limit the rise in global temperatures. At the same time, these countries are cooperating to cope with the impact of unavoidable climate change. What the agreement acknowledges is that the threat of climate change is urgent and irreversible. The signatories felt that the problem of emission reduction could only be addressed through the cooperation of all countries.
What is the effect of the cuts?
According to the agreement: “Holding the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”
The goal of 2 degrees as a limit had been discussed for several years. The global warming will still increase, but it won’t be as significant if nothing was done. The agreement notes that even if every signatory meets their obligation of 2 degrees world temperatures will still rise by 2 degrees. However, this is just a first step. It is the hope of all the signatories that the world will figure out how to get to the 2-degree goal, in time.
The accord goes onto a goal of pursuing loftier limits of 1.5 degrees temperature increase. The agreement states, “and to continue the efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”
If the initial target of 2 is an ambitious goal, the Paris Accord goes to further suggest an even harder ambitious goal. The reason for the second ambitious goal was because of the campaigning of small island nations. These countries argued “noting that even if the temperature increase was held at 2 degrees, the resulting rise in sea levels would devastating for them.”
Those island nations weren’t able to establish the 1.5 degrees as the primary target; the representatives were successful getting it into the Paris Accord. The reality is the 2-degree goal is lofty, and no one is sure if or how that is going to be achieved. The 2 degree Celsius may be the target, but world leaders have not figured out how to obtain it.
I am sure you have heard the figure $100 billion dollars in conjunction with the Paris Accord. This money is to be used to help developing countries swap from fossil fuels to greener resources and also to adapt to the effects of climate change. This contribution is the bottom level estimate of developed countries would have to contribute. Over the years this contribution is going to rise.
The nations do not expect that they will be able to reduce emissions shortly. When the countries came to Paris every one of them had a voluntary pledge. Those pledges are now codified which sets a framework for the reductions to begin by 2020. That year is also the projected time to submit long term plans for the future. Not a pledge for the short term, but for one for future generations.
The one element of the deal that President Barack Obama supported was that in the year 2020. In 2020 the reductions are supposed to begin. Every five years, every nations target will be reevaluated to move the world closer to the 2-degree target.
President Obama support for this idea was to have each country’s goals submitted 9-12 months before they are finalized. This allows time to be created for other nations can seek clarity about the proposed targets. The goals should reflect progress from earlier targets. The target should be the highest each country can achieve. This framework should drive climate ambition while technologies improve and circumstances changes.
The target date for climate improvement is roughly mid-century or 2050. That is when the world is supposed to meet the goal of zero emissions of green house gases. However, no one expects the world to quit using every form of technology that greenhouse gases use. One example is the removal of carbon dioxide which could be accomplished by growing more trees. I guess that is why President Trump targeted Giant Sequoia National Monument. Those trees absorb two-thirds of the carbon dioxide for their species.
I have to agree with Trump’s supporters that the document is a lot of words. However, it is a lot of words targeting a particular problem setting real goals, not just talking about it. If we do not believe there is a critical issue with climate change: Please consider this all buildings and vehicles emitting fossil fuel emissions for ninety decades. Don’t you think there could be some damage?