For several decades scientist, activist, politicians and educators have been warning of the dangers caused by global warming. Until recently this issue wasn’t taken seriously and was beyond most peoples realm of concern. However as reports of rising sea levels, rapidly degrading air quality and an exponential increase in natural disasters continue to increase the world is finally taking notice. On November 4th 2016 the Paris Climate Agreement went into effect with the support of 195 countries. This is the worlds first comprehensive climate agreement and it’s main goal is to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
Why Is This So Important?
Our Mother Earth is being destroyed and she needs all the help she can get to fight back. The vast majority of the scientific community has agreed that if we can’t stem global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels that life as we know if will cease to exist within our lifetime. Many reports state that we have between 6 – 20 years before global warming becomes irreversible but the general consensus is about 12 years. We have already lost countless species of wildlife to global warming and see many more populations dwindle every day. Each year since 2008 an average of 24 million people are displaced by weather related disasters around the world.
What Does The Paris Agreement Cover?
Since there are so many variables in combating climate change, as well as differences in each nations emissions, renewable energy usage and economic abilities, the Paris Agreement is open ended. This means that each country set their own goals known as Nationally Determined Contributions or NDC’s. These NDC’s only require that they be ambitious towards reaching the overall goal, that they be reported every 5 years and that each one be more ambitious than the last. Countries are allowed to pool their NDC’s as some of them have already done. There are no binding consequences, such as sanctions or tariffs, for those who fail to meet their goals. As of now only a handful of countries have made significant progress towards their goals.
What Has Been Done So Far?
Only two countries so far have made big enough commitments to stave off global warming down to the preferred 1.5°C increase: Morocco and Gambia. Morocco has commissioned the largest concentrated solar panel plant in the world, cut back on government subsidies for non-renewable fossil fuels and dramatically increased their natural gas imports. They are expecting to get 40% of their energy from renewable energy within the next year. Gambia is a developing country in Africa that has a massive reforestation project in the works and is only responsible for a inconsequential amount of carbon emissions currently.
While the minimum goal of a 2°C global increase in temperature is the objective of the Paris Agreement only five other countries are even meeting that goal: India, Costa Rica, Philippines, Ethiopia and Bhutan. India, which is currently one of the worst polluters worldwide, is hoping to generate 40% of their energy from renewable resources as soon as this year. They have achieved this through refusing to open any new coal-fired plants, installing substantial solar farms and promoting electric vehicles. Costa Rica has been generating almost all of their energy from renewable energy resources for years now. While Bhutan’s total landmass is currently 60% covered by forest it is also known as one of the most bio diverse areas in the world and praised for their conservation efforts.
2 Big Changes That Must Be Made
1) The biggest polluters in the world must make radical and fundamental changes to their society and infrastructure. This list includes America, China, Germany, Russia, Japan and the European Union. They must say no to any new coal or nuclear plants, provide funding for renewable energy resources and increase energy efficiency. At a minimum they must follow the 20/20/20 policy that states they reduce green house gas emissions by 20%, increase the use of renewable energy by 20% and increase energy efficiency by 20%. If this goal is not met within the next 5 – 10 years it will be too late.
2) We must modernize our global aviation and shipping infrastructure. This includes doing more international shipping by freight rather than air, increasing efficiency of aviation equipment and maximizing the number of trips made by only flying with full loads. Although some electric aircraft are already being designed and tested they are not expected to be used commercially until 2030 at the earliest.