On the same day that 24 Democrats in the House joined all the Republicans in passing a bill to block trade deals from cutting greenhouse emissions, 186 countries signed off on the Paris agreement to leave most of the world’s fossil fuels unburned to save the planet. The countries unanimously agreed to an ongoing effort of increasingly deeper emissions reductions aimed at keeping total warming “to well below 2°C [3.6°F] above preindustrial levels.” After two weeks of negotiations, parties to the agreement also promise “to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.” In addition, the agreement calls for developed countries to raise at least $100 billion annually in order to assist developing countries that suffer irreparable damage from climate change but have done little to cause it.
The treaty was adopted by “consensus” and won’t go into effect until 55 countries ratify or approve it. The agreement calls for a signature ceremony in April 2016 and asks that the U.N. Secretary-General keep the agreement open for signing until April 2017.Two important countries are China and the U.S. which respectively account for 24 percent and 14 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Two-thirds of the U.S. Senate must sign off on a treaty before it can be ratified.
This agreement follows grassroots’ movements to protest Keystone XL pipeline, persuade institutions and individuals to disinvest in dirty energy while moving capital to cleaner energy, and push for a warming target of below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). This change will require every country to have zero net fossil fuel emissions by the end of the 21st century. As the graph indicates, global CO2 emissions have started to plateau.
Why all countries need to cooperate in saving the planet:
Temperatures in the Arctic are rising at twice the rate as the rest of the world which may cause one-fourth of Alaska’s permafrost to melt. Until the recent climate warming, the frozen soil has locked in over a trillion tons of carbon, more than twice as much carbon as in the atmosphere itself. The melting permafrost will boost CO2 levels higher in a feedback loop, causing rising seas, greater and more prolonged heat waves and droughts, and distorted weather patterns to thaw more permafrost and release even more CO2.
A major Greenland glacier in Greenland holding enough water to raise global sea levels by 20 inches is crumbling into the North Atlantic Ocean. From 2002 to 2014 the area of the glacier’s floating shelf shrank by 95 percent; it’s now losing 4.5 billion tons of ice a year. Rising air temperatures drive melting at the top of the glacier, and warming ocean currents erode the underside.
The historic Tangier Island off the Virginia coast just 90 miles from Washington, DC is disappearing. Inhabited for thousands of years, the three-mile-long island has lost over 65 percent of its landmass since 1850; at this rate of sea level rising, the island has 50 years left.
Parts of Louisiana are also disappearing into the Gulf Coast. This video shows how a football field of land is lost to rising sea levels every hour.
People may not be upset to lose Wall Street to sea levels rising (below), but these maps show all the displaced places. You may not want these to be lost to the oceans.
Researchers from more than 20 countries found that half of 28 weather extremes on all seven continents were influenced by climate change:
- Record heat in Europe, the Korean peninsula, northern China, and Australia.
- Droughts in Syria and East Africa.
- Record rains in New Zealand and France.
- Nepal’s extreme Himalayan snowstorm.
- Flooding in southeastern Canada.
- Hurricanes in Hawaii.
- Hotter Pacific and Atlantic sea-surface temperatures.
Even the fossil fuel giant Exxon-Mobil publicly admits that “with no government action…average temperatures are likely to rise by 5 degrees Celsius, with rises of 6, 7 or even more quite possible.” After trying to cover up its part in climate change for the past 30 years, the company openly states that emissions can’t be controlled by “free-market-driven solutions.” Exxon also endorses a comprehensive carbon tax, similar to the one proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a Democratic presidential candidate.
Six years ago, a climate summit in Copenhagen failed to produce any results. Now, the United States GOP is “exceptional” in being the only major political party opposed to reversing the devastating climate warming despite that warning signs. Last year was the hottest year on record. Despite the panic and disdain shown by Republicans, the Paris agreement, unlike the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, will not be a fully legally binding treaty which would almost positively fail in the current GOP-controlled Congress. The United States never ratified the Kyoto Protocol.
Before the meetings in Paris, Republicans tried hard to scuttle the whole agreement by reaching out to foreign officials. Like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and his work to undermine the agreement with Iran, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) challenged the right of the president to agree to a global agreement without permission from the Senate. McConnell’s energy aide Neil Chatterjee led Senate staff in telling foreign embassy representatives that the GOP will do everything they can to battle the climate agenda and that any agreement would not hold up with a Republican president. More about the GOP treasonous actions here.
U.S. ratification is highly unlikely (a serious understatement) because conservatives’ allegiance to the coal and oil industry, especially billionaires such as the Koch brothers, commit the GOP to block any efforts to protect the world. In the past, the GOP refused to enact policies to reverse climate change with the claim that no other country will follow the U.S.; now the GOP, now the majority party of Congress, is making the United States one of the countries refusing to take steps to save the planet.
The Paris agreement will shift trillions of dollars in capital investment away from conservative sugar daddies into cleaner technologies such as solar, wind, LED lighting, advanced batteries, and electric cars that emit far less harmful carbon pollution. The reverse in policy, however, will not completely stop existing impacts of climate change such as sea level rise, ocean acidification, extreme weather, and loss of agricultural lands similar to that of the 1930s Dust Bowl.
The deal is flawed—no timeline, voluntary controls on gas emission goals, and weak language on monitoring and verifying, for example. But it’s a beginning, a vital beginning. Unchecked climate change will adversely affect billions of people around the globe, threatening water and food supplies, development goals, public health and arable and habitable land.
Disasters are not confined to just the soon-to-be submerged island nation of Kiribati or the Maldive people losing 77 percent of their land by 2100. No one will be untouched by climate change: it has already caused the increasing conflicts in the Middle East that the GOP is using as collateral against the Democrats, the acceleration in ethnic violence, and the displacement of people creating havoc in the world.
A 2009 report called climate change the “biggest global-health threat of the 21st century,” causing foot shortages and deadly diseases. President Obama said, “Denying [climate change], or refusing to deal with it endangers our national security. It undermines the readiness of our forces.” Presidential candidate Sanders calls climate change the greatest threat to national security. While the media concentrates on one of almost 400 mass shootings this year, the GOP is trying to kill the planet by denying science.