The latest United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris in November resulted in the adoption of the Paris Agreement, which was touted by President Obama as “the best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got.” The agreement was made by no less than 195 nations – quite a feat when you think that if just one nation objected, no agreement would be made under UN rules. According to BBC News, the goal is to “cut greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will limit the global average temperature to a rise “well below” 2C (3.6F) compared to pre-industrial levels – a level of warming deemed to be the point when dangerous climate change could threaten life on Earth.”
The Rising Tide of Change
Experts say that to achieve this, fossil fuels will need to be eliminated in the later half of the 21st century. Otherwise massive droughts and flooding are just a few of the disastrous weather conditions future generations will have in store. To illustrate the point, ClimateCentral.org put together some alarming visuals of what some of the most iconic cities in the world will look like due to rising sea levels.
Another frightening look at rising sea levels is taken in this New Yorker article, “The Siege of Miami,” where the high-water mark has been steadily rising year by year – almost an inch each year. The article includes projections on rising sea levels by 2100: three feet (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), five feet (United States Army Corps of Engineers), and six and a half feet (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), respectively.
A Historic Turning Point, But…
While the Paris Agreement is generally recognized as a defining moment in the climate crisis, it lacks certain key elements, such as how it will be enforced. At any rate, the next step is to get it ratified. This entails a few caveats. Each country must approve it within their own country. No less than 55 countries must approve it. And those 55 countries must be responsible for 55 percent of global CO2 emissions. That means it will most certainly need approval by China and the U.S. They are the largest polluters according to Statista, with China being the largest CO2 emitter at 28.03 percent of global emissions and the U.S. at 15.9 percent. Other top emitters are India at 5.81 percent; Russia at 4.79 percent; and Japan at 3.84 percent.
To learn more about the Paris Agreement, visit the UN’s Information Hub for the conference.