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Climate climate Man-Made

THE PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT: NO, WE WON’T MAKE IT.

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by: Sharai Hoekema
the paris climate agreement  no  we won t make it

The conclusion of the Paris Climate Change Conference was met with cheers and smiles of an eclectic mix of high-ranking government officials. World leaders and news outlets appeared ecstatic, praising the unprecedented commitments made by virtually all nations. Finally, some real steps were taken towards calling a halt to global warming. The world was going to unite and battle the issue of man-made climate change together. 

As the long-term goal, an upper limit was described of a 2 degrees increase in temperature above pre-industrial levels. With almost all countries pledging to take drastic action to cut back on their emissions, what could possibly go wrong?

Facoty, chumney, smoke, man #climatechange

THE TRUMP EFFECT

Well, first of all. One word. Trump. The American president, who has publicly claimed on various occasions that climate change is a ‘hoax’, has worked tirelessly to pretty much rewind all climate-related progress made during the Obama-era. Aside from defunding research and subsidy programs, he has threatened to pull out of the Paris Agreement at several occasions. 

Effectively, this means that the leader of one of the largest emitters is showing zero interest in tackling this problem. This attitude is guaranteed to impact other countries as well. After all, why would a small nation bend over backwards in order to cut back on harmful emissions and rapidly increase its share of renewable energy sources, while the ‘big bad neighbour’ happily goes on with its climate-destroying activities? 

The activities of truly committed countries will just be a metaphorical drop in the ocean, whereas other nations empty a bucket in that very same ocean, ultimately causing sea levels to rise to dangerous levels. 

ROAD TO + 2°C

Another problem with the Paris Agreement is that it does not stipulate a fixed goal or end date, nor does it provide any kind of mechanism that enforces countries to set such a firm goal and date. The only conditions put forth are that individual goals should be ‘ambitious’, ‘representing a progression over time’ and set ‘the view to achieve the purpose of the Agreement’.

Especially ‘ambitious’ is a condition that is urgently needed if the Agreement is to make an actual difference. For it to not just be a petty, cute way of showing that we care while, in fact, killing all hopes of leaving behind a clean and safe world for generations to come. After all, even the negotiators agreed whilst drafting the Agreement that the target of not going above + 2°C is insufficient. A target of + 1,5°C would be more fitting.

Note the exact meaning of ‘fitting’ in this case. It does most certainly not mean that, if the world by some miracle manages to actually stay within this bound, danger is averted and climate change is ‘beat’. As put by former US President Barack Obama: “Even if we meet every target ... we will only get to part of where we need to go. This agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change.”

WHAT DO WE NEED?

As put so eloquently by Trump’s predecessor, even if all nations actually stand by their promises and cut back their emissions drastically - and that is a huge if! -, we are far from done. Some countries are showing the way by imposing impressive national targets, such as the Scandinavian commitment to renewable energy sources and China’s focus on clean technology and innovation. Yet, despite all good intentions, this does not magically help us reach the Paris goals.

None of these countries will actually reach these goals unless they employ a fully integrated approach. Unfortunately it seems as though no government actually has the guts to do so. Aside from their flagship sustainability projects, they are very hesitant to impose unpopular restrictions and limitations on their citizens and businesses alike. And yet this is the only thing that would ensure a safe and liveable world for the future generations.

What is needed is a change in mindset. Western countries should drastically alter their consumption behaviour, make sure that all of their people are permeated with the belief that any and all wasteful activities should be avoided or at least mitigated. Similarly, companies should be forced to step away from the relatively cheap fossil fuels and opt for more expensive renewable sources. Without such drastic actions, the Paris Agreement will not be a feasible rescue plan. It will merely be a showpiece to show history that we actually did - attempt to - care.

Child, hero for one day, #climatechange

THERE’S ONLY ONE WORLD

Sustainability does, and always has, come at a hefty price. Especially if it is done right, not only by giving in to the measures that the public enjoys most (or that bothers them least, it is a fine line). It are exactly the unpopular actions that will make all the difference. And judging by the recent riot over a ban on plastic straws in Europe, we still have a long, long way to go before each and every one of us understands the impact of the way we act today on the world as it will be tomorrow. 

Blue artificial world, hanging, people, #climatechange

There is only one earth. It may sound cliched, but is apparently still not understood. Wake up, world. And take some real action before it is too late.

https://www.whatsorb.com/category/climate

Cover image by: Benjamin Sow, Unsplash

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