Paris talks offer hope in global warming

Paris+talks+offer+hope+in+global+warming

Only eight out of 278 Republicans in the United States Congress have accepted on-the-record the reality of man-made global warming, according to Politifact. Yes, you read that right: only eight.  

Yet President Barack Obama, a Democrat, currently is engaging in the most consequential climate change talks in recent history — without the support of the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives and Senate.

From Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, representatives from 195 countries met in Paris at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to discuss reducing carbon emissions in order to prevent an inevitable rise in global temperatures.

Given the non-scientific position of the Congressional Republicans, it bears repeating that the global scientific community composed of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which compiles the work of 2000 scientists, agrees that man-made climate change is real and is happening now.

Currently, rising sea levels, due to the loss of polar ice caps, are swallowing low-lying areas such as the Marshall Islands and Bangladesh. Predictions are that nearly 17 percent of Bangladesh will disappear under water by 2050, displacing approximately 18 million people. In addition, a 2015 Nature Climate Change study projected that by 2090 some Persian Gulf cities such as Dubai and Bandar Abbas will experience summer days that are so hot that they surpass the “human habitability” limit.

With US Congress having voted to oppose Environmental Protection Agency rules that would significantly reduce carbon emissions, I must propose the question: when will the United States, alongside the global community, take responsibility for climate change and the destruction of ecosystems and take proactive steps to protect the environment?

The currently proposed solutions to this global issue in Paris will not do enough. Most scientists agree that global warming must not exceed 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and even if the countries that have made individual pledges to reduce carbon emissions achieve their goals, global temperatures will still rise by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit. While this is much better than the increase of 8.1 degrees that would occur if we continue our “business-as-usual,” there is still much that needs to be done.

One of the major issues in combating global warming is the fact that the energy demand is expected to grow by 50 percent in the next fifty years as a result of the economic progress of developing countries and population growth from 7.3 billion to 9.7 billion people, according to Steven Koonin, the direction of the Center of Urban Science and Progress at New York University. These developing economies often turn towards heat-trapping fossil fuels, which are the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as other cheap and convenient sources to meet their demands for energy, rather than using currently expensive but more environmentally friendly nuclear, solar and wind power.

In response to this issue, countries such as the US and Germany must help developing countries reach their environmental goals as well as promote sustainable economic growth in countries that do not have the economic resources to do so themselves.

The current UNFCCC draft agreement states, “Developed countries shall provide developing countries with long-term, scaled-up, predictable, new and additional finance, technology and capability-building.”

With this being said, US Republicans have not endorsed this idea. Republican Representative for Kentucky Edward Whitfield said in a speech on the floor of the House, “Why should this president penalize Americans and put us in jeopardy compared to other countries of the world and require us to do more than other countries are doing, just so he can go to France and claim to be the world leader on climate change?”

What Congressman Whitfield fails to recognize in his statement is that we cannot just reduce the temperature in the United States. Global warming is global and US isolationist theories will hurt us just as much as it will the hurt the developing world.

Ultimately technology will provide the answer to rising global temperatures. By increasing research and development to reduce the cost of solar, wind and nuclear power along with reducing consumption levels by increasing efficiency, we can save our planet from human destruction.

We will all have to contribute to this solution of global warming until there is a scientific breakthrough. In the meantime, take a quick shower, turn off the light and ride your bike.

Commentaries are the expressed opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of The Fourcast staff, its adviser or any member of the Hockaday community.