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COP21: Setting Our Sites

December 14, 2015 - I wonder whether the US Congress will vote to approve the COP21 climate treaty or not.  I don't think it would be approved by the current Congress, but if the vote can be forestalled until a new Congress begins in 2017, perhaps it would.  There is a lot of debate in the press right now about the treaty's merits, but since it's the best global leaders could do, I think we should sign on.  If the U.S. can do better than what is required by the treaty, that would be wonderful.  That's really what we should set our sites on doing.

The fact that the entire world has acknowledged that drastic change is necessary is very encouraging.   At first I thought that wealthy countries were only donating $100 billion in total to help poor countries lessen their emissions.  However, I just heard on the Diane Rehm Show that that is an annual budget, beginning in 2020.  That sounds much more aggressive; I can only say I hope wealthy nations live up to the agreement.  It's an amount that could support real change.

Fossil fuels have been roundly rejected by the treaty.  The world has approached that verdict too cautiously, due to a lack of leadership on the part of the United States.  With Exxon Mobil now being taken to court for disguising its role in furthering climate change, the courage that was wanting has been found.  With clean, renewable energy becoming easier to access with every passing year, its wide use no longer seems impossible.  Far from it.  In fact, not using it widely has come to be seen as the dimwitted approach to cleaning up the environment that it always was.

As I understand it, each country has the freedom to lower carbon emissions in whatever way it deems best.  Countries will set their own goals, with the overriding goal being, I believe, less than 350 parts per million of carbon in the air.  That should allow us to keep the increase in temperatures to an average that falls below 2 degrees celsius, with 1.5 degrees the preferred outcome.  Because food production has already fallen at the current increase of 1 degree centigrade (celsius and centigrade are the same), this becomes a terribly significant number.

I thought it was interesting that countries will continue to meet to assess their progress.  It's important that this agreement not be based on trust alone.  While I do believe there is an understanding that the "benefit" of cheating is null, I also believe that this is truly an instance where "trust but verify" should be the way we proceed.  China's filthy air is everybody's filthy air, sooner or later.  Let us all take a moment to praise the long overdue death of coal!!  Sadly, it will still be burned in India and China for years to come.  As our standard of living in the US levels out, we can only hope India will exercise forbearance in its headlong pursuit of wealth.

Our thanks are owed to so many: Rachel Carson, Al Gore, Bill McKibben, James Hansen, Les Brown; these and others sounded the early call to arms.  I can guarantee you this: their names will be all but forgotten, and in short order.  They gave their all because they honor the truth.  May those to whom they pass this enormous responsibility continue their work, and do likewise.


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