global climate treaty

Paris Climate Agreement signed and sealed!

Twenty-eight more nations signed the Paris Climate Agreement on October 5th, 2016, giving the agreement enough to cross the threshold needed. Seventy-three countries accounting for 56.87% of the worlds greenhouse emissions - including the US and China - are now formally parties to the treaty. Obama described the news as a "turning point for our planet". The international agreement passed in record time, partly out of fears of what Trump might do if he was elected. U.N, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “What once seemed unthinkable is now unstoppable.” The accord goes into effect one day before the US presidential election. 

Although the accord is not legally binding, countries are required to report on their emissions and their progress towards meeting the goal of limiting rising global temperatures to much less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit - and avoid what geoscience professor Michael Oppenheimer described as “falling over a very steep cliff.” A good deal of hard work remains for the nations of the world to achieve the goals that have been set.


Rising Temperatures in Antartica

This past year was the hottest year on record and 2016 is on track to eclipse that record. Rising temperatures in Antarctica are going to have the most dramatic effect on sea levels. Global warming and how it relates to Antarctica will be one of the things I will be covering in this blog in more detail. But first a bit of my philosophy.

One of my philosophies is that there is almost invariably something good about the bad things that happen in one’s life. Sometimes the good aspect is not readily apparent, but becomes clear later on. Say, for example, you get hurt badly in an accident, but then while rehabilitating yourself from that injury, you learn a great deal about how to recover from subsequent injuries. And maybe you learn how to prevent a similar injury in the future. I could give many examples, but I think you get the idea.

So using this philosophical approach, I can actually find something good about Donald Trump’s candidacy. He does not believe in man-made global warming and if he became president he would nullify the historic global climate accord reached in Paris by sixty nations last December. I thought the climate accord was a done deal, but that is not so. Like many things, the devil is in the details. In order for the accord to become law, it must be approved by at least fifty-five nations and those giving their approval must be responsible for at least 55 percent of the climate altering missions. Even if all sixty nations formally approved the accord—as China and the US did recently—they still would only account for 48 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Normally it takes several years if not decades for an international agreement to become law, but thanks to Donald Trump it looks like the accord can become law this year. At a UN ceremony two days ago fourteen more countries said they would approve the accord this year. For many of these countries, the matter has become much more urgent based on their fears that Trump could become president.