Why The Paris COP21 Agreement Could Make Disaster Inevitable

“…The agreement concluding the recent COP21 in Paris could be the turning point toward saving the world from a climate disaster. But it could also breed the complacency that will make this disaster inevitable. The agreement as such solves nothing. The hard work lies ahead. The great positive about the agreement is the shared realization that we must keep the average global surface temperature of our planet from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level. The great problem is that there was no agreement on any division of responsibilities toward achieving this task. However much states may emit in the future, none of them will be violating the Paris agreement. How much heat from the sun our planet absorbs depends on how much greenhouse gas is in the atmosphere. The most important greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), has already increased by 50%, from 270 to over 400 parts per million, and this increase has already raised the average global surface temperature by 1 degree. Even if humanity were to emit no more greenhouse gases at all, the elevated level would continue to heat our planet beyond the 1.5 degree target. But then of course we will emit more greenhouse gases. In fact, global annual emissions may continue to increase even if – improbably – all states were fully to keep their voluntary pledges (their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs) toward averting a climate disaster. It seems inevitable now that atmospheric carbon dioxide will break above 450 parts per million, thus substantially increasing the extra heat our planet will absorb from the sun. One cannot banish a danger simply by agreeing that it won’t materialize. But governments can mollify the world’s citizens with such agreements. This propaganda trick has worked before. At the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome, governments agreed to halve hunger, for instance, without agreeing on any specific efforts or division of responsibilities. When the number of undernourished people rose, they repeatedly diluted the promise (in the Millennium Declaration and again in the first Millennium Development Goal). And then, when they were still way off-track in 2012, they revised their method for counting the hungry so as to greatly raise the historical baseline and greatly lower the current count. Last September governments adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, promising by 2030 to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere.” This sort of agreement benefits present power holders by producing public appreciation: the widespread feeling that they have solved the poverty problem. The agreement will put some pressure on future power holders, who will predictably resort to creative interpretations of those pledges and to creative accounting gimmicks. We can expect the same to happen with the INDCs. At worst, the COP21 agreement may produce consent and complacency, allowing governments to postpone hard choices until the climate disaster is inevitable. At best, this agreement may inspire action toward formulating and implementing a common plan for averting this disaster. To achieve the latter outcome, citizens must keep up the pressure and insist on a determinate division of responsibilities that will definitely suffice to accomplish the task….”

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Source: Why The Paris COP21 Agreement Could Make Disaster Inevitable

Author: Makere

A Maori/Scots New Zealander transplanted to Canada. Grandmother, academic, indigenous scholar, sometime singer, sometime activist, who cares passionately about our world.