Our Hot Mess: 1.5 to survive

I know, I know. This is supposed to have a nautical-themed title because this week is supposed to be all about our oceanic problems and what we can do to help. But alas, I must digress one more time because of the very exciting, very thought-provoking, very hope-inducing resolution of the Paris climate summit.

As I am sure you’ve heard, our world leaders have been meeting in Paris to discuss the future of, well, us in an attempt to prevent future climate-related disasters. For a while over the past few weeks, the 2℃ above pre-industrial levels was discussed greatly while small island nations and African countries were shouting variations on “1.5 to survive!” To reiterate my last article, a temperature “cap” must be implemented for the welfare of the world. It’s that simple. People are dying. Storms are more erratic. Water is becoming more scarce. National security is compromised. And our leaders agree. That is why it is oh so exciting to say that the nations have deemed 2℃ too dangerous and immoral to possibly settle on. Now, after a disturbingly long 21 years of negotiations, we have decided on the subjective “well below” 2℃.

There are a lot of upsides to this: its historical importance, our ability to come to a consensus, its good intentions. But I need to put this into perspective for you all.

Our odd weather patterns: the 70°F December temperatures? The lethal storms: Katrina, Sandy, Patricia? The crop and economy killing droughts: California? The fact that we have air quality alerts on a normal basis here in Lancaster, PA? There is already severe damage to our ecosystems, damage easily seen and felt if you just walk outside. The kicker? We are only at 1 degree above pre-industrial levels. Even 1.5℃ is misleadingly “safe.”

Then we, hoping that everyone complies, have to factor in the speed at which emissions are cut in every country. The Paris agreement is beyond ambiguous when this subject rolls around, stating we, globally, must “undertake rapid reductions… in accordance with best available science” in order to reach global net zero greenhouse gas emissions “in the second half of this century.” Fairly open to interpretation, right?
Photo courtesy of CarbonBrief
Nevertheless, there will be regular checks on countries, making sure every single one does their part. We will be regularly looking into our progress, challenging one another to move fast into the clean energy era. So the 31 pages of monumental resolutions is something big to celebrate. There is plenty more to do and think about and change, but this hopefully represents a turning point in world history. And now that we have reached a global consensus regarding climate action, it’s time to turn our eyes towards our own country.

This means focusing on our goal of zero emissions.

So what can you personally do? Follow the traditional reduce, reuse, recycle mantra. Carpool. Turn off lights. Use less heat and air conditioning. These are such obvious, simple - and not to mention money-saving - habits to adapt that you simply can’t say no to them.

--Elke Arnesen, LSNews.org Columnist

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