As the COP21 summit comes to a close in France this week. The summit has comprised of meeting of over 190 nations with the objective of securing international collaboration in the face of the environmental concerns facing our planet.
The chief concern has to do with climate change. Faced with with statistics regarding elevation in global temperature of the past century, fears are raised about the potential ramifications on civilized society.
The manifestation of change has to do with rising sea levels as the polar ice caps melt and recede, which lead to problems with fresh water shortage, increased flooding, and outbreaks of malaria and water born illnesses. The cause for rise in temperature is attributed largely to the surge in greenhouse gases, a group of gases including methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide coming from deforestation and fossil fuel combustion. In the year 2012, the ice had receded 50 percent from what it had been in the late twentieth century according to BBC.
The goal is to reach a target global temperature increase of no more than 2° Celsius, with many others, including small islands, to push for 1.5° limit. These small islands in particular have a vested interest in curbing the rising tides. The Marshall Islands, a small island nation rising no more than six feet above sea level, has been experiencing monthly flooding, which has been detrimental to agriculture, infrastructure, and housing. If nothing changes, the islands could be underwater within the next few decades, according to some expert projections.
There is opposition from critics who say the targets are too conservative. Other critics say the economic costs are too high, or that climate change is natural, and not man-made.
The aim of the summit is to create new deals that would require countries to reduce carbon emissions as well as convert to more environmentally responsible practices of industry and infrastructure. How this is hoped to be achieved is through the increased use of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal, energy sources that countries including Germany and China have vocalized plans to pursue very strongly, according to the New York Times.
Almost everyone agrees that this is the direction that nations need to be going, the challenge is how to get there. Developing nations with a higher dependence on coal could be put under intense financial strain to meet the legally binding requirements of a proposed deal, and as such call to the developed nations for financial aid in meeting these ends. The apparent solution would be for the more prosperous nations to assist financially, contributing billions of dollars to stimulate the production an environmentally responsible infrastructure.
As of today, there is a rough draft on the table that is agreed upon by over 200 nations. The 48 page draft comes at the end of tense negation’s and outlines three main objectives as highlighted by NPR.
- “To hold the increase in the global average temperature [below 1.5 °C] [or] [well below 2 °C] above pre-industrial levels by ensuring deep reductions in global greenhouse gas [net] emissions;
- “To increase their ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change [and to effectively respond to the impacts of the implementation of response measures and to loss and damage];
- “To pursue a transformation towards sustainable development that fosters climate resilient and low greenhouse gas emission societies and economies, and that does not threaten food production and distribution.”
Spirits are high with this change almost secured. Politicians, representatives, and business leaders are hopeful that this conference will result in a long term lasting change in the world.
As Matt McGrath of BBC says, it could, “change the very nature of progress.”