Last Saturday, the two week climate change talks in Paris ended with 196 countries approving an agreement to try and prevent the global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees (Celsius). There are many lauding this agreement as historic, especially after things fell apart at the last global attempt to resolve climate change in Copenhagen 2009. In a way, the fact that this agreement was signed and approved is historic because as Fiona Harvey wrote in her piece about the deal:
Saturday night was the culmination not only of a fortnight of talks, but of more than 23 years of international attempts under the UN to forge collective action on this global problem. Since 1992, all of the world’s governments had been pledging to take measures that would avoid dangerous warming. Those efforts were marked by discord and failure, the refusal of the biggest emitters to take part, ineffective agreements and ignored treaties.
Personally, I don’t think that the deal is enough and I don’t see any drastic and lasting change actually coming from it. Until we start to truly hold those impacting climate change the most actually accountable, any progress is going to be extremely limited. Even top climate change scientists see this deal and Obama’s climate initiative as bullshit. The leading climate change scientist James Hansen wrote an editorial several weeks ago, arguing that a carbon tax would be most effective rather than the proposed cap and trade with offsets. He quite eloquently describes the cap and trade with offsets (C&T) agreement as:
… half-assed and half-baked, which is an accurate assessment if the objective is a formulation that can address the global climate problem. C&T is half-assed, because there is no practical way to make it global as it requires individual adoption by 190 nations, and half-baked because there is no enforcement mechanism
And this deal does nothing (at least anything that’s legally binding) to help the poorest countries, which are typically the ones to feel the negative effects of climate change the most. Life in many developing countries could become almost unbearable, both in regards to the general increase in temperature and that food insecurity is only going to get worse. John Vidal wrote a few years ago about how climate change will hit poor countries the hardest, stating some of the projected expectations that different countries and areas might see:
East Africa can expect to experience increased short rains, while west Africa should expect heavier monsoons. Burma, Bangladesh and India can expect stronger cyclones; elsewhere in southern Asia, heavier summer rains are anticipated. Indonesia may receive less rainfall between July and October, but the coastal regions around the south China Sea and Gulf of Thailand can expect increased rainfall extremes when cyclones hit land.
But there are some current cases that actually show the very real impact of climate change on different countries. Seychelles off of East Africa, for example, is slowly starting to sink and erode away in large part because of climate change and its impact on the oceans. Vanuatu in the south Pacific was recently devastated with a massive tropical cyclone, something that the president of Seychelles directly attributed to climate change.
I’ve written about climate change and environmental justice before (one quite recently too) and I still maintain that the wealthiest and most developed nations are the ones most responsible for climate change. We need to be the ones to take more responsibility and more concrete actions to try and prevent elements of climate change.
And we can’t just do individual things like recycling and taking shorter showers – corporations and governments need to take action as well. The continuous demand for economic growth will be nothing short of disastrous for the environment because the earth is finite – we don’t have an infinite amount of space and resources for growth. And it’s not just the creation of products and materials that is troubling because all the trash we do create just doesn’t disappear – it does remain on earth and impact the environment in many ways.
Ultimately, I personally think we can do more than what the Paris deal agreed upon. Wealthy and developed countries can especially do more to prevent more climate change and there should be more enforcement of deals. Literally the entire fate of humanity and the world that we know and love is resting on whether or not we do something.