January 30, 2017
Global Warming Agreement Makes History

Global warming gained a victory Saturday night with a historic event. After decades of trying to reach an international agreement to address climate change, 195 nations agreed a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. United Nations diplomats have been working toward this specific accord for nine years. Historically, pacts like this one have required only developed countries like the U.S. to take action against global warming. Developing countries like China and India were not required to do anything. This accord changes that by requiring every nation to take action, regardless of their economic standing.

The New York Times reports U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as saying the following.

"This is truly a historic moment. For the first time, we have a truly universal agreement on climate change, one of the most crucial problems on earth."
President Obama made these remarks about the agreement from the White House.
In his comments, he calls the accord "a strong agreement the world needed."

The agreement is not, in itself, the total solution to global warming. Scientists say that in order to effectively address global warming, we need to stave off an increase in atmospheric temperatures of two degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. This agreement, at best, reduces atmospheric temperatures by half that amount. Because of the reach of this agreement, however, and given its global reach, it could level out levels of planet-warming carbon emissions that have been on the rise since the Industrial Revolution, and this could eventually lead to a decline in levels. The change in attitude that this agreement reflects, along with economic decisions that will likely be made as a result of it, could also result in more aggressive investment in and development of alternative fuel sources. These are important events given the recent change in expert opinions that once said global warming would present serious problems for future generations by now saying a warmer planet has already started negatively impacting our lives today through flooding, droughts, and water shortages.

John Kerry has been working behind the scenes with China on this deal and praised it as "an agreement that will empower us to chart a new path for our planet." Senior Chinese climate change negotiation Xi Zhenua called it "fair and just, comprehensive and balanced, highly ambitious, enduring and effective."

global warming
PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 04: Xie Zhenhua, Chinese Minister for the Environment poses during the Summit of Local elected for Climate at the Paris city hall on December 04, 2015 in Paris, France. Thousand of mayors from different cities gathered today at the Paris city hall during the COP21, Paris Climate Conference. [Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images]In the accord, nations agree to limit greenhouse gas production by human activity to the levels that can naturally be absorbed by trees, oceans, and soil. They must begin doing so between 2050 and 2100. Experts say that in order to accomplish this goal, there must be a global change in how people get energy.

Of course, the success of the accord in reducing global warming depends on adherence to the agreement. Global peer pressure will need to be put on the nations whose leaders committed to the accord, and the same must happen with future leaders of those nations. One weakness of the agreement, as reported by Yahoo News, is its failure to impose sanctions on a nation who fails to follow through with their commitment to take actions to reduce global warming.

The Paris accord is a historic event and represents an ambitious plan to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to slow global warming. Global warming is a worldwide problem, and effectively addressing it will require worldwide effort. Scientists once believed that the impacts of global warming would be seen by future generations, not today's generation, but some scientists say it is the reason for some recent changes in the environment. The accord is a big step and can lead to a healthier, more habitable world for everyone. We must ensure that the nations who committed to its conditions follow through now and in the future.

[Photo via Pool/Getty Images]