High-level representatives of nearly 200 countries have assembled in Paris to hammer out a global agreement to hold back rising temperatures.
By most estimates, if global temperatures rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the results may well be catastrophic, and irreversible.
“Fourteen of the fifteen warmest years on record have occurred since the year 2000 -- and 2015 is on pace to be the warmest year of all,” said President Barack Obama at the Paris Conference’s first session. “No nation -- large or small, wealthy or poor -- is immune to what this means.”
So what must be done?
“First, all major economies must put forward decisive national actions that will reduce their emissions, and begin to turn the corner on climate change,” said the President.
Already, nations responsible for most of the global emissions have set their targets. By 2030, the European Union will cut its emissions by 40%, from 1990 levels. The US will cut its emissions by 26% to 28%, from 2005 levels, by 2025. And China’s emissions will peak by 2030.
The President also called for a mechanism to review countries’ commitments and financing to help developing countries address climate change.
In essence, said U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern, the idea “is to accelerate the transformation of the energy base of the global economy from high to low carbon.”
The good news is that we are already moving in that direction, said President Obama: “Last year, the global economy grew while global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels stayed flat. . . . We have proved that strong economic growth and a safer environment no longer have to conflict with one another; they can work in concert with one another.”
“There is such a thing as being too late. And when it comes to climate change, that hour is almost upon us,” said President Obama. “But if we act here, if we act now, if we place our own short-term interests behind the air that our young people will breathe, and the food that they will eat, and the water that they will drink, and the hopes and dreams that sustain their lives, then we won't be too late for them.”