One of President Joe Biden’s first official acts was to sign the instrument to rejoin the Paris Agreement. This document calls on signatory countries to cut their emissions so as to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to make every effort to limit that increase to 1.5° Celsius.
However, said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a recent speech, “The world has already fallen behind on the targets we set six years ago with the Paris Agreement.”
“And we now know those targets didn’t go far enough to begin with. Today, the science is unequivocal: We need to keep the Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid catastrophe.”
America, the world’s second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, can make a significant contribution to addressing this crisis.
“But that won’t be enough. Even if the United States gets to net zero emissions tomorrow, we’ll lose the fight against climate change if we can’t address the more than 85 percent of emissions coming from the rest of the world.” And coming up short will have major repercussions. “Pick a security challenge,” said Secretary Blinken. “Climate change is likely to make it worse.”
“Climate change exacerbates existing conflicts and increases the chances of new ones – particularly in countries where governments are weak and resources are scarce. Of the 20 countries the Red Cross considers most vulnerable to climate change, 12 are already experiencing armed conflicts.”
Climate change can also create new theaters of conflict, such as the Arctic, where Russia is positioning itself to exert control over new spaces, said Secretary Blinken. “It is modernizing its bases in the Arctic and building new ones, including one just 300 miles from Alaska. China is increasing its presence in the Arctic, too.”
Finally, climate change can also be a driver of migration. “ There were 13 Atlantic hurricanes in 2020 – the highest number on record. Central America was hit especially hard. . . .When disasters strike people who are already living in poverty and insecurity, it can often be the final straw, pushing them to abandon their communities in search of a better place to live.”
“The Biden-Harris administration will do more than any in history to meet our climate crisis,” said Secretary Blinken. “This is already an all-hands-on-deck effort across our government and across our nation. Our future depends on the choices we make today.”