This year may end up being a very important year for global action to combat climate change. To quote the first article linked to, below, 2015 may turn out to be the year of “…not just good news, but transformational good news, developments that have the potential to mitigate the worst effects of climate change to a degree many had feared impossible.” Some of the optimism is based on unexpectedly-rapid advances in clean energy technologies. But, international political cooperation is starting to look very, very real. The United States, China, the European Union, and about 140 other countries already have pledged to reduce their future greenhouse gas pollution. Starting on November 30, a major, month long negotiation begins under UN auspices in Paris. Almost every nation on earth will attend.
Yet, these negotiations, like all climate wrangling, will be tricky. Major obstacles remain to getting a tough agreement, much less seeing one actually faithfully implemented over the next few decades. In my opening remarks on Monday night, I will summarize the large-scale (but maybe iffy) commitments that major countries have made recently, focusing on the United States, China, India, and the European Union. Then, I’ll discuss the Paris negotiation, trying to identify the biggest obstacles to an agreement and to smooth implementation. It’s not my field, but I think with the help of the articles below and some other materials, I can do that much.
In discussion, we can expand on these points or get into other areas. One of these should be, IMO, how we can make binding commitments in the face of so many uncertainties – and how we can afford not to. Another, I’m afraid, will have to be whether the Republican Party – the only major political party in the western world that advocates doing nothing about this problem – can successfully sabotage these negotiations. As two articles below make clear, they are trying to do exactly this.
Discussion Questions –
- What climate commitments have nations already made? The U.S.? China? The EU? India and other big developing nations?
- How bold are these commitments and how firm and how truly binding are they?
- What negotiations are ongoing? What can we expect from the UN confab in Paris in December? What are the biggest obstacles to reaching agreement?
- Will these commitments be enough to head off the worst climate consequences even if they are met?
- How can we make firm commitments in the face of so many uncertainties; e.g., about the amount of GHG that is too much, the nature of future technologies, other countries’ ability to keep their commitments, the GOP’s ability to renege on our promises, etc.?
- Will this be an election issue in 2016? Would a GOP unified govt really end all climate negotiations and renege on all of our commitments?
SUGGESTED BACKGROUND READING –
- 2015 – The year international climate cooperation became a reality. A must-read.
- [link fixed Sunday night] ABCs of the upcoming Paris UN climate negotiations. Recommended.
- China just agreed to do a cap and trade program like the one Congress refused to pass.
- Big obstacles and problems (there are others, too):
- Scientists are worried what is being pledged is not enough to save us from catastrophe. Recommended.
- Any new agreement likely to be based on technological fixes that do not yet exist. Recommended
- Poor countries want $100 billion to help them fight climate change or no deal, and rich countries don’t wan tot pony up.
- Hillary’s plans: Negotiate a North American climate pact with Canada and Mexico plus modernize U.S. energy infrastructure.
- GOP plans: Sabotage international negotiations by warning foreign leaders not to reach an agreement with President Obama. Just like with Iran.
- Long, optional: Obama is candid in an interview about importance and limits of successful climate agreement.
Next Week: Torture – Will we ever do it again?