OPINIONS: Differing Views on the Paris Climate Agreement

Sara Golling
By Sara Golling
December 12th, 2015

On the positive side, in a spirit of optimism, we have this report  from  “Tree Alerts”:

“195 countries reached across traditional divides today to unite behind the greatest moral challenge of our time and seal the deal on a historic climate accord.  The Paris Agreement is an inclusive, ambitious, science-based deal that recognises the urgency and scale of action required to address climate change, and hastens the transition from dirty to clean energy that is well underway

“The Paris Agreement heralds the end of the fossil fuel era, giving the world the tools to drive emissions to net zero, to protect the world’s poor and vulnerable, and to address the desperate pollution situation in India and China. People have been peacefully marching on the street for years, while diverse groups like faith, health, parents, unionists, Indigenous peoples, cities, businesses and investors among others have long called for climate action. Civil society will continue to put pressure on leaders – starting today and ramping up in the next few months – to ensure real world change continues to accelerate. In the spirit of this global response to the global climate crisis, the Paris agreement puts forth a new imperative to make a real and lasting difference.”

Even George Monbiot (“MON-bee-oh”) a British investigative writer and environmental activist who attended Oxford universtiy on a scholarship and graduated with a degree in Zoology, acknowledged that the agreement  represents progress:  He said, “By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle.”  But, he went to say, “By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.”  To  read his reasons, you can see his blog here.

James Hansen — well known as a retired NASA scientist and climate researcher who worked hard since the 1970s ( initially without much effect)  to make the world aware of  climate change, its causes and its hazards — also responded to the climate agreement.  He was quoted in a “Guardian” article, and  he was very blunt:  “It’s a fraud, really, a fake.  …  It’s just bullshit for them to say, ‘we’ll have a 2 degree warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’   It’s just worthless words.  There is no action, just promises.  As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will continue to be burned.”

Note his use of the words “appear to be” — signifying that the real costs of fossil fuels and their use are not being counted in their prices.  (Hansen advocates making the real cost more apparent by charging fees or taxes on the use of fossil fuels.)   Judging by the performance record of world leaders and industry so far, Hansen’s jaundiced views are understandable. 

But never before have so many people in so  many countries been so aware of climate change and its escalating effects  on the global economy, human society, and life on earth in general.  Never before has there been so much public pressure to address climate change.  Perhaps there really are grounds for hope that the Paris agreement can morph into something effective — if enough people care, and keep pressuring our governments en masse  to do the necessary things.  And if enough of us as individuals do the necessary  things ourselves.

Will we be able to turn things around enough, soon enough?  We are living a cliff-hanger.   Time turns the pages.  We collectively write the plot and our actions will determine how it ends.    


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