On the Paris Agreement there's nay-sayers and yay-sayers and everyone weighing in and yet I don't hear the most impactful thing being discussed here in the U.S. It's been and continues to be earnestly discussed. Since 2007 climate change was buried in the media and hardly given the focal point it deserved. I've had to read articles outside the U.S. for the best news coverage. Unlike the past, this year I've heard daily coverage of the talks in Paris in the manner they should be covered - who's there, what's being traded, what's the impact, what the island nation coalition says, what corporations are advocating for. Every day I hear the coverage and said a prayer in gratitude for the fact that this massive global climate treaty was being treated in the press like a massive global climate treaty. That in and of itself is a huge WIN. Seriously. HUGE. And that's not just my Stockholm syndrome induced by climate change deniers talking.
How climate change is presented and communicated matters. In fact, I believe that the presentation of this issue matters more than any other aspect. Climate change is not actually controversial. Scientifically, logically, morally. It's pretty straightforward in substance. Not so straightforward and in fact, twisted, when it translates into the public domain. In fact, I've been paying close attention over the past year to some signals that fiscal conservatives and Christians from evangelicals to Catholics are rallying behind this great moral test of our time. Our use of natural resources that is unsustainable and comes from war-torn and unstable places....and maybe that's the best reason ever to stop overusing those resources.
Oh you want to hear more about the actual climate accord and my take? Not just celebrate the AMAZINGLY POSITIVE news that it's happened and call it a day? That my friends is the problem with society! But fine fine, EcoPartyDownload after the jump...
So first and foremost people, let's chat about how international environmental law actually works. Hearing people being interviewed on the media in the "nay-sayer" category about this climate accord I'm hearing a lot of just plain misunderstanding. You can take my word for it as someone who's taken an entire class on the subject from the guy who coined the term sustainable development at Bruntland (and barf, he had a huge ego about it which was annoying, but actually knew his stuff obviously, so I learned)....or you can read and read about it yourself and try to figure it out on your own. Point is, that international environmental law is not law like we have here in-country, in the U.S. They are principled treatise that set broad targets and when countries choose to sign on - note the word CHOOSE - the countries are left to step up to their commitments. Comments in the media such as "there is no enforcement mechanism" are red herrings. The UN does not become a watchdog enforcer of our following through on commitments. The entire way that UN environmental accords function is that countries make a public commitment and then are pressured by virtue of committing themselves to follow through. If it sounds really waffle-y, it's not. It's actual progress. And I give you the case studies of the Montreal Protocol that eliminated CFCs that caused the ozone depletion (hole) and the Carbon Disclosure Project in which thousands of corporations voluntarily report their greenhouse gas emissions. This is literally how it works.
And before I go on, one thing that the Paris Agreement seems to have accomplished is to come into force in the United States without requiring Congress to approve it. Which in the past was always required and basically the reason that the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that Al Gore "signed" on fell apart. So I'm actually pretty pumped to read up more on how the Obama administration accomplished that ditty. Kudos White House. This along with your rebuff of the Keystone XL pipeline is getting you some major environmental cred. Keep it up kids. Enviro(ish) SEAL OF APPROVAL for getting it done in spite of the Beltway crazies that can't seem to pass a budget for the 1000th time. (Seriously people of Congress, the rest of us have to do our jobs so maybe for once you can do yours without drama-rama. No? Oh and you'll still get elected because of gerry-mandering? Glad we cleared that up...[bangs head against wall] SIGH).
Ok, back to Paris. The second thing you have to understand about the Paris Agreement is that literally nothing had been happening to combat climate change on the global scale that was needed. Nothing. These talks have dragged on for 20 years without an agreement in place and therefore a unsystemic way of tackling the problem. For all the talk about climate change, nothing was actually happening to address it, and almost every country (including ours) was holding out for the international agreement before taking their own step. It was chicken-and-egg central. I've watched as a sustainability professional the falling apart of climate talks year after year after year after year after year....you get what I'm trying to say. Except you don't really get the impact of Paris without understanding that recent history for context. Take a hot second (pun intended) and put yourself into these shoes. You have to really see the twenty-year-long repeated failure of the international community to even take a single step - not ONE - addressing this issue to understand why the Paris Agreement is such a big deal. Nay-sayers are always there to point out the imperfections, and the imperfections are always there, but this is perhaps the biggest case study in "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good". The Paris Agreement is GOOD for this planet and for our futures on it. Period.
Last but certainly not least, it's stunning even myself the level of science-based targets that were negotiated in Paris. Even my sunny-side-up optimistic, Enviro(ish) self had gotten so beaten down this last DECADE that I figured by the time we made a step in the right direction it would be so watered down we'd have to be thankful for what we got. Anything is better than nothing. Begging for scraps. Makes me think of the scene in Braveheart: "You're so concerned with squabbling for the scraps from Longshanks table you've missed your God-given right to something better." Well God bless on this one....we DID get something better. There was discussion about whether the target should be 1.5 degrees or 2.0 degrees, and the biggest polluting countries were in support of 1.5 degrees. Which because of the time-lag in polluting carbon in the atmosphere and the later-on warming, we've basically already put all the greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere to go beyond that level of warming. It's INSANELY AWESOME. And while the final number was 2 degrees with a push to get to 1.5 degrees, the fact that this was discussed inherently recognizes that the small island nations and most vulnerable are already going to suffer and we need to do more. The largest industrialized nations have stepped up with $100B in investments to developing nations for cleaner energy sources. It literally brings tears to my eyes. I've spent so many years thinking that if we could just limit it somewhere, somehow, that would be better....and lo and behold it's happened.
Peace on Earth, goodwill to men. This year I got the gift I didn't even know to ask from Santa....I had lost the faith and didn't believe it was possible. Faith in humanity restored. You got it right Tiny Tim...Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!