How The Paris Climate Agreement Falls Short

The Paris Agreement is fantastic news if only because it is the first time the entire world said Yes … and by consensus … pushed along by the business community – but it certainly falls short in many crucial ways. 

The Agreement is based on aspirations, not binding agreements, and anything done is purely voluntary. We are too far along on climate disruption for this approach to make sense, say many critics. But the fact is, it is the only way to get all countries on board. 

Saying ‘We’ll have a 2°C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years’ is worthless words, says climate scientist James Hansen. "There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned." 

Hansen is referring to the fact that there is still no carbon tax and countries can still subsidize fossil fuels.

The only way to avoid catastrophic flooding of the world’s major cities is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum 3% a year and impose a global carbon tax, says Hansen.

"Despite the self-congratulatory statements from world leaders, the reality is they have set the planet on course to burn. Science tells us that emissions of greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide emitted by the combustion of fossil fuels, need to peak by 2020 and come down 6-10% every year after that, yet ‘fossil fuels’ are not mentioned once in the entire agreement signed in Paris. Hence, there is no mention of stopping exploration for more, stopping building coal plants, oil pipelines, or fracking for more natural gas," says Chris Williams, author of the book, Ecology & Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis. 

Another study warns that only "immediate and substantial" reductions can prevent massive, irreversible damage to the world’s oceans and marine life by 2100. Without that, oceans will heat up, lose oxygen and become too acidic for much of life. 

"Impacts on key marine and coastal organisms and ecosystems are already detectable, and some face high risks well before 2100," say the international team of scientists.

"We are allowing ourselves to travel a uniquely dangerous path, and we are doing so without an appreciation for the consequences that lie ahead," Manuel Barange, Science Director of Plymouth Marine Laboratory told BBC.

Current World Emissions Path: Yellow shows country climate pledges, blue shows the path we must be on.

Climate Current Emissions Path 2015

This summer, Hansen and 16 other scientists released a paper showing that limiting warming to 2°C is extremely dangerous. All over the Earth, ice sheets are melting much faster than expected and sea levels could be up to five meters higher by the latter part of this century – inundating cities such as London, New York, Miami and Shanghai. "More than half the world’s cities are at risk," Hansen says. 

"The economic cost of a business as usual approach to emissions is incalculable. It will become questionable whether global governance will break down. You’re talking about hundreds of million of climate refugees from places such as Pakistan and China. Civilization was set up and developed with a stable, constant coastline." 

Speaking of US Republicans
– where every leading presidential candidate denies the existence of climate change – Hansen says: 

"Many conservatives know climate change is not a hoax. But those running for president are hamstrung by the fact they think they can’t get the nomination if they say this is an issue. They wouldn’t get money from the fossil fuel industry."

Still, Hansen believes humans will meet the climate challenge. He points to the flattening of global emissions we’re seeing and sees China as emerging as the world leader, not the US. 

"I think we will get there because China is rational. Their leaders are mostly trained in engineering and such things, they don’t deny climate change and they have a huge incentive, which is air pollution. It’s so bad in their cities they need to move to clean energies. They realise it’s not a hoax. But they will need cooperation," Hansen says.

Read our articles, Global Emissions Fall This Year, Coal Use Peaked in 2013!

International Momentum Builds For Price On Carbon, End to Fossil Subsidies.

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