Saturday, December 12, 2015

Climate Conference comes to agreement

UN climate conference 30 Nov - 11 Dec 2015

COP 21 - the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties - has seen more than 190 nations gather in Paris to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the threat of critical warming of the planet, due to human activity. They have authored an agreement which falls short of scientists hopes, but some positive progress has been made after 21 attempts.

 Negotiators aimed to clinch a strong and ambitious global climate deal, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said

Organizers of the climate talks in Paris say a final text has been agreed upon after nearly two weeks of intensive negotiations.
An official in the office of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the AFP news agency the draft would be presented to ministers at 10:30 GMT.
No details of the agreement have been released so far. The deal in the French capital was reached nearly 16 hours after the talks had been scheduled to close.
"We have a text to present," the official said, adding that the draft would be now translated into the UN's six official languages.
Mr Fabius, who has presided over the talks, had said earlier that the "conditions were never better" for a strong and ambitious agreement.
He added that he was confident of presenting the final draft early on Saturday morning.
Significant progress had been reported on a range of issues in the latest version of the document, with evidence of real compromise between the parties.
The countries supported a temperature goal of 2C but agreed to make their best efforts to keep the warming rise to 1.5C. However, the language on cutting emissions in the long term was criticized for significantly watering down ambitions.

1. What is the problem?
The world is getting warmer:The average temperature of the Earth's surface has increased by about 0.85° (1.4F) in the last 100 years. Thirteen of the warmest fourteen years were recorded in the 21st century. 2015 is set to be the warmest year on record.             
2. Why is this happening
Greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide....Scientists believe that gases released from industry and agriculture (known as emissions) are adding to the natural greenhouse effect, the way the Earth's atmosphere traps some of the energy from the Sun.

3. What are the effects?
Human activities such as burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas are increasing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. Carbon-absorbing forests are also being drastically decimated. Hence, the CO2 remains static in the atmosphere and builds up. Forests not only absorbs CO2, they release oxygen back into the  atmosphere. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is now higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years and reached a record high in May this year.    

Arctic sea ice melt
Higher temperatures, extreme weather events and higher sea levels are all linked to a warming climate and could have a drastic effect on all the world's regions. Since 1900, sea levels have risen by on average about 19cm globally. The rate of sea-level rise has accelerated in recent decades, placing a number of islands and low-lying countries at risk.
The retreat of polar ice sheets is an important contributor to this rise. Arctic sea ice is also shrinking because of higher temperatures, though it makes little contribution to raised sea levels. An area of sea ice roughly 10 times the size of the UK has been lost when the current day is compared with average levels from the early 1980s.

Arctic sea ice min. extent: 1980, 7.8 million sq km.
2015, 4.6 million sq km

4. What does the future hold?
Higher temperatures and more extreme weather.
The scale of potential impacts is uncertain.The changes could drive shortages in freshwater, bring about major changes in food production conditions and cause a rise in the number of casualties from floods, storms, heat waves and droughts. This is because climate change is expected to increase the frequency of extreme weather events .

Projected temperature change (1986–2005 to 2081-2100)

If greenhouse gas emissions peak between 2010-2020 and then decline substantially

If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise throughout the 21st century

Source: International Panel on Climate Change - Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)

5. What can be done?
That depends on the world's top ten greenhouse gas emitters. The top 10  emitters make up over 70% of total emissions:
China 24%
USA 12%
EU 9%
India 6%
Brazil 6%
Russia 5
Japan 3%
Canada 2%
DR Congo 1.5%

Indonesia 1.5%
Source: Carbon Brief, figures are for 2012

6. Limiting the damage
By the end of October, 146 countries had submitted national climate plans on curbing emissions that are expected to form the cornerstone of a binding, global treaty on climate change. According to a UN report, submissions in their current form point to a rise of 2.7°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. Scientists have determined that if temperature rises surpass 2°C, this will lead to substantial and dangerous climate impacts, which will hit the world's poorest population in particular. Droughts and unnaturally high temperatures will prevent indigenous crops from growing and lead to world starvation on a scale unimagined. Fresh water sources will evaporate leading to further hardship in developing countries and perhaps lead to mass migrations.
It's pretty clear what we must do. The problem is getting all the countries in the world to commit to a common goal for the common good. The next problem is getting them to keep their promises. Many heads of state still  have the attitude that this is the other countries' problem, not theirs. And their main concern is always the effects of emission controls on their economies. New controls and laws will naturally affect worldwide economy. At least we will all be in the same boat. If we do nothing, money will lose all value anyway. Food and water will be the currency of our dying world.

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