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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

The Aftermath of COP24

Demonstration in Luxembourg. Photo: GilPe. Photos from Wikimedia Commons

George Harvey

The Conference of the Parties to the United Nations (U.N.) Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) was brought to a close a day late, with what many people would call a watered-down agreement. The news about it has continued, however.

The Guardian ran an analysis of COP24 in the article, “What Was Agreed at COP24 in Poland and Why Did It Take So Long?” Simply stated, the article tells us that we are not at all where we should be for us to continue living in reasonable comfortable surroundings into the future (bit.ly/guardian-COP24-analysis).

We are woefully behind schedule, and some countries are acting to hold us back. As we have already mentioned, the U.S. joined Russia, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia in refusing to endorse wording saying the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report was “welcomed.” Australia disappointed most other countries by being silent, and Brazil signaled a lack of support by withdrawing an offer to host upcoming meetings.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was also critical, stressing the meeting’s failures. According to the BBC, the IPCC special report was the “final call to halt climate catastrophe.” A BBC article focused on the fact that there could not even be compromise on the wording about that report (bit.ly/COP24-falures).

The news from COP24, however, is not just analysis and thoughts. Some of what came out of it has been in the form of real action. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists ran an interesting article, “EU, Canada, New Zealand, and Developing Countries Vow to Keep Up the Fight,” reporting pledges that many countries are making to increase their commitments to fight climate change (bit.ly/countries-on-course).

It is really interesting to see in that article that the U.N. is considering China as a potential leader. This is largely because the U.S. has announced its intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord and is making it clear that it is interested in helping the fossil fuels industry continue pushing carbon-intense fuels. The article says, “The U.N. believes China could play a stronger role in the absence of leadership from the U.S. Sources said Guterres would make a telephone call to Xi to ask for his help in nudging talks forward.”

Demonstration in Berlin: “Sun instead of coal!” Photo: Leonard Lenz

The Trump administration and those who support it seem unwilling to understand something that any real conservative knows: you cannot lead by disengaging from those who would follow. When the U.S. signaled its intention to withdraw from climate action, it created a power vacuum that has three countries, China, India, and the European Union, vying for leadership. And it abdicated its position of world leadership.

The reaction is not limited to the international scene, however. There is a reaction from the business world that is growing and profound. An article in CleanTechnica begins by saying, “A total of 415 global investors with $32 trillion in assets under management have this week called on leaders at the United Nation’s COP24 global climate change conference currently underway in Katowice, Poland, to address the climate change ‘ambition gap’ by strengthening their Nationally Determined Contributions to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement” (bit.ly/COP24-investors).

The intent of the fossil fuels industry is to continue to make money. As we deal with climate change, however, we are eliminating the market for its carbon-based fuel products. That is why it promotes coal at a conference seeking to address climate change. And the Trump administration, which seems to owe a lot to the fossil fuels companies, has committed itself to benefiting them.

The chaos created by climate change is already taking a toll on a number of industries. Agriculture is certainly one of them. Financial companies are also affected, because property values are threatened and insurance claims are increasing at alarming rates. Energy and transportation infrastructure is threatened by storms and wildfires. The list goes on and on. Even coal-burning power plants are threatened; plants in parts of the world have already had to shut down because droughts left them with no water for their cooling systems.

We are beginning to see other movements come up to deal with climate change, as well. According to an article in Quartz, 1.7 million citizens of France have signed a petition in favor of suing the French government because of the inaction they see it engaging in over climate change (bit.ly/French-want-to-sue).

Many Americans are unhappy about our government’s lack of leadership on climate change and its obstructionism. One article representing this appeared at CNN in November. Its title describes its sentiment, “Trump’s Failure to Fight Climate Change is a Crime Against Humanity.” The shameful performance from his administration at COP24 underscores this idea (bit.ly/Trumps-crime).

While it is heartbreaking to see the United States reduced to the level of a rogue nation, as the only nation not in the Paris Climate Accord, it is more heartbreaking to consider the path our government would take to push the world down. We wish we had better news.

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