Active carbon emission reduction must now follow monumental Paris climate agreement

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    Environmental activist Richard Whiteford is based in Chester County.

    Environmental activist Richard Whiteford is based in Chester County.

    The COP-21 Climate Summit in Paris is hailed as a monumental success because all 196 countries committed to sign the agreement. It must be taken seriously, and drastic measures must be taken to cut carbon emissions as soon as possible.

    The COP-21 Climate Summit in Paris is hailed as a monumental success because all 196 countries committed to sign the agreement.

    Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama worked very hard for four months before the summit to get China on board to sign the agreement. China walked in to the conference with an agreement to reduce their carbon emissions by 60 to 65 percent. The United States committed to cutting emissions by 26 to 28 percent. It was the fact that both China and America came in with carbon-reduction commitments along with 182 other nations, that all 195 nations signed the agreement.

    The biggest fallacy in the agreement is that there are no legal teeth in it, it is not legally binding. The countries have agreed to hold “stocktakes” every five years to see if all countries are living up to their commitments. The only penalty for failing to meet their reductions is a policy of “name & shame” to publically humiliate countries that have failed.

    The critical issue is this: Since around 1850, we burned enough fossil fuels to raise the planetary temperature to 2.16 degrees Fahrenheit, and look at the extreme weather events now happening all over the world. We now know that we can only afford to burn around 473 billion tons more carbon to cross the dangerous 2.7-degree line that scientists say we dare not cross.

    The problem is, we have 2,795 billion tons in inventory right now to burn. If we burn that, the temperature will go up almost 11 degrees Fahrenheit, which will be disastrous for life as we know it. Scientists, including Dr. Michael Mann, a noted climatologist, say we only have about 20 years left to drastically cut our CO2 emissions before we pass the point of no return.

    The Paris agreement must be taken seriously, and drastic measures must be taken to cut carbon emissions as soon as possible.

    As a board member of the World Information Transfer, an NGO at the United Nations, I was sent to Paris for the COP-21 climate summit. I was their lead delegate, which got me invited to the signing ceremony at the United Nations today, Earth Day. I look forward to trying to instill more urgency into the carbon-reduction process at the United Nations.

    Audio production by Kimberly Haas.

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