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The Paris Climate Accord: A Crash Course

As the effects of climate change become more and more apparent, strategies for combating it have become increasingly popular. Some take an individual approach and encourage consumers to swap out disposable items, such as plastic straws and grocery bags, for reusable alternatives. Others look at the issue on a big-picture scale and point out that 71% of all carbon emissions can be traced back to 100 energy companies and the inherent wastefulness of a capitalist society.

In my opinion, large-scale issues like climate change can only be tackled with large-scale interventions, like the Paris Climate Accord. In 2016, 196 nations entered an agreement which addressed greenhouse gas emissions, environmental harm reduction, and providing financial support to vulnerable countries and populations. The Paris Climate Accord’s long-term goal is to cap the increase in the global temperature at 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels. 

Since 1880, the Earth has warmed up 1° Celsius total, but ⅔ of that growth has only been since 1975. According to NASA’s ongoing temperature analysis, the global temperature is rising about 0.15-0.20° Celsius per decade, causing irreparable damage to humans, animals, and their ecosystems. 

The Paris Climate Accord does not set metrics or requirements for countries to follow; it acts asa symbolic pact and a mechanism for countries to share their climate efforts and hold each other accountable when they come together. The creation of this agreement was historic and a watershed moment for environmental welfare.

Since 2015, the countries involved in the Paris Climate Agreement have made impressive promises and ambitious plans. India committed to deriving 40% of their energy from renewable resources rather than fossil fuels by 2030, and utilized the Paris Climate Accord’s Green Climate Fund to finance this effort. Closer to home, The United States added 54,000 new jobs in energy efficiency in 2019, while the fossil fuel industry only added 18,000 new jobs, according to a 2020 report from the Energy Futures Initiative and the National Association of State Energy Officials. 

When Donald Trump announced his intent to leave the Paris Climate Accord in 2017 on the misinformed claim? that it was meant to “kill the American economy” rather than “save the environment,” it had both tangible and symbolic consequences.

Donald Trump officially pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord on Nov. 4th 2020. Previously, he rolled back important environmental policies, such as The Clean Power Plan and regulations on methane levels. His actions and inactions damaged all the progress made during the Obama administration and contributed to 2020 being the hottest year on record, despite a massive dip in carbon emissions from COVID-19 restrictions. Climate scientists are concerned about the long-term effects of the Trump administration on the planet. “There is a longer-term effect of failing to act over the past four years,” says Joseph Aldy, an economist who served as Obama’s special assistant for energy and the environment from 2009 to 2010. “We need a serious, whole-of-the-economy, whole-of-the-government approach to public policy [on climate change]. It’s the delay in getting that going which makes it all the more challenging. But as [Trump has] demonstrated with COVID, it’s hard for him to actually do hard work to deal with challenges.” Withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord was the final straw in a haystack of environmental damage caused by the Trump administration. 

Symbolically, leaving the Paris Climate Accord made it clear to the world that Donald Trump viewed himself and his version of America as the center of the universe, and anything not tailored directly to him was not good enough. Most scientists, 97% to be exact, agree that climate change is not only real, but a pressing threat that world leaders need to pay attention to. The President of the United States brushing it off as a “Chinese hoax” discredits the nation’s cultural competency

When Joe Biden announced his intent to have the United States rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, it signalled a new era in the United States. We once again have a president who trusts science over baseless conspiracy and realizes just how dire the climate situation is. Rejoining the Paris Climate Accord means that the United States are once again willing to learn from and collaborate with the other 195 involved nations to reverse the damage mankind has already done and build a better and renewably brighter future. 

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