Global leaders from 190 countries are currently talking in Paris and these discussions have the power to change the world.
The Conference of Parties (COP) meeting is part of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and will seek to create an agreement among countries to reduce emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. This is hoped to be the culmination of 20 years of debate and discussion to create not only recommendations of how to act but a legally binding agreement to preserve the health of our planet.
A team of researchers has looked at the proposed plans and analyzed what kind of difference they had the potential to make. The results, published in Science, indicate that the plans would be sufficient in slowing down the rate of global warming enough to avoid the most catastrophic projections. While it wouldn't guarantee success, it dramatically increases the odds of it.
"We wanted to know how the commitments would play out from a risk management perspective," lead author Allen Fawcett stated in a release. "We analyzed not only what the commitments would achieve over the next 10 to 15 years, but also how they might lay a foundation for the future."
Each country involved in the talks will face different consequences of the changing climate and has unique challenges that must be addressed for the good of the world. These intended nationally determined contributions (INDC) will determine what steps each country needs to take over the next couple of decades to make things better for everyone, which primarily includes cutting carbon emissions and finding sustainable sources of energy that also encourages human progress.
While one goal of using INDCs is to slow the rate of global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, they will also help identify the risks that each country needs to address at a local level.
"It's not just about 2 degrees," added co-author Gokul Iyer. "It is also important to understand what the INDCs imply for the worst levels of climate change."
If the leaders aren't able to come to an understanding at the summit, there are some incredibly dire consequences. Global temperatures will increase by an average of 4 degrees Celsius and while that might not sound like a lot, Earth will look very different if that occurs.
As polar ice continues to melt, sea levels will rise and coastal cities will be underwater. Ocean acidification will threaten shelled marine animals like clams and sea turtles. Changes in temperature will affect migratory patterns and insecure food availability will cost many animals their lives. There are many reasons why curbing carbon emissions to slow the rate of global warming will be in everyone's best interest. The sooner our world leaders agree to take action, the better.
"Long-term temperature outcomes critically hinge on emissions reduction efforts beyond 2030," Iyer continued. "If countries implement their INDCs through 2030 and ramp up efforts beyond 2030, we'll have a much better chance of avoiding extreme warming and keeping temperature change below 2 degrees Celsius. It's important to know that the INDCs are a stepping stone to what we can do in the future."
The takeaway message from this study is clear: the plans that are currently being discussed in Paris are not just paying lip service to climate change. They have the potential to do an incredible amount of good for our planet. The vast majority of Americans agree that the U.S. should join in these measures in order to create a sustainable world.
Use #COP21 in social media to keep up with the current happenings of these incredibly important talks.