This year’s annual Energy Information Administration conference started off on a somewhat positive note with a presentation by Dr. John Holdren, the Obama administration director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Holdren was clear in his presentation that the risks of climate change are real and deserve urgent action.
Undoubtedly the Paris agreement was an historic event, justly celebrated by its convenors and participants. But it was a strange victory with a remarkably polarised response from thoughtful and engaged people all over the world. Experienced observers and participants have been trying to understand what really happened ever since it concluded in December 2015. Perhaps no one captured this enigmatic quality better than George Monbiot shortly afterwards:
The billion residents of Africa are amongst the most vulnerable to climate change in coming decades, and of special concern are high-density sites of geopolitical and resource-related conflicts: the copper belt of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and mineral-rich African Great Lakes stretching into northern Uganda, western Ethiopia (bordering the Sudanese war zone), Madagascar and smaller Indian Ocean islands, and the northern-most strip of Africa and West Africa including Liberia and Sierra Leone (recent sites of diamond-related civil war and then Ebola epidemics).
Jerry Brown basked in adulation during his whirlwind trip to Paris, and the evening of December 8 figured to offer more of the same. Standing alongside governors of states and provinces from Brazil, Mexico, and Peru, California's governor planned to tout his state's leadership role on global climate policy. The event was one of 21 presentations that Brown delivered during a five-day swing through France during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21).
In December of 2015 – the earth’s hottest year since recordkeeping began -- 195 nations met in Paris to forge an agreement to combat global warming. The governments of the world acknowledged their individual and collective duty to protect the earth’s climate -- and then willfully refused to perform that duty. What did they agree to, and how should the people they govern respond?
After more than two weeks of intensive deliberations and negotiations, COP21 in Paris concluded with a standing ovation. 196 participating nations agreed upon the long-term goal of achieving temperatures “well below” the 2 degree Celsius over the pre-industrial levels and a consensus was reached to strive for an ambitious limit of 1.5 degrees. However, beyond all these promises and aspirations, the likelihood of achieving such targets is a remote possibility because the nations need to do much more than they have promised and their promises are not even legally binding.
Just over a week before the U.S. signed the Paris climate agreement at the conclusion of the COP21 United Nations summit, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law with a provision that expedites permitting of oil and gas pipelines in the United States.