Despite what some high-profile figures may tell you, man-made climate change is a real and present threat to almost everything, including agriculture, the global economy, human health, biodiversity, major cities, and even the notion of peaceful coexistence itself. It is, funnily enough, not a hoax invented by the Chinese.
The Paris agreement, recently ratified by the US and China, is a huge step in the right direction, a groundbreaking agreement that paves the way for a world that won’t be scorched by our negative influence. However, a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change reveals what many scientists already suspect – that unless the US does more, it will fail to reach its goals set under the pact.
By 2025, the Obama administration – which has been very keen to protect as much of the environment as possible before it concludes its second term in office – has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by between 26 and 28 percent below 2005 levels.
Taking into account all major greenhouse gas emissions, and comparing them to efforts by state and local governments to reduce them, a team from the US Department of Energy’s (DoE) Lawrence Berkeley National Lab have estimated that the US will reach around four-fifths of that goal.
Their calculations have large margins of error, but the team are confident that unless the Paris agreement is strengthened and the US enhances and builds on its progress so far, it won’t hit that all-important target. Considering that the US is the world’s second most prolific carbon emitter, its success (or lack thereof) in hitting its climate change mitigation targets will strongly influence how other sizable nations around the world act on their own carbon footprint.
“We can't get there with our current set of policies,” lead author Jeffrey Greenblatt, a senior scientist at the DoE, told the Associated Press. “We would fall short of the target if there is no further action.”
Renewable energy is on the rise – but is it proliferating fast enough to make a difference? maxuser/Shutterstock
This study’s findings fall in line with what many climate experts have been saying for some time – the Paris agreement in its current form is not good enough to prevent dangerous levels of climate change. One review concluded that if all signatories ratified the deal and strictly enforced their targets, the most likely scenario is that global temperatures will actually rise by 2.6°C to 3.1°C (4.7°F to 5.6°F) by 2100.
Still, the world is definitely heading in the right direction. Clean renewable energy use is up, from the US to Costa Rica to Indonesia to China. Nuclear power, which has a very low carbon footprint, is making a bit of a silent comeback in some nations. Also, the fact that China and the US are working together sends out a hugely important signal to the rest of the world.
For what it’s worth, the team of this particular study are optimistic that the US will work hard to meet its 2025 targets. “I think it's going to be a variety of smallish efforts to get there,” Greenblatt added. In short, it can be done, but this depends entirely on the outcome of the US presidential election.
It’s clear that the country faces a stark choice come early November. If Hillary Clinton is elected, she will carry on the work of the Obama administration, protecting the environment and upholding America’s commitment to the Paris agreement. If Trump takes the Oval Office, he will veto the agreement, leaving any hope of stopping the climate from rapidly warming dead in the (rising) waters.
Don't let this man wreck the world's environment. Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock