Will Paris Climate Talks Make a Difference?

190 nations are represented at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, in session November 30 to December 11. Their goal is to agree on international greenhouse gas restrictions to keep the planet from warming more than 2°C (3.6°F) over the pre-industrial level. During 2015, global temperature has advanced 1°C above the pre-industrial level. Three quarters of the increase came in the past 20 years, meaning global warming is speeding up. That brings a sense of urgency to the business of agreeing on an effective plan.

Every nation brings its own agenda to the meeting, along with its good intentions, to reach an agreement. Emerging economies are hesitant to switch from cheaper carbon fuels such as coal to generate the power they need to compete in a global market. More mature economies, such as the US and the EU, will be pushing to replace coal and oil with alternative sources, such as wind and solar. Hopefully, the negotiators will be able to bridge the gap and come together on a workable agreement. If they fail, there seems little doubt that carbon emissions will continue to grow and the planet will soon reach and breach the 2°C mark, resulting in high-speed melting ice caps, swamping sea level rise, and an overheated planet.

2015 is the hottest year on record • The years 2011 to 2015 are the hottest 5 years on record • The level of CO2 in the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million for three months running in the spring of 2015, the highest ever recorded • Ocean surface temperatures during 2015 were the highest ever recorded •The world’s glaciers and ice caps are melting faster in 2015 than ever before, losing a half meter to a meter in thickness, two to three times the average rate of the 20th century • Global average sea level rise in 2015 is the highest since satellite measurements started in 1993.

In view of those record-breaking numbers, 2015 is the appropriate year to make an all-out effort to put the brakes on global warming. We wish those working on the problem in Paris great success.