Last November, MET Office released news that the global surface temperature finally reached 1 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial global average temperature, marking the halfway point to the 2 degree Celsius threshold that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed is the average global temperature where the effects of climate change would be detrimental. With the average global temperature increasing at an alarming rate, the need action on climate change has become a pressing issue for world leaders, where a major ongoing conference on climate change has been deemed by some as the last opportunity to derail humanity from reaching the 2 degree Celsius global temperature average point.
On November 30th, over 140 leaders worldwide congregated in Le Bourget, France for The United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference and the 21st session of the Conference of Parties, otherwise simply known as COP21. World leaders will be discussing the impacts of climate change as well as legal actions their countries will enforce to reduce greenhouse emissions and to prevent average global temperatures from climbing any higher. The United States comes second in being the largest contributor of greenhouse emissions worldwide. President Obama openly acknowledged the fact during the first session: “I’ve come here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and the second-largest emitter, to say that the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.” However, as the Conference just began in November 30th and set to conclude December 11th, it will be some time before any landmark agreement is achieved by either Obama or participating world leaders.
President Obama had also stated that this is the first generation to feel the effects of climate change, a remark brought on after his visit in Alaska where he observed the sea is already ‘swallowing villages’. Other parts of the United States are struggling with severe droughts, land loss due to erosion and rising sea levels, and uncommon extreme weather. While these effects are occurring nationwide, more affluent communities experience climate change differently than communities comprised of minorities or lower socioeconomic status. It has been documented that a disparity exists among people of color or lower socioeconomic status and white, affluent communities, where minorities are hit harder by the effects of climate change, as demonstrated by the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. If COP21 fails to yield any fruitful agreement, more episodes such as Katrina are expected not only in America but worldwide.
President Obama’s major step against climate change is the Clean Power Plan, which created the first ever national emission limit on the electric power sector. As COP21 continues into day four, a hope hinges on world leaders to make an agreement to reduce emissions and for America to rid itself of the title of being the second largest emitter.