Global Climate Conference Begins Today

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From November 30th to December 11th this year, 196 countries will be attending the United Nations Paris Climate Conference, to discuss possible measures towards the reduction of global warming.

In the conference, known as the 21st Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), there are hopes of establishing a new deal that limits carbon dioxide emissions, a major source of global warming, and changes the way that business is done worldwide to be more environmentally-friendly.

Although the temperature of the Earth (currently averaging 15°C) fluctuates naturally, the planet is currently warming up much more rapidly than it has in the past, according to an article in BBC News.

BBC’s article states that the Earth is warmed with the use of greenhouse gases. These gases absorb solar energy after it has been reflected from the Earth’s surface, and re-emit the energy back to Earth. This system is vital for human existence, as without it the Earth would be 30°C cooler, and uninhabitable. However, gases emitted from modern industry and agriculture are exacerbating this effect, trapping more heat and energy in the Earth’s atmosphere than is needed, increasing average temperatures.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted in 2007 that the Earth’s average temperature would rise between 1.8°C and 4°C by 2100 if current trends in production and carbon dioxide emissions continue. However, the group stated that a rise of more than 2°C would be harmful. Therefore, a major aim of the conference is to establish methods of reducing global warming, and to ensure that the Earth will not get more than 2°C hotter by the end of the century.

Not all UN Climate Conferences have been successful. COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 had unimpressive outcomes, with no legal reforms made to ensure that the Earth would heat up by less than 2°C by 2100. An article in the Guardian reported on the abundance of climate change skepticism, which caused some countries to hesitate before establishing any restrictive laws.

However, the number of climate change skeptics have decreased rapidly in recent years, according to an article published in October 2015 by the Guardian. Around 70% of Americans now believe in global warming – the highest figure since 2008.

On the 1st of October 2015, 146 countries submitted proposals on how they will reduce carbon dioxide emissions; after synthesis, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change concluded that the Earth’s temperature will only increase by 2.7°C to 3°C by 2100 if these proposals are followed. As well as being a refinement on previous estimations, the submitted proposals have a time horizon of 2025 or 2030, meaning that the situation may be improved further in later years.

According to the France Diplomatie website, France would also like to write a program of action to minimize the amount of natural resources used, such as water, in COP21. The program, along with carbon dioxide limitation plans of action, could greatly affect the way that businesses produce and sell goods worldwide.
Caitlin Fowlds ’17

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