The Paris Climate Change Accord and Leonardo DiCaprio UN Speech
On November 30th the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference was held in Paris, France. Countries from all around the world pledged $50 billion in research & development for clean energy. Technology companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, combined, and Bill Gates Microsoft Foundation pledged $150 billion to support climate change projects and innovation. A minimum of $100 billion provision was pledge to developing countries to mitigate the risks of climate change. The Oil companies pledged their support for the Paris Climate deal and investing towards a clean energy infrastructure for the future generation living in a 2°C degree world. However, the Paris Climate agreement was not ambitious enough.
The World Bank President Jim Yong Kim says, “the world our children inherit is a completely different world then the world we are living in today.” Financial institutions including Bank of America and HSBC made commitments. Their cooperation led by a coalition of investors is unprecedented when the world is facing global risks from climate change in an era of climate change denial.
Prior to this landmark accord in Paris, there was an unprecedented number of world leaders that attended the September 2014 Climate Summit at the UN. The summit included 100 heads of state and government, joined by 800 leaders from business, finance, and civil society. It included the actor Leonardo DiCaprio that gave an impassioned speech about the Climate, saying “climate change is not hysteria — it’s a fact.” The award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio described climate change as a “disaster” that has grown beyond the choices individuals make to one “that needs decisive large-scale action by industries and governments around the world.”
At the 2014 Climate Summit, governments, business, and civil society long-term convergence agreed to define climate change as the most important issue facing our time and that bold action is needed today to reduce emissions and build resilience. Those leaders in both business and government would lead this effort. They announced their intent to mobilize $200 billion for financing low-carbon and climate-resilient development. New Coalitions agreed to mobilize sufficient public and private funds for low-carbon climate resilient growth essential to keep the world within less than 2° degree Celsius pathway.
Driven largely by economic and population growth, human influence on the climate system is clear. Recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history warming the atmosphere and the ocean. Since the mid 19th Century, the sea level has risen at a much larger rate than during the previous two millennia, and oceanic uptake of CO2 has resulted in acidification of the ocean. As a result, the ocean is warming and the never seen before sea life, deep water sea creatures, are washing up on the shores of continents.
Since the 1950s many people observed that the warming of the climate in unprecedented decades caused irreversible impacts on human and natural systems. There might be this attitude that the damage is irreversible and nothing can be done about it BUT something could be done to mitigate the worst consequential effects of climate change risks.
Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions increased since the pre-industrial era. This led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in past 800,000 years. Their effects together with anthropogenic drivers detected through the climate system are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th Century. It is very likely the earth will continue to warm and sea level will continue to rise over the next Century.
Limiting climate change risks would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions along with adaptation to mitigate the global risks. The global risks are at a greater disadvantage for people and communities in developing countries at all development levels. Climate change is projected to increase the displacement of people. Populations that lack the resources for planned migration experience and higher exposure to extreme weather events, particularly in developing countries with low-income, may experience increasing violent conflicts over natural resources.
The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report on Climate Change released in 2007 revealed there will be a decrease in water availability due to climate change, disappearing coral reefs, negative impact of subsistence farmers and fishers, coastal flooding from rising sea levels, and increased morbidity and mortality rates (due to heat waves, floods, droughts, and change in the distribution of disease). The report recommended adaptation measures to reduce the adverse impacts of projected climate change. Key vulnerabilities may be associated with the climate system, including food supply, infrastructure, health, water resources, coastlines, ecosystem, earth cycles (cooling and warming), and oceanic and atmospheric circulation. The impacts of climate change are very likely to impose net annual costs worth billions of dollars per year in environmental damages.
- Fact 1) Warming of the climate since the 1950s is unprecedented. The atmosphere and ocean are warming. The amount of snow and ice has diminished. Sea levels are rising. CO2 levels in the atmosphere are higher than they have ever been before, not necessarily due to population growth (that has remained relatively the same) but due to the growth in economic activity. Human influence on the climate system is clear. We need substantial reduction in greenhouse gases.
- Fact 2) Climate change impacts have occurred across the world affecting ecosystems, human health, freshwater resources, and agriculture. The impacts tell us there are significant lack of adaptation and mitigation of risks associated with climate change. Those people marginalized by society due to inequality are the most vulnerable to climate change risks and lack access to resources and stake in decision-making processes.
Inaction is a greater economic cost than taking necessary action against the existential threat of Climate Change. We need scaling of renewables and sustainable technology by institutions in cooperation across all sectors of the global economy to mitigate the risks of Climate Change. It comes down to a matter of choice. We either continue on the path that we are on and face catastrophic consequences OR we listen to the voice of reason and act accordingly.
The actor Leonardo DiCaprio once again gave his impassioned speech during his well-deserved 2016 Oscar win as a constant reminder that “now is the time for bold and unprecedented action.”
“We need to put a price tag on carbon emissions and eliminate government subsidies for oil, coal, and gas companies. We need to end the free ride that industrial polluters have been given in the name of a free market economy. They do not deserve our tax dollars. They deserve our scrutiny for the economy itself will die if our ecosystem collapse. The good news is that renewable energy is not only achievable but good economic policy.”