What is important is the return of the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement

    29 Sep 2021

    Let’s get to know how the planet has warmed up, what role the United States plays in this, and how the pandemic has helped fight against global warming. We thank Chas News for the piece of analysis.

    Since 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has captured the world’s attention, highlighting other essential issues, e.g., global warming. However, 2021 returned this issue to the agenda. And the reason for this was positive. In the first hours after taking the oath, the new US President Joe Biden initiated the country’s return to the Paris Climate Agreement.

    The purpose of the international agreement is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep the global temperature increase within 1.5-2° C compared to the pre-industrial level by the end of the century. In 2015, the agreement was signed by 197 states, including the United States. However, in November 2020, the States officially abandoned the treaty at the initiative of former President Donald Trump, who called global warming “cheating” and “nonsense.”

    It has been a significant defeat in the fight against climate change, as the United States ranks second in the world in terms of harmful emissions. Now the country is changing course again, and it is worth noting that this reversal happened at the right time.

    Happiness for trouble caught

    One of the first Biden’s initiatives was praised by Bill Gates. Last year, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist became a favorite victim of conspiracy theorists for helping fight COVID-19, but he is also worried about climate issues. “The lives lost and the economic disaster caused by the pandemic go hand in hand with what will happen regularly if we do not eliminate harmful emissions,” Gates wrote in his blog.

    He drew a parallel with the future, but COVID-19 has already addressed the problem of global warming. Paradoxically, in this case, the biggest disaster of 2020 played into the hands of the planet. And not only because due to quarantine measures, but CO2 emissions were also significantly reduced (more on this later).

    Under the terms of the Paris Agreement, member states undertake national commitments (NDCs) to reduce harmful emissions. Every five years, they must update the NDC, setting increasingly ambitious goals. Last year it was time for the first such renewal.

    In November, countries had to voice bolder goals at the COP26 international climate change conference in Glasgow, UK. If everything went according to plan, the United States would have managed to withdraw from the agreement, relieving itself of obligations by that time. However, due to the pandemic, the date of the conference was moved to November 2021, and now the States have time to prepare new NDCs. 

    For the rest of the world, the postponement was also not excessive. Despite the transfer of COP26, world governments have had the opportunity to voice new goals in the fight against global warming. They could do so as part of the online Climate Ambition Summit in December 2020. Seventy-one states took advantage of the opportunity.

    Catch up with the planet

    According to CNN, citing its sources, Biden’s team will not announce new targets for reducing emissions not immediately. She will first hold talks with unions, businessmen, mayors and governors. But by the start of COP26, the new US targets will definitely be known.

    According to Michael Mann, a climatologist at the University of Pennsylvania, they must be quite ambitious. After all, during Trump’s presidency, the United States was “4 years behind” in the fight against global warming. “It means we have to work even harder,” Mann said.

    Indeed, more and more countries are declaring their intention to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, a state in which CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions do not exceed the oceans, forests, and soil capacity to absorb it. Currently, Japan, South Korea, Argentina and the European Union have such a goal. China plans to do so ten years later.

    During the election campaign, Biden promised that the United States will join the club by 2050. If the country can keep this promise, the planet will clearly benefit. After all, the United States has historically been a significant polluter of the atmosphere. Our World in Data estimates that since 1751, the country has emitted 400 billion tons of CO2. This is 25% of the world’s harmful emissions since then. Today, it is second only to China in terms of carbon dioxide production.

    And a whole lockdown is not enough

    By the way, let’s talk about emissions. Since the beginning of last year, when one state after another began sending its citizens to the lockdown, the Internet has been flooded with stories about how well it has affected nature. In megacities like Los Angeles, Sao Paulo and Seoul, the air was clearing. Boars, penguins, deer, and even sea lions began to roam the empty city streets worldwide. Daily CO2 emissions have fallen.

    Today we see that the rate of pollution last year really fell in due to the pandemic. According to he Global Carbon Project experts, in 2020 the volume of CO2 emissions decreased by 2.4 billion tons compared to 2019. This is the most significant decline since World War II.

    Unfortunately, this did not have a significant impact on the health of the planet. Carbon dioxide continues to accumulate in the atmosphere. According to preliminary estimates, its concentration last year was 414 parts per million (ppm). For comparison, in 2019, this figure was 411 ppm, and in 2018 – 408 ppm.

    So the world continues to heat up. At the beginning of the year, the World Meteorological Organization made a disappointing statement: 2020 shared the title of the hottest year in the history of observations since 2016. And then, the temperature was strongly influenced by the natural phenomenon of El Niño, due to which the planet periodically gets warmer. The average world temperature was 1.2° C above pre-industrial levels.

    Up to 1.5 degrees, laid down in the Paris Agreement, there is not much left. According to Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Space Research Institute, the planet will cross this line very soon, probably by 2030.

    (Our World in Data is a British non-profit online publication specializing in studying and covering global issues, including hunger, disease, climate change, etc.)

    There is still a long way to go before the end of the century, which the Paris Agreement focuses on, but experts fear that it will not be enough to achieve the goals of the international agreement. According to UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) estimates, based on the current situation with harmful emissions, by 2100 the planet will warm up by more than 3° C.

    It would seem that the figure is not significant, but in fact, it is. According to Schmidt, the best way to realize how dramatic the changes in warming, even by 1.5° C, is “to remember that during the last ice age, temperatures were about 5° C below pre-industrial levels.” We have already traveled about a quarter of the way to similar figures, only in the other direction.

    In short, global warming continues to hang over humanity with the sword of Damocles, which falls lower every year. And the fact that a player as big as the United States will fight it again is a reason to hope for a better future.

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