UN Climate Conference: September 23, 2014

earthProtests, rallies around the world, “blame your neighbor” politics, oh my! From rallies around the world in places like London, New York, Mexico City, and Sydney to the “UN Dining Room Table,” the world’s climate has become a global issue and a lot of people are “up in arms” about it.

But why? What exactly are we doing to cause climate change?

Well, here’s a little background.

You see, one of the big players in causing climate change is rising CO2 levels. CO2 acts as a greenhouse gas, helping trap heat in the atmosphere, which, of course, makes the earth warmer. Warmer temperatures don’t mean a better tan; they mean rising sea levels, melting polar icecaps and throwing the weather all out of whack! What some people don’t know is that it’s not just CO2 causing a problem.

Gases like methane and nitrous oxides also make up a portion of the atmosphere and have a much higher global warming potential than CO2, but humans make so much CO2 and since it is a relatively stable molecule, it can stick around for thousands of years cooking our planet. It’s one of the gases over which we have a direct control, whenever we start our cars or turn on our lights (powered by coal or natural gas burning power plants) or even breathe.

But Miami University is going green, you say. That should help at little, right?

While it’s great that Miami is going green, the atmosphere is so well mixed, that the CO2 molecule that floated out of your car this morning could end up in China by lunch time. Just because one area is going green doesn’t make a whole lot of difference in the grand scheme of global climate change. This is why the entire planet needs to do something about it, and why people all over the world are calling for a change.

Apparently, though, some important leaders don’t know it’s a global problem.

After all the speeches were said and done at the UN Climate Conference, world leaders were supposed to meet over dinner to iron out some climate commitments. While every country was on the guest list to the dinner, only about 120 out of more than 190 countries bothered to show up. Notable absentees included India, Germany, China, Russia and, you guessed it, the United States, who, along with China, is one of the leading producers of greenhouse gases.

Okay, but 120 countries showed up, as well as over 800 business representatives, civil, and finance leaders. Surely, they did something?

Yes, they did.

While I won’t go into too much detail, you can read it in the UN Chairman’s Summary. To make a long story short, there was a lot of pledging and supporting to cut CO2 emissions but nothing “set in stone.” There was no article or treaty saying that “We, the people of Earth, are going to go green.” There really was no unanimous anything other than they agreed to meet in Lima, Peru, later this year, and again in 2015 in Paris at the formal conference where, hopefully, something substantial will be done.

Which is exactly the kind of thing they have been agreeing to for nearly 20 years! For those who aren’t aware, the conference in Lima will be the 20th formal UN Climate Conference. In essence, the big conference that was just last week was more of a dress rehearsal than anything.

I don’t think many people are willing to hold their breath for much longer; something needs to be done now. In the words of UN Secretary-General Ki-moon Ban, “there is no Plan B because we don’t have a Planet B.”

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