Climat dans gai Paris

Published: 6:04 PM GMT on September 19, 2015

Climat dans gai Paris

Indeed, Climate in Gay Paree

A year ago, in 2014, the People’s Climate March in New York was timed to precede the United Nations (U.N.) Climate Change Summit. The 2014 meetings were framed to bring focus on 2015 and the 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris (COP21).

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the annual meeting that is part of the governing body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international agreement that commits its signers, and that is most of the world – commits its signers to the, “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system …” The limit of greenhouse gas concentrations should allow ecosystems to adapt naturally, ensure that food production is not threated and enable sustainable economic development. In No Way to Slow Down, I discuss the fact that the written goals of the UNFCCC have, perhaps, withered away. However, to maintain our ability to adapt – to limit dangerous anthropogenic interference – we must manage our human waste products more intelligently, including those from energy production – that is, carbon dioxide.

Paris is all about carbon dioxide. In 2009 there was naïve hope that the Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen would lead to effective policies to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide. That did not happen and while there was spin that the meeting was a success, most people that I know were not enthusiastic about the outcome, e.g., The Copenhagen Accord. My take of the outcome was that there was symbolic political recognition that global warming needed to be addressed, but no substantive steps were taken to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. As climate-change policy efforts clawed their way back, the focus was turned on the 2015 Conference of the Parties in Paris as a major milestone. The expectations in Paris are high – from their website, “The meeting will mark a decisive stage in negotiations on the future international agreement on a post-2020 regime, and will, as agreed in Durban, adopt the major outlines of that regime. By the end of the meeting, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, all the nations of the world, including the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, will be bound by a universal agreement on climate.”

Organizations are mobilizing on the Road to Paris: The International Council of Science, our friends at Climate Reality (hello Doug Glancy), World Climate Ltd, Lance Armstrong, and many others.

On Wednesday I attended a webinar, Building Momentum for COP21 (recording), sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The speakers were Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, and Alden Myers of the Union of Concerned Scientists. One point that keeps coming up is the importance of Pope Francis’s Encyclical. Though there have been many statements from religious organizations on the climate and the environment, Pope Francis’s carries the weight of a centralized religious authority, as well as the power of position and influence that Pope Francis has assumed in the world. There is also strong scientific scholarship in the Encyclical. In Building Momentum for COP21 (recording) the importance of the convergence of the moral, spiritual, and ethical imperatives, with scientific imperatives, and economic imperatives was viewed as an important difference from previous COPs.

Of course, these imperatives have been around for some time, and they have not been great enough to be transformative. There are other factors that I believe are worth mentioning. First, my anecdotal observation is that the observed, rapid changes to the Earth’s climate are being internalized by more and more people, corporations, and countries. The observations from the Arctic are most definitive. Second, the role of climate as a threat multiplier in the California drought, Alaskan wildfires, and the Syrian refuge crisis is an increasingly understood issue. Third, again anecdotally, high-profile businesses and their press coverage are changing the reality and the perception of where business sits on climate change. Fourth, though there remains organized opposition, the statements look increasingly hollow and blatantly political, and climate denial as a business decision becomes obvious to all. Climate change is becoming an issue that many see as real in their day-to-day activities and in the world; young people who are environmentally literate and politically aware are assuming their roles in the world.

A year ago, a document that garnered much attention because of the gravitas of the authors is Risky Business: The Economic Risk of Climate Change in the United States. This report uses standard risk-assessment approaches and focuses “on the clearest and most economically significant of these [climate-change] risks: Damage to coastal property and infrastructure from rising sea levels and increased storm surge, climate-driven changes in agricultural production and energy demand, and the impact of higher temperatures on labor productivity and public health.” Next week is Climate Week NYC. I will be attending a Climate Data Summit that is part of the Risky Business Project. My next entry will follow that meeting.


Figure 1: A ton of carbon dioxide in Copenhagen. It’s still about the same size and we have a lot more of them in the atmosphere.

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About The Author
I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.

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