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What on Earth are world leaders doing to combat climate change?

Posted on 02.22.2017

Climate change, which is a direct result of pollution and over emission of greenhouse gasses, is not a singular problem caused by a single person or nation and will not be fixed by one nation. Climate change is a world problem.

The Paris Agreement, in effect since November of 2016, sought to bring 197 countries together to draft a resolution to significantly curb the emission of greenhouse gasses. So far, 132 countries have ratified the document. As countries worked together to create the language for the document, each had a good deal of influence in how much it planned to reduce its emissions. Developed countries also planned to send varying amounts of aid to developing nations for their conversions to alternative energy and enforcement of regulations.

Graphic by Zoë Berg

Graphic by Zoë Berg

The United States, which is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, is often portrayed as the villain in climate change negotiations on the world stage. However, under the Obama administration things began to look better as the Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that the Environmental Protection Agency would be required to regulate pollutants under the Clean Air Act of 1963.

In the Paris Agreement, created and ratified under President Obama, the United States pledged to cut greenhouse gas pollution from the 2005 levels between 26 and 28 percent by the year 2025. In comparison, the European Union pledged to cut emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030.

The 28-nation EU also set the bar for the rest of the world by giving the largest amount of money to less financially stable countries to prepare for, and deal with, climate change. However, with Brexit and the financial crisis in Greece looming, the EU’s ability to keep its word is called into question.

Even Mexico outshined the United States by promising to reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2020, with the availability of financial resources and technology transfer.  The United States also could learn from other countries around the world, such as India, which pledged to double its tax on coal and has allocated nearly $6 billion toward reforestation programs.

China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, committed to “strictly controlling public investment flowing into projects with high pollution and carbon emissions both domestically and internationally”, according to the agreement. The Chinese government also pledged that by the year 2030, 20 percent of energy in the country would come from non-fossil fuel sources.

Russia, which has yet to ratify any binding pledges to reduce emissions, is the only major country that has a large population of climate change deniers, along with the United States. The biggest challenge Russia faces is modernizing its economy, which relies heavily on its fossil fuel industries.

Climate change deniers in the United States could have a detrimental effect on our world atmosphere. The United States should be setting an example for developing and smaller nations, not trying to get by with the bare minimum.

The new Trump administration has me worried that things will only get worse, considering the newly appointed head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, who has repeatedly sued the agency and other government entities concerning environmental regulations, in cooperation with fossil fuel companies. We should all try to become more vocal for climate change reform before it is too late.

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