Saturday, April 23, 2016

With the Paris Agreement Signed, Hard Work Begins

Secretary of State John Kerry signed the Paris climate accord on Friday at the United Nations, with his 2-year-old granddaughter, Isabel. (Credit: Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
With 175 flourishes of pens, diplomats and leaders representing more than half the world’s countries on Friday gave a global effort to slow climate change a ceremonial nudge forward.

The signing in New York of the Paris Agreement, the United Nations climate treaty finalized during high-profile negotiations in France in December, was a symbolic overture to years of hard work that still lie ahead.

“The time has come to turn aspirations into concrete actions,” Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, said during a speech at the U.N. on Friday before the signing ceremony.

The treaty formally aims to keep warming to well below 2°C (3.6°F) compared with preindustrial times, and to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F), which would be an overwhelmingly difficult challenge.

Nations haven’t yet committed to the demanding steps needed to achieve those ambitious temperature goals.

“The long-term goal that was captured in Paris was more ambitious than many expected,” said Alex Hanafi, a senior Environmental Defense Fund attorney who tracks climate talks.  “Now the challenge is translating that aspiration into reality.”

Global average temperatures have risen more than 1°C (1.8°F) since the Industrial Revolution, helping push sea levels up by more than half a foot and contributed to worsening heat waves and droughts around the world.

The urgency of the global warming crisis is “only becoming more pronounced,” John Kerry, President Obama’s lead diplomat, said during his speech to fellow U.N. delegates, pointing to a string of recent global temperature records.

Last year was the hottest year on record, driven in large part by climate change.  Temperature records were broken in each of the first three months of 2016, including some of the most abnormally warm months ever recorded.

Among other impacts, the heat fueled the worst global coral bleaching event on record, escalating fears about the very future of the Great Barrier Reef.

“None of what we have to achieve is beyond our capacity technologically,” Kerry said.  “The only question is whether it is beyond our collective resolve.”

Read more at With the Paris Agreement Signed, Hard Work Begins

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