U.N. Holds Conference on Climate Change in France

On Nov. 30, in Paris, France the U.N. Conference on Climate Change began, and it will conclude on Dec. 11. According to the COP21 website, this is the 21st U.N. Conference on Climate Change, and there are representatives from any and all nations that wish to take action on behalf of the environment.

Dr. Ken Mitchell, associate professor of political science,  speculated on the ability for such different countries to work together, “The Paris conference reveals the potential for global governance, as well as the challenges for global governance. The problems and challenges have been identified, but science cannot take us much further. We are now in the realm of global policy making, and this is a realm we know very little about.”

Zachary Dix, a masters student at the University of Iceland studying Environmental Sustainability, attended the conference said “The conference brings together countries of the world to create a document that is internationally binding with the United Nations.  The nations come together and used the scientific knowledge about how to mitigate and adapt to climate change and try to reach a consensus internationally on how to handle climate change.”

According to Dix and the COP21 website, a large aspect of the negotiations is how many degrees Celsius the world temperature my increase. Dix explained, “A lot of the previous agreements have aimed to increase no more than 2 degrees Celsius from pre industrial levels.” He said, “However the recent increases in intense weather events and the severity of sea level rise is displacing nations such as Micronesia as we speak; these islands are literally sinking and the people are being forced to relocate almost immediately. Consequently, now the majorities of countries are feeling as though 2 degrees Celsius is insufficient and need to move it to a 1.5 degree goal.  Scientists have been studying the global temperature, and in their latest report they started degree scenarios where they emit different amount of greenhouse gasses to create global temperature scenarios. Right now the big thing they’re pushing for is a scenario of no more than a global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

Small islands such as Micronesia are suffering due to the rise of sea level caused by climate change. Dr. Michael Schwebel of Monmouth University and the New Jersey Sea Grant explained the conference and the climate’s effect on small islands further, “The nations of the world are trying to solidify a global approach to addressing global climate change on behalf of all kinds of countries and peoples. We must look at both developing and industrialized countries and understand their different points of view; in either setting emission limits or types of development permitted because any global agreement has to take all the players into account.”

He continued, “One example I can give is the islands of the globe. The islands are not responsible for 99 percent of what is causing the increased emissions, but they are disproportionately affected by the emissions of others. On the other hand, with these larger countries, if the effects of climate change hit them, they have more ‘adaptive capacity’ to absorb the shocks.”

Considering larger countries are more capable of coping with environmental calamities, it can be assumed that developing countries do not have the same advantage. This adds equality issues into the already complex world of climate change.

Dix explained how climate change and the environment can play into equality, “The main obstacles of achieving that are establishing sufficient support and transfer of knowledge of research from first world countries to developing countries. So perhaps the biggest trick right now is to figure out how to finance low carbon development of the developing world; both for the sake of the climate and humankind generally. This field is no longer about the climate, this is an inequality issue because not all people have the resources to combat the challenges the environment creates such as drought. This is not just about saving the planet; this is also about saving human lives.”

Sal Pololillo, junior political science student was asked what he thought about the current negotiations, “It’s lit,” he said, “these politicians are saving the planet and putting serious emphasis on issues that are not given enough consideration.” The conclusions of the Conference on Climate Change will not be made until Dec. 11, however it is evident that the result of these negotiations are about more than saving the earth we walk on.