Currently, over 150 world leaders, according to some the largest gathering of world leaders in human history, are in Paris discussing the important issue of Climate Change. Each nation present has expressed a deep interest in combatting Climate Change and coming together, which is good because the stakes are incredibly high. Currently these world leaders are trying to come to an agreement that will limit global temperature increase to about two degrees Celsius. This two degree limit marks a branching off point wherein any further climate change becomes catastrophic and unpredictable.
Not that the two degree mark means we are in the clear. The two degree mark is a manageable mark that limits the disastrous effects of Climate Change to an extent but is a viable limit for the world to hit. With so much at stake, the summit in Paris is truly a critical moment in human history that requires such international cooperation.
The solution to Climate change is truly a global one. While big polluting countries (Europe Union Nations, the United States, India and China) and those countries with the longest and most prolific histories of polluting (looking at you Western world) need to drastically cut their emissions and leave approximately two-thirds of the oil in the ground where it is, these cuts will not be enough. Developed countries will need to help finance other countries’ efforts to skip the phase in development that requires fossil fuels. India is a great example. Failure on the part of these larger polluting countries can have disastrous effects on smaller nations, even posing an existential crisis to some nations and peoples.
India is the world’s largest democracy and a large user of focal fuels. However, this is a rapidly growing country that will need tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars in financial aid to fully transition to renewable energy in time to meet the global two degree goal.
It is very encouraging to see that all of these world leaders have shown great interest in this issue and in finding a solution. The fact that so many nations that usually do not see eye to eye on issues are in agreement is an uplifting sign that an agreement may be reachable despite the United States’ checkered past on this issue and the global community’s inability to reach agreements in the past.
But what is most worrying is the politics happening here at home in the U.S. While there is no doubt that any of the Democratic candidates will be just as good, if not better, on environmental policy as President Obama, there is a dearth of support for environmental reform in the GOP field. In fact the only candidate that seems to show any interest in the issue is Senator Lindsay Graham who has about the same chances of winning the nomination as I do. For the most part the Republican field is skeptical of climate change or rejects the premise that it is a crisis.
Most recently and ironically, Chris Christie has stepped into the limelight attacking climate change. This is most ironic. For starters, Chris Christie can base some of his beltway popularity on his handling of Superstorm Sandy, which earned him a good deal of media credibility despite lackluster returns at home and a deep dissatisfaction on the part of New Jersey residents of his handling of the aftermath of the storm. Christie rejects the premise that climate change is a crisis despite the fact that scientists have shown parts of New Jersey and New York that were flooded because of rising sea levels that were occurring when Sandy hit.
But adding to this irony is the fact that this is something of a moment for Christie, who received an endorsement form the New Hampshire Union Leader, a notable newspaper in an early voting state that, admittedly has had an iffy record in presidential picks. The basis for this endorsement was Christie’s foreign policy and national security stances. But what Christie fails to grasp is that the Syrian refugee crisis, like Sandy, was exacerbated by Climate Change. While sea level rises made Sandy a worse disaster than it would have been, the drought in Syria only served to intensify the Syrian civil war and ensuing refugee crisis.
Climate Change is a high stakes battle for the survival of mankind and many of its peoples and populous cities. While not as flashy as ISIS or Al Qaeda, it is still a deep problem. When an overwhelming number of scientists and the Pentagon view Climate Change as a national security threat, perhaps it should be treated with some respect. Shame on Chris Christie and the Republicans for their dereliction of duty on this subject, and thank you President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Senator Sanders and Governor O’Malley for being willing to lead on this issue