Science & Technology

Lawmakers attack COP21 agreement

On Dec. 12, 2015, the COP21 climate meeting concluded as representatives from 196 nations voted on an agreement that would help lessen the impact of climate change, thus pledging to adapt the necessary changes in their respective nations.

Conservation International, an U.S. nonprofit environmental organization, hailed the deal as “the single most important collective action for addressing climate change ever agreed upon.”

Yet, despite global governments hailing the deal as a step forward, U.S. lawmakers criticized the terms of the agreement, calling it “a bad deal for America.”

First, the nations pledged to limit global rise in average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius, though the actual goal stands at 1.5 degrees Celsius. Second, each country is required to limit their greenhouse gas reduction. Third, the developed countries agreed to provide $100 billion a year to the developing countries in order to help fund their effort to meet the terms of the agreement.

Each country is required to release a periodic report on its progress toward achieving the goals established at the conference. This will ensure that each country is abiding by the pledges their leaders made. The requirement might have been directed at the developing countries in order to ensure that their share of the $100 billion is used to reduce carbon emissions.

On Dec. 12, President Barack Obama delivered a statement on the Paris Climate Agreement.

“The Paris Agreement established the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis,” Obama said in his speech. “From Alaska to the Gulf Coast, to the Great Plains, we’ve partnered with local leaders, we’re working to help their communities protect themselves from some of the most immediate impacts of the changing climate.”

As an attempt to ward off climate change opponents, Obama pointed out that the effort increased the amount of jobs available.

“We’ve seen the longest streak of private sector job creation in our history. We’ve driven our economic output to an all-time high, while driving our pollution down to lowest levels in two decades,” Obama said.

A Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a hearing on Feb. 2, in which Chairman Lamar Smith made a statement on how the deal affects the U.S. economy. His claims contrasted those made by Obama in December.

Smith claimed that the pledge Obama made would increase electricity costs, ration energy and slow economic growth. He also claimed that Americans would not produce any environmental benefits by upholding the pledge.

Some witnesses raised concerns as to whether Obama held the legal authority to sign the agreement, claiming that it would first have to pass through the Senate before any changes were implemented. Their argument stems from two facts: the monetary contribution to the cause, as well as the desired effect.

The United States is required to contribute to the $100 billion fund for the developing countries, which will come from taxpayers.

The second issue that the witnesses raised was the effectiveness of the agreement. According to the statistics mentioned during the hearing, Obama’s pledge would only prevent a temperature rise of one-fiftieth in the next 85 years. The sea level rise would be reduced by mere one-hundredth of an inch.

But these points overlooked a major element of the agreement—the United States is not the only country that is contributing to the cause. With the dedication of each country involved, achieving the goal seems much more plausible.

“No nation, not even one as powerful as ours, can solve this challenge alone,” Obama said in his speech.

February 15, 2016

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