On the last day of November of 2015, the 21st United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties (UNFCCC COP 21) will take place in Paris, France.
The UNFCCC COP 21 is the most important United Nations Climate Change Conference in history, which is saying something, because there have already been 20. This seemingly random string of letters is of the utmost importance to the future of this planet and the livelihood of its people.
The goal of these conferences is to set a legally binding and universal reduction on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit the global temperature increase to two degrees celsius above pre-industrial-age levels.
The fact of the matter is that a two degree increase in global temperature is terrifying. Sea levels are rising rapidly worldwide, devastating poor, coastal countries such as Bangladesh. An estimated 18 million residents of Bangladesh will lose their homes and ways of life within a few decades, according to displacementsolutions.org. Displacements of this scale critically devastate governments, leading to unrest and unease.
Along with sea level rise and displacement, a two degree increase in global temperature means global food shortages, water shortages and more frequent and powerful extreme weather events like Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. Alone, these factors are scary, but combined, they indicate that a two degree increase will be disastrous, and will likely force many governments to pool their resources together in order to survive. That being said, anything more than a two degree increase is predicted to cause a runaway climate change effect that will cripple the world beyond feasible recovery. Something has to be done to stop this warming. It is imperative that the world takes action to limit the amount of global temperature increase before the climate is damaged beyond repair, which is why the Paris climate summit is so important.
If a global consensus for a limit on warming is not reached, the climate will spiral out of control until no human effort can save our current way of life.
This U.N. conference is the most important yet, because if a consensus is not reached within the year, the amount of heat due to emissions will likely eventually exceed two degrees. The process for reducing emissions will be gradual, because once strict limits are put into place, countries will likely have several years to scale down their emissions, instead of being expected to do it all at once. So, the sooner a binding reduction on emissions is agreed upon, the better.
Recent events — including the Pope’s climate change encyclical “Laudato si,” President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline and various marches for the betterment of climate change regulations around the world — indicate that a tipping point has been reached within society, and a worldwide agreement to reduce emissions must be reached.
The scientific community nearly unanimously agrees that climate change is real, human-caused and must be prevented from worsening. The U.N. Climate Conference comes at a perfect time to make a difference and is poised to do exactly that.
If it fails to do so, our way of life as we know it will likely soon crumble and collapse. UNFCCC COP 21 is the most important U.N. conference ever, and citizens of the world must realize this. For some countries, this is the last change to save life as they know it.