Over the last 60 years increases in greenhouse gas emissions and population resulted in the Earth’s climate changing at a faster rate than humanity prepared for, and now climate change requires global action to mitigate its effects.
375 National Academy of Sciences members brought attention to the need for a global approach to climate change by signing and publishing a letter on September 20, 2016 to highlight the issues of climate change in the United States. They also explained the environmental consequences of what will happen if the United States does not participate in the Paris agreement—a global initiative for countries to enact new laws that result in the decreased global effects of climate change over time.
The basics of climate change can be calculated by the amount of heat coming from the sun, how much heat the surface of the Earth reflects into space, and at what speed greenhouse gases let heat escape the atmosphere. These three things either warm the Earth up or cool it down, said James White, a climatologist and professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, during an on-campus lecture.
Today’s increased greenhouse gases clogged up energy’s exist strategy and it’s now warming the Earth.
“…the burning of oil, coal, and gas also caused most of the historical increase in atmospheric level of heat-trapping greenhouse gases,” according to the letter by NAS members.
Without any changes to current greenhouse gas production the world is in store for extreme changes. The most immediate will be the rise of the sea level on every coast. Past productions have already guaranteed that sea levels will rise 20 meters in the next 500 years. This means that every single coastal city on Earth will be abandoned, adapted, or reinforced for the rise in sea level, said White.
“15 to 20 years ago there were a hand full of nations—the United States, Australia, Europe, etc.—that you would have to get together and say, ‘How we gonna deal with this?’, because that group would be … producing, 85 to 90 percent of … whatever the pollution was. Today it is global and it requires global solutions,” said White.
International agreements bringing countries together, like the United Nation’s Paris agreement, are vital if we do not want to lose more than 20 meters of coastal land.
The countries supporting the Paris agreement commit and are held accountable to actively reduce their carbon output with nationally specific regulations. To be enacted the agreement needs 55 countries whose greenhouse gas emissions cover 55 percent of the world’s total emissions. Since the United States and China—the world’s largest greenhouse gas producers—signed the agreement, the 61 countries committed to the Paris agreement compose almost 48 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emitters.
The majority of Republican Congress members do not support President Obama’s decision to join the Paris agreement.
NAS members said not supporting the agreement could leave the U.S. isolated in international politics and left watching the new world leaders develop non-carbon energy sources. However, some politicians continue to doubt the severity of the situation.
“This latest announcement is the president attempting to once again give the international community the appearance that he can go around Congress in order to achieve his unpopular and widely rejected climate agenda for his legacy,” said Jim Inhofe, the chairman of Senate Environment and Public Works, quoted in a story in Scientific American.
With conflicts like these it is hard not to agree with White—“we [humans] don’t know how to craft global solutions. This is not something we’re not very good at, at all.”