The United States has officially notified the United Nations of its withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.
President Trump announced his intent to withdraw on the campaign trail and again in January 2017. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Monday that the administration had begun the formal, one-year withdrawal process that day. U.N. rules declared Nov. 4 the first day formal withdrawal was possible, according to the BBC.
If a new president is elected in 2020, he or she may choose to reenter the agreement, which intends to minimize global temperature increase by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in participation nations.
In the meantime, over 3,000 U.S. cities, counties, states, businesses, tribes and institutions have declared intent to cut emissions in line with the agreement via the “We Are Still In” declaration. In Iowa, 26 parties have signed on including…
The cities of Des Moines, Iowa City, Dubuque and Fairfield
Johnson and Linn Counties
Coe College, Grinnell College, Kirkwood Community College, Luther College, Iowa State University and the University of Iowa
On a tour to premiere a new film on climate change, multi-billionaire and presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg made three stops this week: New York, London, and Iowa.
The film, titled “Paris to Pittsburg,” is a response to President Trump’s plans to pull out of the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement. It features the efforts of individuals who have taken it upon themselves to fight climate change in the absence of government urgency. Iowans Dan and Faith Lutat of the Iowa Lakes Community College are featured as faces of the college’s wind turbine and energy technology program.
Bloomberg chose to visit Des Moines Tuesday in part to recognize the state’s efforts in renewable energy. He wrote in a Des Moines Register Guest column, “Iowans understand what too many leaders in Washington don’t: Fighting climate change is good for our health and our economy. ” According to him, if every state installed as much wind power as Iowa, the offset carbon emissions would almost bring the U.S. to its Paris Agreement goals for 2025.
He also visited the swing-state to test the waters for a potential run for presidency in 2020. Throughout the day he visited different parts of the state to talk renewable energy and gun control. Well aware of Bloomberg’s political motive, Left-wing protestors joined the screening audience to question the environmentalist’s stance on social issues such as stop-and-frisk policing and his own billionaire status.
Bloomberg Philanthropies produced the film in partnership with award-winning company Radical Media, and National Geographic will officially broadcast it Dec. 12.
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called on global leaders to ramp up their Paris Accord commitments and to do it soon in a speech he gave September 10 at the U.N. headquarters in New York.
“If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us,” he said, as quoted in Al Jazeera.
Guterres pointed to record-breaking temperatures and devastating natural disasters like Hurricane Maria as evidence that climate change is outpacing human efforts to reduce it. He called on leaders outside of national government, like industry leaders and local officials, to take initiative as well.
The U.N Paris Accord, signed by almost 200 countries, aims to keep global temperatures at least 2 degrees Celsius below a pre-industrial baseline by the end of the century. 2020. As of right now, many countries are not on track to meet these targets. Even if the Accord met its full potential, many critics argue the reductions it outlines would not actually meet the 2 degree mark.
Guterres spoke of the agreement, saying “What we still lack, even after the Paris Agreement, is leadership and the ambition to do what is needed,” as quoted in the New York Times. He asked leaders to step up and meet their Paris Accord promises to show citizens of their countries they “care about the people whose fate they hold in their hands.”
The next U.N climate summit, COP24, will be held in Poland this December. At this summit, world leaders who have heeded Guterres’ warning will have the opportunity to announce plans to increase their fossil fuel emission reduction targets.
Local governments continue to stand up against President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.
Iowa City mayor Jim Throgmorton recently signed two letters stating the city’s intention to uphold the principles of the Paris Accord — one from the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, and the other by the Climate Mayors, which was signed by 292 other mayors in the U.S. The Johnson County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution stating a similar objective at their meeting last week.
“We hope other counties will sign on as well,” Mike Carberry, vice chair of the supervisors, said to The Daily Iowan. “Since the president and the country aren’t going to show leadership, then local governments have to do it — cities, counties, maybe even states.”
Earlier this month, Trump announced his intent to ditch the agreement between 195 countries to reduce emissions to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
Both Iowa City and Johnson County have a reputation of being particularly progressive, especially in terms of environmental action. Johnson County has built several Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified buildings, increased its dependence on solar power, and implemented recycling and waste reduction practices. Iowa City set a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas output by 80 percent by 2050, established a committee aimed at climate action, and improved access to recycling and composting.
“In terms of the U.S. as a whole does, does it matter what Iowa City does?” Throgmorton said to The Daily Iowan. “No, I don’t think it matters, but if you combine all these cities in the United States … that adds up. It feels very powerful to me to know that what we’re doing is being done in affiliation with so many cities and mayors around the world … It gives me a sense of working for the common good together with millions of people.”
The authors of the report, Senior Advisor Brian Deese and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Jason Furman, point out that carbon pollution steadily decreased while the U.S. economy continued to improve from 2008-2015. During those years, carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. dropped by 9.5 percent while the economy grew by 10 percent.
These trends defy an old reality: increased carbon emissions means increased economic output.
Research from the International Energy Agency demonstrate that the same is true on an international scale. For example, although carbon dioxide emissions stayed the same in 2014 and 2015, the global economy grew.
The statement said that the international community took an important step in combating climate change when the Paris Agreement took effect in 2015. However, the report notes, “But Paris alone is not enough to avoid average global surface temperature increases that climate scientists say are very risky — additional policies that reduce CO2 emissions are needed, in the United States and elsewhere, to ensure that these damages are avoided.”
Failure to address climate change with meaningful policy is costly over time. The report expresses the estimated annual economic damages due to climate change as a fraction of the global gross domestic product from 2050 through 2100. “Climate damage cost” can be thought of as what all nations can expect to pay per year in terms of economic output due of the changing climate. These costs include sea level rise, illness and death related to heat, pollution, tropical diseases, and the effects of rising temperatures on agricultural productivity.
Figure 1 does not include those effects of climate change that are difficult to quantify, such as the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather. The statement said, “Failing to make investments in climate change mitigation could leave the global economy, and the U.S. economy, worse off in the future.”
The report ended with a warning:
“In deciding how much to reduce carbon pollution, and how quickly to act, countries must weigh the costs of policy action against estimates of avoided climate damages. But we should be clear-eyed about the fact that effective action is possible, and that the economic and fiscal costs of inaction are steep.”
Even though human outputs of CO2 remained steady from 2014 through 2015, a particularly strong El Niño in 2015 caused a dramatic increase in greenhouse gas levels. El Niño is a weather phenomenon characterized by especially warm temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean that have far-reaching weather effects. In 2015, the phenomenon caused drought in tropical regions around the globe, which negatively affected the amount of gases that forests, vegetation, and oceans were able to absorb.
WMO released this report just before the next round of climate talks associated with the Paris Agreement, a climate change mitigation plan signed by 200 nations last December. Participating countries committed to limiting temperature increases to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Taalas said, “The year 2015 ushered in a new era of optimism and climate action with the Paris climate change agreement. But it will also make history as marking a new era of climate change reality with record high greenhouse gas concentrations.”
The 200 nations will meet in Morocco next month to forge a path forward.