By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan
President Barack Obama made a brief statement in the Rose Garden Wednesday, announcing that the global accord to combat climate change, the Paris Agreement, had achieved enough signatories to enter into force. “This gives us the best possible shot to save the one planet we’ve got,” Obama said. At that moment, about 1,200 miles due south, Hurricane Matthew, as reported by Weather Underground, was “reorganizing” and “restrengthening” over the Bahamas, after pounding Haiti and Cuba. Millions along Florida’s east coast and many more in South Carolina were battening down their homes and evacuating. Nature’s fury raged onward, unmoved by the diplomatic efforts to tame her.
The Paris Agreement is a clear measure of the limits of diplomacy. Facing a global threat of almost unimaginable proportions, the best the world’s nations could muster was a voluntary agreement. In pursuit of the goal of limiting the average planetary temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) over preindustrial levels, or, failing that, to limit the increase to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), the agreement includes, Obama said, “a strong system of transparency that allows each nation to evaluate the progress of all other nations.” The voluntary emission reduction pledges that each nation makes will allow countries to “carbon shame” those that don’t behave.
Last week, Robert Watson, the former chair of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, along with a group of climate scientists, released a paper titled, “The Truth About Climate Change.” The scientists state that “current pledges … are far from sufficient to put the world on a pathway to meet the 2 degrees C target,” adding, “the 1.5 degrees C target has almost certainly already been missed because of the lack of action to stop the increase in global GHG emissions for the last 20 years.”