09.10.2018

    What's the Deal with Paris?

    Source George Kedenburg III
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    What's the Deal with Paris?

    What’s Going On?

    Remember the Paris climate agreement, the broad agreement between all countries (except Syria, Nicaragua, and the US) on how to deal with climate change collectively? Many experts worried about the fate of the agreement after Trump backed out last year. Well, it still goes on and world leaders are meeting in Bangkok this week for a bonus session before the conference in Poland in December, the due date for some actual resolutions. The US sent a team from the state department to negotiate in lieu of Trump. Here are the major issues the world leaders still need to hash out: how to track emissions reductions and how to increase the deal's ambitions over time (not only do the commitments need to be met, but they also have to be greatly exceeded), how to communicate finance commitments (richer countries are required to provide clear commitment of aid to developing countries so that they can take part), and rules for how this plays out in the marketplace. Transparency of the deal is a big concern as well, especially for poorer countries who want to make sure they are treated fairly when it comes to monitoring, reporting and verifying emissions cutbacks.

    Estimated Emissions

    Why You Should Care

    The whole goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep the global temperature from rising 2C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. And its important that we make this happen because anything above that would make the earth pretty uninhabitable. Before the Paris Agreement, the world was on track to miss that goal. The deal is voluntary and the idea is to create some accountability among nations to get cracking on climate change.

    Cry Me A River

    What’s Going On?

    58 trillion gallons (or 88 million Olympic swimming pools) of water from lakes, rivers, and underground aquifers have been used in the US energy sector. Let's throw some more numbers around. A study published this week found that two thirds of this total is used solely to cool power plants (a good portion of this water is returned to its original source, although much warmer). The biggest offenders of using freshwater? Growing corn for ethanol (28%), and coal (22%). Renewables faired among the best with low-carbon wind and solar operations using almost no water to produce electricity.

    Why You Should Care

    Water and energy are tangled up together. Energy production uses water and you need energy to provide clean water. One simple solution is to make vehicles, buildings, appliances, etc more efficient so that they use less electricity and transportation fuel. By making our energy system more resilient and less dependent on water, it will be able to withstand variable water availability and the effects of climate change.

    What You Can Do

    There are many simple every day ways to reduce your water use through conserving energy. Try these five steps first: shut down your computer, choose the right LED lights, unplug unused electronics, use a power strip, and turn off lights when you're not using them.

    The Carbon Loophole

    What's Going On?

    Closing the "carbon loophole" is what environmentalists are calling the next frontier of climate policy. As the United States and Europe are reducing their carbon emissions at home, they have outsourced a good portion of those carbon pollutions abroad. By importing steel, cement and other products from factories in China, India and other developing nations, rather than producing products domestically, we are not making much headway. Experts on the global carbon trade estimate that 25% of the world's total emissions are now being outsourced. About 13% of China's emissions and 20% of India's in 2015 came from producing stuff for other countries. Countries like China have less efficient factories, looser pollution laws and China's power grid relies heavily on coal. If the US were held responsible for the carbon pollution tied to all of the products Americans buy from other countries, the carbon emission numbers would be 14% higher than reported. One proposed solution is for countries to get together to place a global carbon tax that is applied equally. California passed a "Buy Clean" law that requires materials used in public works projects to meet low carbon standards. Other states like Washington and Oregon are trying to implement a similar law.

    Why You Should Care

    Currently under the Paris Agreement, nations are only responsible for carbon pollution emitted within their country's borders. This doesn't make sense to many experts and seems unfair to developing nations who are producing products consumed by other richer countries. Transparency about the environmental impact of various supply chains is needed to start to address this issue.

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