(From NBC / by Benjy Sarlin) — Now that President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change on Thursday, here’s what you need to know about the international effort and how the decision could impact the environment.
What is the Paris Agreement?
The Paris Agreement is a deal reached between 195 countries to gradually reduce emissions that cause climate change in order to prevent a major increase in the global temperatures that could raise sea levels, spark major droughts, and lead to more dangerous storms.
The agreement, which was negotiated in 2015 and took effect in November 2016, was spurred by the overwhelming global scientific consensus that rising global temperatures over the last several decades are caused by man-made activity. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which pools scientific research from around the world, concluded that greenhouse gas emissions were “extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century” with more than 95 percent confidence.
Climate change is already impacting the planet, but the specific goal of the Paris Agreement is to prevent the world from warming by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which scientists warn could have especially damaging consequences.
(From Scientific American / by Nsikan Akpan, Andrew Wagner, PBS NewsHour) — What would really happen if we pull out of this deal? What would the Earth look like in 10, in 20, in 50 years without U.S. involvement in the Paris accord? We asked a field of experts.
MERRYL ALBER, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA MARINE SCIENTIST
It’s really disappointing. I mean this is the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement, and it seems important for the United States to continue as a leader or at least an equal partner at the table, so it would be very distressing to see us pull out.
It’s not whether or not we sign on. It’s really whether or not as a world we take actions to slow down warming. There are specific places like corals and fisheries that are at risk. The oceans play a major role in climate, and so understanding those interactions is important. One of the important roles for coastal systems and coastal wetlands is as a sink for greenhouse gases.
There was a recent paper in Nature Climate Change on the implications of the Paris agreement for the ocean. They did a relative risk assessment, looking at coastal marine organisms and ecosystems and identifying which ones had the largest risk of impacts. They think about corals as being potentially at risk, and then in low latitudes they talk about fin fisheries, sea grasses and then bivalves and then in high latitudes, things like krill.
Again it’s not necessarily whether we stay but whether it’s happening. We need to really be thinking about adaptations in vulnerable areas, so low-lying areas are places that we really need to think about whether it makes sense to have people pull back and move inland.