Some esteemed boner over at CNN is declaring an, “…end to fossil fuels.” CNN Digital columnist John Sutter exclaims, “It’s a truly remarkable moment.” I really do read this guy’s articles sometimes. He seems to me like the guy that thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to tuck a golf shirt into a pair of cargo shorts. He just naively glosses over all of the systemic complexities of global climate accords and falls for the nice wrap-up at the end. I imagine that’s how John approaches sex, he just goes straight for the in-and-out and as long as there’s a fulfilling happy ending (for him) all is good in the world. Subsequently, I will try to describe the potential destiny of fossil fuels following the Paris COP21 summit sans the boyish glee of Mr. Sutter.
The climate agreement had to have the flexibility to accommodate the diversity of 195 national interests. Also, it had to compensate for its constricted legal authority with enough aspirational language to motivate government leaders to increase their efforts. Therefore, the language in the final accord repeatedly “urges,” “invites,” “requests,” and “further requests,” nations to take action.
In a way, you can’t blame writers like Sutter when officials like Secretary of State John Kerry come out and say things like, “It is a victory for all of the planet and for future generations.” That sounds like something you hear from a God-like voice at the end of Independence Day or something. (We’ll get back to Secretary Kerry in a minute.) What the accord does is create a system to encourage nations to increase voluntary efforts to curb emissions. Secondly, it provides billions more dollars to help developing countries cope with the transition to a more sustainable economy powered by renewable energy. It also sets a long-term goal of restraining the rise in temperature to “well below” 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That would essentially require the entire world move rapidly toward 100% clean energy, producing only zero-net greenhouse gas emissions between approximately 2050 and 2080.
There’s so much that has to be done to achieve the lofty goals set forth. Critics state three countries are responsible for 50% of the world’s pollution: USA, China, and Brazil. Yet, countless small, developing nations are reaping the consequences of the lifestyles of those three rich developed nations and are often given the burden of affecting change without proper resources. Critics also state that powerful corporations often shirk their social responsibility by watering-down and compromising global accords. As a country, it seems we’ve become the archetypal “man who points at others while his own house is burning.” I wonder if U.S. leaders like John Kerry realize the future of climate change isn’t just flooding or hurricanes, it’s war.