As I write this, the Planet Experts team is 2,485 miles from Paris (or four and a half hours as the Delta flies). According to the digital map I’ve got pulled up on the seat screen in front of me, we’ll be passing over Eirik Ridge soon, which lies somewhere in the sea on the south side of Greenland. At least I think it’s Greenland. It’s an equirectangular projection, so the countries all look like they’ve been smeared across the screen. I have not slept for 24 hours.
Paris 2015: Where the Rubber Meets the Road
COP21 began on November 30 and will finish on December 11. That’s the plan, anyway. But the plan seldom survives a COP. Last year in Lima, COP20 went 48 hours past its deadline (activists staged “die-ins” to demonstrate the consequences of policymakers’ delay) and in the end the biggest issue remained up in the air: Who’s supposed to cut emissions? Is it the big, rich, developed countries that have had free reign to burn coal and oil for the past century, or should it be the new, rising, developing countries that are still playing catchup?
That remains a central issue at COP21. It’s not so much that we need to cut carbon. Every country knows we need to cut carbon. The science is very clear on that. If we don’t, the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere will accumulate to the point that the amount of thermal energy (heat) on our planet will raise average temperatures two degrees Celsius. Doesn’t sound like much, right? Well think again, my friend. How much energy does your thermostat expend just to heat your house? Think about the electricity bill. Now multiply that by the whole damn world.
That’s a lot of energy. To increase the average global temperature to two degrees C, you need to trap a lot more heat than two degrees. And no, that doesn’t mean that global warming will eradicate snow. In fact, it will increase it in several places. That’s because hot air retains moisture very well. So while some places will see increases in droughts, other places will see increases in storms, floods and hurricanes. Basically, the weather’s going to get bad. What’s worse, it’s going to get very unpredictable. And that’s dangerous.
The goal of Paris 2015 is to get nearly 200 countries to agree to limit and reduce the amount of carbon they pump into the atmosphere. Technically, the goal is to keep the planet’s average temperature increase to two degrees C by the end of this century. The truth is, we should be aiming a lot lower than that, but let’s not go into this thing expecting miracles.
What we can hope for is compromise, and maybe a treaty – though as I’ve written before, a treaty might be asking too much of certain countries whose names begin with USA.
Planet Experts Is Here
We made it, folks. Planet Experts is going to Paris. If you’ve shared this journey with us over the past year and a half, we want to thank you from the bottom of our smog-riddled hearts. And if you’re just joining us, or even just check in at the end of each month to read our party-sized listicles, we’re happy to welcome you aboard.
Unfortunately, this is where I leave you. A fellow passenger has taken ill and the stewardess just asked if anyone in this section is a doctor. If none of us are, we may need to take a detour to Angmagssalik, though I’m not sure what good it will do. I’m pretty sure Jon Snow killed Angmagssalik on the last season of Game of Thrones…