Pulling out of the Paris Agreement may leave the US out of the new global Internet of climate science
United States President, Donald J. Trump, has just logged off of a global initiative enacted to unify the countries of the world in an effort to conduct legitimate research into, produce feasible technology in hopes of, and increase awareness of the need for, combating global climate change.
You may be more familiar with this epic historical event when referred to, as it is most commonly: The Paris Agreement. It is an unbelievable accord in its existence alone. Indeed, manufacturing a document to which (as of 6-1-17) 147 of the 195 countries (sorry Taiwan) on this planet are willing to affix their sign and seal is no small measure.
The decision has, of course, in the fashion of the current US administration, gone against the grain of the popular consensus. Members of the European Union and the world at large were disheartened and perhaps even disillusioned to some extent by the abrupt change of such a painstakingly plotted course.
Statement by EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner
“Today is a sad day for the global community, as a key partner turns its back on the fight against climate change. The EU deeply regrets the unilateral decision by the Trump administration to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement.”
The new Great War
The two greatest wars in recent memory were referred to as world wars and yet, all of the countries involved in those conflicts would not equate to one-fifth the number of countries that have already ratified the Paris Agreement. It would seem the measures being undertaken to alter our potential fate have become a world war against climate change.
Despite the enormous effort currently being engaged in by nearly all the countries on this big beautiful planet, one will be noticeably absent. Imagine your high school was getting all the students together to renovate the school and save it from collapsing and killing everyone. Now imagine that the entire senior class decides at the last minute to play hooky.
Those left to conduct the repairs would feel justifiably abandoned by the students that have undoubtedly contributed to the most wear and tear of the building. These same students received the largest benefit from that use and were in the best position to be spared any injury due to the fact that they were prepared in their knowledge, not to mention the fact that they would soon be leaving the school altogether.
The point here is that the rest of the students might begin to feel as if the braggadocio of the senior class was reprehensible and perhaps instead of letting them attend the prom the underclassmen would band together and hold their own party, to which the upperclassmen were not invited. This effectively eliminates the consequential reward of the rebuilt school and negates all the senior’s many years working toward that very defining moment.
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the best metaphor; but you get the idea right? Let’s shift gears a bit.
Think globally, protest locally
The US is in a position to act as a true global leader rather than just a global policeman when it suits their own ends. The world has been justifiably outraged with the US for many reasons at many different times in history, but rarely have the people of the states been in such widespread obvious and outspoken protest of the actions taken by their own government leaders. Few times in history have seen such public opposition to any cause unrelated to a war.
Perhaps if we were to frame this issue in a war-like way, the current administration would be more willing to join the fight. But how to make them see this global crisis with the opportunistic slant of a looming, potentially profitable war?
Ronald Reagan loved Star Wars
Republicans love two things: limited federal government by way of states rights and Ronald Regan. Regan was an avid and outspoken global humanist, though, most of the staunchest Republicans are not like to admit this.
He has repeatedly been quoted at UN summits and in speeches referring to the existential threat of an alien force attacking the Earth and how quickly it would unify humanity. In fact, it was Reagan’s administration that initiated the Strategic Defense Initiatives or Star Wars Plan.
Well, former President Regan has gotten his wish; as they say, Mr. President, be careful what you wish for. We now face a perilous threat unlike any in recorded history. Like in the Star Wars film, and Reagan’s hypothetical, the threat is one of extraterrestrial nature. Unlike the hypothetical, human beings are not quite all banding together to find a solution, like say, some Star Wars level moisture farming.
There is a moderately well-received theory that a previously advanced civilization may have been suddenly and nearly entirely eradicated by a sudden shift in the climate around the time of the last Ice Age. As science progresses, the evidence required to support such a theory has become all the more conceivable and convincing.
While you may or may not agree with this potential reality, the fact is that throughout human history, isolated climactic events have had catastrophic impacts on the populations of entire regions. Tsunami, typhoon, earthquake, volcano. Remember the people of Pompeii? Well, they don’t. The only reason we are able to confirm the lost city’s existence is that we found it buried in ash.
It would be safe to assume that the people of that time and place were certain that the volcano was not going to erupt. Why, it hadn’t erupted in living memory! How could it ever happen to them? Sound familiar?
Of course, we know that it did. Keeping that perspective in mind allows us to consider the particularly advantageous position we are in to do something about our own global Vesuvius. The science is clear. The earth is warming.
Just this June we have been informed of a section of an Antarctic Ice sheet that scientists say is about to collapse. When free, it will be recorded as the largest iceberg to ever be known. And you thought the Titanic had problems?
Those that claim the pro-Paris arguments are infected by corporate money should take a look at that money. Scrutinize who truly stands, not to gain the most, but lose the most, should the US take an active role in suppressing this cooperative effort by humanity. An effort which could easily be said to be the first of its kind, ever.
Amazingly, there are those that still argue that it gets just as cold in the winter and just as hot in the summer, so global warming can’t be real. One would think confusing weather with climate is a juvenile mistake to make, and while that is true, more people make it than one might think.
The last three years have been the hottest on record. Each year breaking the previous year’s high. This is no longer a debatable issue. It has not been for some time. The fact that the president of the US thinks that it is a good idea to pull our potential resources away from this problem is almost as big a problem as climate change itself. Well, considering that the latter will affect the entire globe for all time whereas the president’s decision will only affect us all for about 100 years.
But why worry? I mean after that we will probably all be dead anyway. Or at least underwater, right? Well, actually no. Not if the rest of the world has anything to say about it. Oh, and as it happens, they do.
A global effort, minus America
President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, has made it clear in statements both to the press and his fellow representatives that Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord was “a big mistake”, and has said, “the fight against climate change would continue with or without the US.”
These sentiments have been echoed by many of those in positions of government and civil responsibility across the world. How Americans are reacting in response to this matter seems to be general agreement with the messages of the disdain and disappointment, yet determined resolve that have been coming out of the houses of power around the world.
Then, of course, there is the Trump base that sees this as another campaign promise kept. Another check in the coal jobs revitalization column. Unfortunately, this is not quite accurate as the line from here to there doesn’t quite reach. But that we will have to cover another time.
The new Star War: Our fight against the sun
Reagan was not entirely off base with his alien invasion theory. There is solid evidence to support an existential crisis being proper motivation to unite otherwise divided individuals or groups. Aliens attacking might be a more dramatic scene but a global average temperature shift of two degrees Celsius would be enough to irrevocably alter our way of life and result in the deaths of millions. I would say that is pretty dramatic on its own. Maybe global warming needs a solid preview trailer or some intense theme music?
Ask STEP Director and Professor of Geosciences at Princeton University, Micheal Oppenheimer, and he will tell you, with regard to our current dilemma, the course we are on now is, without drastic alteration, simply unavoidable.
Oppenheimer was quoted in a PBS report in 2015 referring to the “magic number” of a two-degree shift in global average temperature and how humanity has existed primarily within a Goldilocks zone of time wherein the average planet-wide variations barely fluctuated beyond one degree Celsius.
With rising in global mean temperatures clocking in at just two degrees the earth would experience sea level rises of up to a dozen feet or more and that would be catastrophic for coastal areas and low-lying communities. The map would certainly be redrawn and that doesn’t begin to touch on the pollution caused by that land then being underwater. If you thought the BP oil spill was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet!
What we are going to do about the sun’s life-giving death rays
Various options and solutions are being offered up throughout the Paris talks and while some of them are certainly both viable and realistic, like cutting greenhouse gas emissions across the board globally, increasing regulations and instituting carbon taxes to promote alternate fabrication and construction methods, others are more science fiction than feasible.
Then there are other ideas that are more in tune with President Reagan’s Star Wars plan. For instance, geoengineering efforts are underway currently to affect weather patterns and manipulate our environment. So, a logical thought has developed, engineer technology to resolve the issue of global warming. It’s so simple it’s almost silly, isn’t it?
According to the BBC, among others, one idea is to create giant solar reflectors that would be positioned in low Earth orbit and would essentially act as mirrors to block anywhere from 2-6% of the sun’s rays. This would be sufficient to cool the planet to a comfortably livable average. Basically a sun umbrella for the planet. Talk about throwing some shade!
Another geoengineering project is slated for more serious review and involves a similar concept, stay with me now, sulfuric acid in the sky. (I know right?) Believe it. A review at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology considered the effect and cost of equipping airliners with tanks of sulfuric acid which would be dispensed in an extremely fine mist and upon mixing with the water vapor result in sulfate aerosols which are efficient little radiation reflectors.
The idea is essentially the same as the space umbrella. Just a lot cheaper and maybe even more effective. Although, admittedly not as cool.
Behavior versus technology
In all of this, consideration should be taken with regard to our approach to solving this global riddle. We have become, as a country and perhaps as a species, dependent upon technology’s quick fix solutions to our everyday problems.
Dishes to be washed? Build a dishwasher. Food cold? Microwave radiation. Can’t hear someone far away? Telegraph, telephone, SMS, email. You get the point.
Having the answer a click away at all times has become something of a disability and a super power for us as human beings. The question we must ask is are we willing to act differently, behave differently, in order to change our situation and improve our lot rather than reach out to the nearest button for an immediate and easy problem solver?
The tendency to reach toward technology to resolve our issues could be problematic for us, but it may also be the answer we need in a way we might not have anticipated. The Paris Agreement is sort of like the newest network. A network of countries instead of computers. An Internet of people and things and ideas that are running an algorithm to crack a piece of malicious code capable of corrupting our entire system. If we are able to use our understanding and obsession with technology as a prism to understand this problem, perhaps we can find a way to capitalize on this newly developed dependence/superpower.
The major problem that we as Americans face now, is that our administrator has the only credentials for access and he has just logged us off and locked us out.
But hey, administrators come and go. The hardware remains.