Hundreds of diplomats from around the world are gathered in Katowice, Poland, for the 24th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24), a two-week series of negotiations addressing the problem of rising global temperatures.
The annual meeting is a chance to solidify the rules set in place by the Paris climate agreement, which was adopted at COP21 in 2015. The agreement established ways in which each of the world’s developed nations could reach set climate goals, specifically the goal of preventing global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Between COP21 and COP24 a lot has happened: the United States pulled out of the Paris agreement, and despite the dire warnings of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, more and more policies are being geared toward environmental deregulation.
As COP24 comes to an end, David Anderson, a professor in UT’s Department of Anthropology whose co-authored study on sea-level rise was referenced in the federal climate change assessment, answers some of the most important questions about the impact of the conference and the future of climate action.
Why is this meeting important?
Continued attention at a global scale is critical for solving the crisis our civilization is currently facing. Meetings like COP24 and reports like those by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or the US Fourth National Climate Synthesis are ways of keeping the matter in the public view.
Is it still possible to keep global temperatures from reaching the 2 degrees Celsius goal of the Paris agreement?
It is indeed possible to achieve these goals, but only if immediate serious action is taken to reduce emissions and sequester carbon and other greenhouse gases. The longer we delay, the harder it will be to reverse or slow the pace of change.
What role does the United States plays in reaching the goal? What about other countries?
At the national level I do not expect changes will be adopted in the near term, unless some major event or grassroots activity leads to a groundswell by citizens for change. I am, however, optimistic that as people become increasingly aware of what is happening, they will engage in the political processes necessary to change minds and policies. As result, effective solutions will be found and adopted.
This is a matter that everyone on the planet needs to be addressing. Fortunately more and more people are doing something.
What changes can we expect to see after COP24?
I think public concerns about the impacts of climate change are going to continue to grow as more and more people realize that serious things are happening now and that conditions will only get worse in the years to come if no action is taken.
In the fight against climate change, doing nothing or giving up is not an option for anyone who cares about the well-being of our country, children, and the beauty and diversity of life on our planet.
Andrea Schneibel (865-974-3993, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Will Wells (email@example.com)