2015 is unfolding as planet earth’s hottest year on record as U.N. climate treaty negotiations are set to start in Paris this December. The New York City area has just experienced its third warmest August since local record keeping began.
In response, climate activists are convening at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this Thursday night to propose a roadmap for New York’s (and this country’s) complete transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy.
Now is the time to “turn off the flow of carbon. The engineers are telling us that we are ready to turn on the abundant flow of sun and wind,” the event’s organizer, 350NYC.org, states.
[350.org gets its name from the finding by climate scientists that in order to avoid the more extreme effects of climate change, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere needs to remain below 350 parts per million. The current level is 400 ppm.]
The majority of greenhouse gases which drive climate change, such as carbon dioxide, come from burning fossil fuels to produce energy, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Deforestation, industrial processes, and some agricultural practices also emit gases into the atmosphere, they note.
Speakers at thursday’s event will include:
- Bill McKibben, author and co-founder of 350.org,
- Naomi Klein, journalist and author of This Changes Everything,
- Reverend Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus,
- Cynthia Ong of LEAP – Borneo, and
- Eddie Bautista of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.
NYS plans to slash greenhouse gas emissions- will it be enough?
It will be really interesting to hear what climate activists have to say Thursday night about the progress we are making here in New York on combating climate change.
To date, New York State has reportedly cut greenhouse gas emissions 12 percent from 1990 levels, and it says it plans to achieve a 40 percent reduction in the next 15 years.
2015: the hottest year on record
As Scientific American reported on August 20th:
“In data released Thursday, NOAA [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] measured July at 1.46°F above the 20th century July average. Because July is also climatologically the warmest month of any year, this was also the warmest month the globe has seen since 1880, topping the previous record-holder, July 1998, by 0.14°F.
For the year-to-date, 2015 is 1.53°F above the 20th century average, and 0.16°F ahead of 2010, which had the previous warmest January through July.”
Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.4°F over the past century, and is projected to rise another 2 to 11.5°F over the next hundred years, says the EPA. “Small changes in the average temperature of the planet can translate to large and potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather.”
What’s the goal for this year’s climate negotiations?
Starting November 30th, France will host the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11), otherwise known as “Paris 2015.”
The goal is to keep average global temperatures from climbing 3.6°F higher than the 20th century average.
“The aim is to reach, for the first time,” says COP21, “a universal, legally binding agreement that will enable us to combat climate change effectively and boost the transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies.”
While there is ongoing debate about whether remaining below a 3.6°F increase is even realistic, scientists say that a temperature rise of that magnitude would lead to “drastic changes,” such as significant ice sheet loss in Greenland and Antarctica.
Mitigation and adaptation
Indeed, the ice sheet in Greenland -the second largest glacial ice mass on Earth- is already experiencing a “significant” shrinkage in thickness…”contributing to sea level rise.” The freshwater stored in the Greenland ice sheet has a sea level equivalent of 24 feet (7.4 meters).
Permanent melting of the ice sheet would not only dramatically increase sea level, but also likely alter ocean circulation patterns and the global climate, say scientists.
For that reason, says COP21, the agreement hammered out in Paris must focus equally on mitigation (the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming) and adaptation to the climate change already underway.
The complexity of such a global negotiation is only rivaled by what is at stake.
“These efforts must take into account the needs and capacities of each country,” says COP21. “The agreement will enter into force in 2020 and will need to be sustainable to enable long-term change.”