100 days until the Paris climate talks. Are we ready?

In 100 days, the U.N. will host an international conference, called COP21, to try and figure out how the world can curb it’s carbon problem. More info on the conference, along with a short video, can be found here.

In 2015 COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. (Source)

The climate talks, and the rest of the world’s leaders, are operating under a 2°C parameter. IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports have created a global “carbon budget,” which is “the amount of carbon dioxide emissions we can emit while still having a likely chance of limiting global temperature rise to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.”

Over the past few months, many nations have been submitting their climate pledges in support of the COP21 conference and the 2°C limit. According to Carbon Brief (updated Aug. 19th), 56 countries have already submitted their pledges, most of which include percentages of emissions reductions these countries expect to achieve by 2025 or 2030. The U.S., for example, has pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% by 2025 compared to 2005, making its “best effort” to reach the 28% target.

Carbon Brief's map of climate pledges. August 2015.
Carbon Brief’s map of climate pledges. August 2015.

These early pledges serve as a way for the U.N. to take stock of what these countries should be pledging to in a grand climate agreement in Paris.

Religious figures have even jumped into the conversation, with the Pope highlighting how human actions have contributed to the warming of the planet, as well as Islamic leaders citing “excessive pollution” as a reason to tackle climate change head on.

Paris, France - hope of the COP 21 Climate Talks in December, 2015.
Paris, France – hope of the COP 21 Climate Talks in December, 2015.

But there are two parts to making a worldwide climate deal in Paris.

First, can we actually make a deal?

The last climate change convention, COP15 in Copenhagen, didn’t go well. According to Ensia, “Those talks ended up with progress on several important fronts, such as getting developed and developing countries to jointly agree on emissions targets for the first time, but were marred by scenes of chaos in the final hours and bitter recriminations among governments.”

Hopefully this has changed. With new scientific research on the table, as well as an increased urgency from the European Union, scientists and religious leaders, we can all hope that our country’s leaders are actually serious this time about cutting carbon emissions worldwide.

In addition, a lot of climate pledges have been accepted by citizens and grassroots in their respective countries as great efforts.

However, some have not.

Australia has submitted a climate pledge to reduce emissions “26 to 28 percent below the levels of 2005 by 2030,” which was immediately bashed by environmental groups for being too timid.

Japan’s pledge has also been called weak. The 5th largest greenhouse gas emitter has pledged a “25.4 per cent cut by 2030 from a 2005 baseline.”

Emissions from a power plant in China.
Emissions from a power plant in China.

And second, will it be enough?

Reuters reports that rich nations could do better in creating emissions cuts.

We all know what climate change is doing to our planet. Record high temperatures are being broken (with 2015 likely to be the warmest year on record), drought-fueled wildfires ravage the Western U.S. (breaking records), and accelerated melt in Antarctica is likely to raise sea levels even more – and that’s just our news coverage this week. (For more where that came from – in the form of a shameless plug of my employer – check out Climate Central’s news channel.)

Some wonder if the 2°C target is enough to slow the problems associated with global warming, which include, but are not limited to, extreme weather, increased tropical storms, heat waves, wildfires, drought, flooding, sea level rise and heavy precipitation, which all affect humans in one way or another.

An Indian heat wave in June killed 2,300+ people. New Climate Central projections show that rising seas up to 6 feet will cause $17.5 billion in property damage combined in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Clean-up efforts are still going on in New England after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in October 2012.

The warming of our planet, due to carbon emissions, will cause many of these issues in years to come. The only question is, will our carbon emissions limits be enough to slow them?

You can follow along on Twitter with @COP21 and #RoadToParis.

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