Last December, the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in France and yielded the Paris Agreement. In April of this year, representatives from 174 countries signed the agreement at the U.N. in New York. Two weeks ago, the agreement technically went into force after 55 nations which together represent 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions ratified the accord. The Paris Agreement will legally go into effect on November 4, an amazingly short 11 months after the conference ended. Dr. Benard P. Dreyer, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, took note immediately:

“Climate change is a public health threat to all children in this country and around the world. The American Academy of Pediatrics commends world leaders for reaching a key threshold earlier this week on the Paris agreement, a historic global commitment to address climate change now cleared to take effect on Nov. 4.”

 

Dr. Dreyer then explained why children happen to be more vulnerable to the health risks that arise from climate change — a point made in July here on The PediaBlog:

“Children are uniquely at risk to the direct impacts of climate changes like climate-related disaster—including floods, droughts and storms—where they are exposed to increased risk of injury, death, disease, loss of or separation from caregivers and increased anxiety, stress and fear. Children also breathe faster than adults, spend more time outside and have lungs that are still developing, making them increasingly vulnerable to the environmental effects of global climate change.”

 

Dr. Dreyer sees the Paris Agreement as a necessary step in beginning to solve the problem of anthropogenic global warming and climate change:

“An agreement of the size and scope of the deal reached in Paris is needed to conquer a public health epidemic as pervasive as global warming, but there is more we can do right here at home to further protect children in the United States from the effects of rising temperatures. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which was supposed to begin taking effect earlier this year, is one such step. Unfortunately, the Plan is currently tied up in our court system. If implemented, it will reduce carbon pollution from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants and go a long way toward making our environment safer for children. Power plants are the nation’s largest carbon pollution source, generating approximately one third of all U.S. greenhouse gas pollution, a leading contributor to climate change.

“The Academy applauds world leaders for the progress made in Paris to protect children from the effects of rising global temperatures, and has joined with other health and medical organizations in the United States to defend the Clean Power Plan and urge its immediate implementation. Pediatricians stand ready to partner in any way to ensure that the air children breathe is clean and safe, no matter what country or community they live in.”

 

Washington Post reporters Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis pour water on Dr. Dreyer’s optimism citing recent climate research and words from prominent climate scientists, who all seem to be saying the same thing: At least a 2º C rise in global temperatures is already “baked in” to future climate forecasts due to current levels of atmospheric CO2:

Now the focus inevitably shifts to more thorny issues — namely, how the world will actually get to a place where it’s possible to limit the warming of the planet to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as the Paris agreement calls for. It’s far easier for countries to sign onto an agreement on paper than it is for them to meet their pledges to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, let alone increase those ambitions over time.

Scientific observers broadly agree that the individual pledges made by countries under the Paris agreement are not strong enough to stave off the worst effects of climate change. Even as countries have moved rapidly to ratify the Paris accord, the window for hitting the agreement’s targets is closing. Or, according to the more pessimistic voices, it could already be closed.

Among those is former NASA scientist James Hansen, who released a paper Tuesday declaring that the world, at 1.3 degrees Celsius above what he terms pre-industrial levels in 2016, is likely already well past any climate safe zone. Hansen believes that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are far too high already and that the planet is as hot as it was in the last interglacial period, over 100,000 years ago. He argues that to stabilize the planet at 1.5 C or 2 degrees C now probably means developing expensive new technologies, which do not exist at scale, to actually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

 

It doesn’t appear that technology is going to help us much in trying to reign back CO2 levels and warming. The climate is changing and adverse health impacts are already being felt around the world. The future is here. We are it. We are on our own and we are running out of choices:

“If the game is lost,
Then we’re all the same.
No one left to place or take the blame.
We can leave this place an empty stone
Or that shinin’ ball we used to call our home.”

 

Tomorrow we will look at the health impacts from this arriving storm.

 

(Google Images)