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The Paris agreement signals that deniers have lost the climate wars

Posted on 14 December 2015 by dana1981

In stark contrast to the shortcomings of previous international climate negotiations, the Paris COP21 talks have ended with an agreement stronger than most expected. Graham Readfearn summarized the agreement for The Guardian.

The guts of the agreement hang off the so-called “long-term goal” that commits almost 200 countries to hold the global average temperature to “well below 2°C” above pre-industrial levels and to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”.

The long-term goal also states that “in accordance with best available science” that “in the second half of this century” the world should get to a point where the net emissions of greenhouse gases should be zero.

The deal also puts into the agreement the 186 pledges submitted to the United Nations to stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels.

Those pledges on their own will miss the 1.5C target by a long way, but the agreement also includes a rule where nations must renew their pledges every five years. Each pledge “will represent a progression”.

In short, leaders from around the world have agreed that we must do everything we can to slow global warming as much as we can, submitted pledges to begin the process of cutting carbon pollution, and created a framework by which those pledged cuts can be expanded and strengthened to achieve the goal of limiting the damages of human-caused climate change. There was unanimous agreement about this including from Saudi Arabia, China, India, and the USA. President Obama hailed the agreement at the White House.

 President Obama discusses the COP21 agreement at the White House.

While the Paris talks were ongoing, a group of fossil fuel-funded climate contrarians held their own sparsely-attended movie event and “counter-conference.” Their ringleader Marc Morano complained of the COP21 conference, “They haven’t been too friendly to sceptics this year.”

Indeed, those who deny the scientific evidence were ignored; instead, scientific arguments in favor of an even more stringent target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures won the day.

If we’re honest, the climate “debate” and science denial are not actually about science. Most who reject the consensus of 97% of climate experts do so because they prefer the status quo and object to the proposed solutions. This was made clear by a 2014 study showing that Republicans are far more likely to reject the science when told the solution involves government regulation than when they’re told free market solutions are available. It’s ideology, not science.

campbell kay

From Campbell & Kay 2014, “Solution aversion: On the relation between ideology and motivated disbelief” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2014, Vol. 107, No. 5, 809–824. Published by the American Psychological Association.

Thus the climate wars have been about policy, not science, and international climate negotiations are the ultimate battlefield. To this point, contrarian efforts to undermine these negotiations have succeeded, but in Paris they failed. The whole world agreed, we need to stop delaying and start getting serious about preventing a climate crisis. We’ve turned the corner; climate denial is no longer being taken seriously. The world has moved on, and contrarians have become irrelevant relics of the fossil fuel age.

The good news is that while the Paris agreement didn’t include specific policies, there are indeed free market solutions available. For example, there’s a consensus among economists that a carbon tax is the most efficient way to cut carbon pollution, and if made revenue-neutral, represents a small government solution that many conservatives support, with studies showing it would be good for the economy even without considering the economic benefits of minimizing climate damages.

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Comments 1 to 38:

  1. The Paris agreement is so much better than I had feared. I would have popped a bottle of French bubbly except I didn't want to emit more CO2. This is a very important first step.

    A votre Santé!

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  2. Fantastic! Assuming countries keep their agreement it is 1/2 the battle. Next is biome regeneration to actually sequester more carbon or the goals won't be reached.

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  3. From Carbon Tracker 2013 report

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  4. Well... deniers would eventually loose anyway, since they're playing against the facts. But I guess the delay itself was already an achieved goal for them.

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  5. Before everyone does a slow clap and fade to credits.... After speaking tlarge numbers of people about climate change, I have come to the conclusion that the real problem isn't deniers, or the propagandists... It's the average person. Something drastic must be done to go above the noise of everyday existence that drowns out the siren from the future.

    I was thinking the best way to accomulish this is to have all world climate scientists to go on strike until a carbon tax is instituted. the point of all of this research is to base policy decisions on it. This climate agreement isn't nearly enough and we all know that. Imagine the average persons reaction if it's announced. 

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  6. Pleasant as it is to bask in the euphoria generated by the conclusions at the Paris COP21 conference te devil in this case will be in compliance.  There are no specific policies, no penalties for not meeting agreed targets and emission cuts are not legally binding.. There's a lot of loopholes to be exploited and in reality  the 2C target is unlikely to be reached let alone the 1.5C target in the proposed time frame.  Good to be euphoric but sensible to temper euphoria with a significant slug of reality.

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    Moderator Response:

    [GT] 'p' added. Left the subsequent comments in place - we all need a little humour from time to time.

  7. Quite right, Ryland. Pleasing as the Paris Gabfest was, there was more than a hint of the system of the old Stalinist "Five Year Plans" ~ where Politically Correct goals were lauded and trumpeted . . . to be followed by severe under-performance . . . until the pronunciamentos of the following Five Year Plan.

    But at least, there is some indication that the convoy intends to steam in the same direction, even if at different speeds. Not many Flat-Earth political Captains remaining to assert that the ships will eventually fall off the edge of the world.

    I also like your comment: "There's a lot of looholes [sic] to be exploited . . . "  ~ très amusant, non? Dr Freud would doubtless categorize as anal-retentive, those political leaders who are actually closet deniers of climate science?    :-)

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  8. Thanks eclectic I wish that I was more careful and you less observant as I now feel very mortified.  Perhaps the moderator (who is not unfamiliar with editing my posts) will rescue me with a small p.  

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  9. The only thing accomplished was job security for the bureaucrats in attendance.

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  11. '....deniers have lost the climate wars.'

    'In short, leaders from around the world have agreed that we must do everything we can to slow global warming as much as we can,......'


    Well I must say I don't understand those sentiments at all.  My understanding of the world and what happened in Paris would come up with a statement more along the lines of this.

     "Once again world leaders failed to live up to their responsibilities of looking out for the good of the populace and bowed to short term political and corporate interests."

    This 'agreement' is worthless for all the obvious reasons.  It does not advance us in any meaningful way beyond Kyoto.  Anyone who has paid attention to what countries say and then later do knows that there is no commitment there and many lies have been told.  Look at what people are doing not at what they are saying.  One knows for certain that what we will get is much less than the text of the 'agreement' and the agreement is for numbers which spell disaster.  Bright green BS is no more useful to us than fossil based obstruction.

    We will not be making progress until there are 'actions' which implement a dialogue on the need to drastically reduce population numbers (not just the growth rate), reduce affluence (not raise it), reduce consumption (not raise it), ban burning coal (and use force to make it happen), etc.  All we have here is more wordsmithing like we have seen for the last 20 years.

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  12. Wyoming ( @11 ) , you are much too pessimistic. The situation is not black-and-white;  not all-or-nothing. The Kyoto agreement was (and is) rather effete, yet the Paris agreement shows signs of being halfway realistic. And sure, the global warming crisis [ or is "gradual crisis" a better term? ] is something which justifies much greater action : greater action which could be taken without significant harm to the world economy. Nevertheless . . . half a glass is better than an empty glass.

    You are of course right, in that "drastically reduced population" would be of considerable benefit here. But that is not going to happen by choice, is it? Halting or reducing the population surge is (politically) unspeakable.

    And you are right, about another great unspeakable : and that is, doing something to curb "Growth". The world's economic Growth is such a deity, that it is barely permissible to mention growth without using a capital "G".  Political leaders are quite locked-in to praising & pursuing "growth", because they have long educated the populace to believe that "growth" [measured in dollars] is an entitlement, a cure for all ills, and an innately worthy goal . . . its only alternative being evil stagnation or (yet more evil) decay.

    Quite a nonsensical position, to be sure. But any politician mentioning a plan for halting Growth (or even, oh shudder, aiming for negative Growth) would immediately be howled down as a heartless monster and baby-killer.

    No, it is much too late to speak sensibly about our "growth" problem. All I can see, is the possibility of speaking of aiming at Quality Growth as an alternative choice to our present god Quantity Growth. Quality growth implies better quality, longer-laster physical possessions : which are not requiring the vast churn of resources & energy currently done in our manufacturing (and planned-obsolence) economy.

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  13. Forget population and growth: even freakin' fossil fuels were apparently unspeakable in the Paris deal.

    How can we ever actually get anywhere if we can't even use the most basic words that most accurately describe the sources of the problem and the areas that most have to change??

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  14. I'm amazed that the agreement has received such a positive response. Actually, James Hansen had one of the most reasonable responses - it's a fraud. As others have noted, there are no actual plans for how even the paltry INDCs will be implemented and no legal means of enforcing them. The language is weak and an aspiration of 1.5C sounds nice but I doubt you'd find any climate scientist that thinks it's possible (apart from the odd contrarian who doesn't think sensitivity is very high). So if they are including an impossible aspiration, then that really drags down the whole thing. We'll see more talk-fests in 2018, 2020 and 2023, whilst GHG concentrations continue to rise (unless we get economic contraction).

    Also, fair comment, Wili.

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  15. TonyW @14, it is not a fraud.  What has been accomplished is that the world's nations have made explicit, testable statements of what they think they can accomplish.  In doing so, they have bet their national, and personal prestige on their doing so.  Further, they fact of the commitments provides genuine political and/or diplomatic leverage against policies which fail to meet commitments.

    That is not very much - but it is something.  Further, it is as much as can be expected at the moment politically and diplomatically.  That it is all that can be expected is a travesty, but it is what it is.  I am certain that COP21 will result in reduced global emissions relative to what would have happened had no agreement been reached.  Just nowhere near the reduction in emissions necessary for avoiding 2 C (ignoring large scale carbon sequestration).

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  16. But isn't that the point TonyW is making Tom... it is not an Agreement...?

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  17. If you read the reference posted by jsousa @10 you will find a very different take on COP21.  As it is not linked @10 I have reposted a link to that reference here.  After all the hype and ballyhoo all that has been brought forth is a toothless tiger that  has no powers to enforce adherence by anyone to any of the recommendations made.  Whatever COP21 produced it seems much less an agreement and more a bunch of hopeful aspirations.  

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  18. B'wana Finklestein @16, that an agreement is not legally binding does not make it not an agreement.  It does mean the enforcement measures are political and/or diplomatic rather than legal - but that is true of nearly all treaties.  Even those with legal enforcement mechanisms nearly always allow countries to autonomously excempt themselves from those mechanisms.  (As a cynical aside, the only important exceptions to that rule relate to "free trade" mechanisms, which are far more enforcible, and rigourously enforced than, for example, human rights provisions. That mismatch is an indictment of our civilization, and shows clearly where real power lies in our nations.)  Nor does it mean, contrary to Ryland's link, that it is an agreement to increase emissions, although it is certainly not an agreement that guarantees no further increase in emissions. 

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  19. Also keep in mind that local laws in some countries will force them to meet the committments they made at COP21. We saw that earlier this year when the Dutch courts forced the government to increase their GHG reduction plans to meet EU standards.

    It really comes down to the US and China. If they keep their committments and improve them every five years as intended then that's a huge chunk of the world's total emissions right there. Any nations NOT doing their share would then also have to deal with the two biggest economic and military superpowers being on their case. In a sense, COP21 is just the world following on to what the US & China did with their agreement last year... and there is no reason to believe that won't continue so long as those two countries keep making progress.

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  20. This comment from the editorial in the Australian of Wednsday 16 December eloquently sums up the attempts to get global action on climate change. Note the editorial refers to a piece in Sci Am a publication not renowned for its scepticism on climate change.

    "In an act of conceit, the developed nations decided others should not follow their path to prosperity built on abundant and cheap energy. No, poor nations should rely on the generosity of the developed world funding expensive and inferior clean and green energy. So people in need of cheap and reliable power — and the jobs, food, shelter, education, health and security it brings — instead would be given solar or wind.

    "The futility of this approach has been detailed in Scientific American, which recounts how the village of Dharnai in India’s Bihar state was outfitted with solar electricity under a Greenpeace initiative. When children found themselves without light for study and families couldn’t use their electric appliances they protested at the official solar launch; the state was forced to relent and connect them to the coal-fired power grid".

    As we sit in our airconditioned homes with all the conveniences modern society gives Westerners, many of which are due to stable and reliable electricity supplies, we have the temerity to say to those who can only dream of such amenities, 'you must do without".  Yeah right!  There are many here who applaud COP21 but here are many many more who will be very disadvantaged indeed.  This is not an issue considered relavant by some who comment here but it is one that should not be ignored by respondents to SkS

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  21. Ryland:

    Can you provide a link to the op-ed, I did not see it on the Australian site.

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  22. @21 As requested. The link is here

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  23. @21 My apologies.  I should also have given the link to the Sci Am article. It is here

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  24. Ryland,

    When I Googled Dharnai I got several hits with your reference.  I also got several links from Indian newspapers like this one which say the program was a success.  None of the additional links described the problems your link cited.  Since the Indians actually live nearby, why should I believe the report you cited?  Can you provide a reference to support the claims that you have referenced?

    Scientific American recently printed an article by the same author claiming that Nuclear is required to provide electricity (with no peer reviewed references) and an op-ed from Matt Ridley, a well known science denier, saying that warming is no problem.  I am skeptical of what they currently publish.

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  25. ryland @20, the editorial in question is a defense of an obviously racist cartoon by Leak.  The defense fails (comments by Sanderson and draco are particularly apposite).  Further, the underlying claim that "In an act of conceit, the developed nations decided others should not follow their path to prosperity built on abundant and cheap energy" is particularly absurd.  It assumes that those who want India to pursue a renewable future do not want exactly the same thing for their own nations - something demonstrably false.  

    It also assumes that cheap power will rescue people from poverty.  What is in fact the case is those in poverty have not been able to afford the 'cheap' power; and those running the Australian's hypocritical argument have been quite content with that.  You will find no editorial's from the Murdoch press 15 years ago demanding foreign aid funding to build fossil fuel based power infrastructure to rescue people from poverty.  Only now that people are encouraging non-fossil fuel developments have they suddenly discovered this key nexus between fossil fuels and no poverty.  Nor do I recall any editorial's from The Australian excoriating various massive cuts to the aid budget by the Howard and Abbot governments; or demanding that the foreign aid budget be lifted to above the current feeble 0.34% of GDP.

    Their concern for the world's poor seems only to exist when it is a stalking horse for not taking action on climate change. 

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  26. The one topic ignored at COP(out)21 is overpopulation. Unless we stabilize and then humanely reduce the quantity of humans on the planet, we are assured of outgrowing any "solution". So, really, it was all useless. Worse than useless, actually, by giving people the illusion that we can resolve the problem.

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  27. Michael Sweet @24 

    You ask “why should I believe the report you cite?” That, of course, is entirely up to you. Equally I could ask you the same question with regard to to the piece in an Indian newspaper that you cite. Similarly I could emulate your comment “Can you provide a reference to support the claims that you have referenced?”

    On Indian newspapers here is a link to an Indian newspaper stating the residents of Dhanai did ask for “real electricity”  (Apologies can't get the insert to work.  The URL is'  Given your comment on Indian newspapers ("Since the Indians actually live nearby") I'll use this piece from an Indian newspaper to answer your question "Can you provide a reference to support the claims that you have referenced?"

    I'm surprised that on "Googling" (dreadful word) Dhanai you could find no articles to support the piece in Sci Am.  I found several including the article I cite above.  In fairness there were more lauding Greenpeace's efforts in Dhanai, although none mentioned the current problems Greenpeace is having with the Indian government (

    Tom Curtis @25.  I agree, the cartoon is racist

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  28. ryland @27, the problem with the solar energy supply is that uptake of the service exceeded capacity.  That is a potential problem for any power supply.  They system supplied is a 100 Kwh system.  For rural domestic, energy limited (60 Watt capacity) unmetered supply in Bihar the rate is 55 rupees per month.  For a 2 kilowatt load rural domestic unmetered supply the charge is 160 rupees per month.  The charge for the solar scheme (70 rupees a month) is competitive with the first of these, and significantly lower than the second.  That being the case, it is economical to expand the system to meet the additional required capacity.  

    As an aside, the failure to mention the relative rates in the Scientific American article is a clear sign of bias.  So also is the failure to mention the 250 rupee/month cost of kerosene for the kerosene lamps that previously provided light in the village, as is the description of the system as a 70 kilowatt system (rather than the 100 kilowatt described elsewhere).

    Finally, I did not just comment on the racism of the cartoon @25.  I also pointed out the hypocrissy and dubious honesty of the argument used for coal by The Australian which you appear to endorse.

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  29. @28 Please don't presume what I do and don't appear to do. As I have made no specific mention of coal or gas or oil and certainly wrote nothing that endorsed or did not endorse the attitude of The Australian toward coal. Your use of the word appear shows your comment is pure speculation with no supporting evidence.  The only part of your biased diatribe against The Australian I regarded as worth responding to was your comment on the cartoon.  The comments about Howard and Costello and foreign aid are pure political sloganeering and  did not require a response.  From your comments you appear to be a devotee  of the Guardian with all that that implies.

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  30. ryland @20, quoting the Australian:

    "In an act of conceit, the developed nations decided others should not follow their path to prosperity built on abundant and cheap energy. No, poor nations should rely on the generosity of the developed world funding expensive and inferior clean and green energy. So people in need of cheap and reliable power — and the jobs, food, shelter, education, health and security it brings — instead would be given solar or wind."

    ryland @20 commenting on the quote from the Australian:

    "As we sit in our airconditioned homes with all the conveniences modern society gives Westerners, many of which are due to stable and reliable electricity supplies, we have the temerity to say to those who can only dream of such amenities, 'you must do without". Yeah right! There are many here who applaud COP21 but here are many many more who will be very disadvantaged indeed. This is not an issue considered relavant by some who comment here but it is one that should not be ignored by respondents to SkS"

    That statement is a very direct endorsement of the sentiments expressed in the first quote.  Given that there are no disclaimer and/or qualifiers on the quoted section of the Australian, the only way it is not an endorsement of the sentiment expressed in the Australian is if it is be deliberately disengenuous, yet now (@29) ryland would have us believe he made no endorsement of the view expressed by the Australian.  Frankly as the entire point of his post @20 was to put the Australian quote before us, and to endorse it (there being no other content to the comment), I would have to call his current disavowal bullshit.

    As to his further claims @29:

    1)  Bias is very much in the eyes of the beholder, and we know which way ryland's eyes are skewed.

    2) Comments on the Australian's editorial stance on related issues is fair comment in assessing to what extent the expressed views in the quote are coherent with those views.  They, patently, are not.

    3) While I have been known to quote Gaurdian articles, that is because they turn up in google searchs (and so are quoted no more frequently than other news sources that similarly turn up in google searches).  Ryland's acumen in assessment my reliance on news sources shows all the acumen of his assessments of global warming and global warming policy.

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  31. Further to my comment @30, I should note that again ryland avoids responding to substantive discussion.  The thing we are depriving Indians of, according to his echoing of the Australian's views, is cheap energy, but evidence that the solar energy provided was comparible in cost to the fossil fuel based grid power is simply ignored.  That it was much cheaper than the fossil fuel based alternative which also provided more accessible power was also ignored.

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  32. Sunspot, population growth (and improved standards of living) is factored in to climate projections. Indeed, if not for assumptions that the global population will continue to grow and gain more access to electricity and transportation the climate situation would be a lot less dire.

    That said, the global fertility rate has been falling for decades and is expected to hit a replacement level (i.e. where births = deaths) around 2050... and then drop below replacement for the foreseeable future.

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  33. It is important to ensure that the real issues do not get hidden by 'generalizations open to interpretation' especially unspecific statements like 'over-popuation is the problem'.

    Even when population is listed among other issues like the comment by Wyoming @11 (quoted below), the points are not specific enough.

    "We will not be making progress until there are 'actions' which implement a dialogue on the need to drastically reduce population numbers (not just the growth rate), reduce affluence (not raise it), reduce consumption (not raise it), ban burning coal (and use force to make it happen), etc."

    A more detailed presentation regarding each point are:

    • Population - The number of people with high-consuming and high-impact ways of getting personal profit and pleasure is what needs to be dramatically reduced. And the number of people who focus on their personal benefit during their lifetime to the point of dismissing or attacking 'any developing better understanding of the changes required to advance humanity to a lasting better future for all' needs to be brought as near to zero as possible.
    • Affluence - This term is a 'loaded term open to many interpretations'. What really needs to be reduced is undeserved perceptions of affluence developed by people who are willing to pursue their benefit in ways that can be understood to be damaging and ulimately unsustainable (burning fossil fuels, wasteful consumption). Affluence in ways that are a sustainable part of the robust diversity of life on this amazing planet actually needs to be increased.
    • Consumption - As mentioned above the highest consuming people need to reduce their consumption and be willing to assist the least fortunate to develop sustainably better lives. Global GDP has grown faster than global population yet billions of people remain in 'desperate poverty'. The developed socioeconomic systems that produced that result need to be changed, not be considered to be essential to maintain as part of the solution.
    • Banning coal burning - The objective needs to be maximizing the end user energy obtained for the impacts of the way the energy is generated. Regarding CO2 generation, the total impacts of burning high-quality easy to obtain coal may be better than oil from fracking or oil sands that includes export impacts. And coal burning with CO2 capture and storage can be significantly better than natural gas burning without CO2 capture and storage. And all negative impacts, not just CO2 generation, need to be considered which may make fracking an even less beneficial way of obtaining fossil fuels for burning.

    Simplified statements may have more appeal but cliams that "population" or "Coal Burning" are the problem, or that "Affluence" needs to be reduced can easily be seen to lead to more misunderstanding and 'pointless debate'. And the people who have obtained the most undeserved perceptions of prosperity (currently having undeserved real personal wealth and real personal power) can continue to thrive through the 'generation of pointless debate'.

    Be sure you are not assisting people with those callous greedy attitudes, because those type of people are the ones whose numbers need to be most rapidly reduced, ideally to 'zero' (that is an ideal, and as with all ideals, they are great objectives but must eternally be diligently pursued). A side benefit of reducing the number of undesrevingly wealthy and powerful people will be the reduction of influence of intolerant people. In many nations the undeserving wealthy and powerful callous greedy have learned to appeal for the support of the intolerant because people who are inclined tobe greedy and intolerant people are easily impressed and the more 'inclined - enraged' they are the surer they are to vote.

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  34. Following this thread, there seems to be different interpretations of the success in Paris. Ryland, it is not surprising that despite Paris, the Australian still wants to follow the "coal is good for humanity" editorial line. It is consistent with their political stance and the attitude that the whole Murdoch press has had regarding the climate change debate since it first came to prominence in the 1990s. It will also be the stance that some Republicans in the US will continue to take.

    What is different about Paris is that it has sent a clear message to fossil fuel companies. First, that the world needs to be weened off fossil fuels as the main source of energy. And, second, that fossil fuel companies  have to change if they are to have any long term viability. Rather than repeating the same tired old argument that we need coal to take people out of poverty, Ryland, you should be looking at the big picture. If poorer countries, who have historically had lower emissions per capita, are going to generate some of their power with a mix of fossil fuels and renewables, then that means that the 1st world countries have the responsibility to develop the technology to make renewables more efficient. First, they have the technical exertise where poorer countries don't. Second, in their development over the last century, the 1st world has been responsible for 80% of the emissions so far. Third, third world nations cannot develop their economies using the same old polluting technology that the 1st world used over the last century. This is because, in a little over 100 years, this will send the CO2 levels on the planet to levels unprecedented in recent geological history and this will trigger the catastrophic global warming and climate change that Paris is trying to avoid. Fourth, if this climate change happens, then it is likely to severely impact the 3rd world and would also disrupt the prosperity of the 1st. In other words the 1st world needs to back off on using fossil fuels and transition to renewables much sooner so that the 3rd world can use some fossil fuels and have access to more efficient renewables (developed by the 1st world) in order to gain the necessary economic momentum to develop their economies to the point where the complete transition to renewables becomes economically viable for them.

    In 2015 after Paris, the world does not need the "old world" thinking that the Murdoch press and the fossil fuel companies want to continue to promote for their own personal benefit at the expense of everyone else on the planet. Paris, while not perfect, does send that message. It is a message that should have been sent after Kyoto except for the obfrustcation of the fossil fuel companies and their supporters whose self interested and blinkered thinking have prevented the 1st world from taking effective action in reducing emissions over the last 18 years.

    If we are to have a chance of keeping to 1.5/2 degrees, then the 1st world needs to rapidly transition to renewables so that the 3rd world can have a little of the so called cheaper fossil fuel power generation in their energy mix to help in their development. (Mind you, the cost of building the power grids to use fossil fuel power generation never seems to enter the argument. A community based renewable solution seems to make more sense).  Arguing to just simply burn more coal to alleviate poverty and have the 1st world do nothing to transition to renewables is just deceptive hubris.

    The agreement in Paris regarding emissions is similar to the situation around 1800 regarding slavery. It took another 30 years for Britain to ban slavery throughout its Empire. It took a Civil War in the 1860s to ban slavery throughout the US. Some other colonial empires took until the turn of the 20th century to ban slavery. Yet, today, there is still an illicit hidden slave trade, but at least those invloved are treated as criminals. Whether the world has another 100 years to reduce the use of fossil fuels to the levels needed is of course another question. At least Paris is a start.

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  35. What incredible self serving twadle.  A result of American leadership???  I don't think so.  If Obama has his way, America will stop dragging the chain but he probably won't be able to take the Senate and Congress along with him so back to America dragging the chain.  The only chance to get America on board is to elect Bernie with a majority in both houses.  Even then he will have his work cut out for him.  The Dems are only marginally less blinkered than the GOP.

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  36. william, actually due to GOP obstruction Obama has needed to go it alone on restricting US emissions. Everything he has done has been within the bounds of applying existing laws. Which means there is nothing congress can do to stop him - other than beg the Supreme Court to pretend that it is unconstitutional. Which is probably a stretch even for the five geniuses who ruled that corporations are 'persons' with religious rights. Nor would Bernie Sanders (or Hillary Clinton, who has also said that she would continue and extend Obama's actions) require congressional majorities.

    On the other hand, a GOP president could equally reverse those actions. That said, coal was dying in the US even before Obama's EPA actions. He's really taking credit (or blame from the GOP) for the already inevitable collapse of that industry. Further, much of the US is moving on emissions without the federal government... state and even city governments have gone much further in pushing reductions than the federal government has.

    Thus, I think the US will continue to make progress on emissions (per capita emissions have been declining since 1973) regardless of who is in congress or the presidency... just faster if democrats are running things. 

    As to "leadership" vs agreeing to "stop dragging the chain"... the difference is largely semantic. The Paris agreement was possible because the two most powerful countries / biggest GHG emitters got together and agreed to take action the year before. Essentially, the US & China are 'leaders' by default... until last year they were leading us to catastrophe because the rest of the world stopping emissions wouldn't matter (or happen) if those two countries didn't. Now that they are belatedly on board with what most (not all) of the rest of the world had been trying to do, every country on the planet has signed on to the agreement.

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  37. william and CBDunkerson,

    The real problem in the US is not the GOP. The real problem is the power of undeserving people to gather popular support for policy and action that they can understand is unacceptable (but hope to keep their misled supporters from better understanding), policy that will temporarily benefit a portion of humanity to the detriment of the rest of humanity because that is what 'socioeconomic competitors ' do if they can get away with it - try to build the perception thta they are winners in comparison to others (the extremist of this group are criminals and terrorists but the callous fundamantalists of the group are cheaters who can create consequences that are far worse than an individual criminal or terrorist, they actually crashed the entire global economy once and won't mind if it happens again as long as they get away with what they want to get away with).

    Developing better understand and applying that action to advance humanity toward a lasting better future for all is fundamentally contrary to 'their' interests, because they will be effectively blocked from 'the freedom to compete and get what they want in the manner they would like to get away with'.

    And those throuble-making competitors are not 'the GOP' (and not even the Tea Party). They are represented by the House Freedom Caucus which is a group of about 40 members of Congress who can collectively control what the GOP does.

    And the real trouble-makers are not the elected members who are in the House Freedom Caucus. The real trouble-makers are all the people in the American population who are tempted to like the understood to be greedy and intolerant claims that are carefully packaged to sound 'reasonable', like nonsense claims that 'Freedom is under fire if there are any limits on gun ownership'. And the ring-leaders of that group (the biggest trouble-makers) hide in the shadows. They fund the attack ads and promotional ads that are used to motivate people who are interested in getting elected to 'do the bidding of the undeserving wealthy string-pullers in the shadows' because of their ability to mobilize easily impressed voter support through carefully crafted misleading messages (messages created abusing the very well-developed science of misleading marketing).

    Simply claiming that the GOP is the problem can generate 'a distraction, or pointless debate' that delays the ability of collective humanity to properly identify the real trouble-makers and threats to its advancement, which is exactly what the callous greedy will try to abuse to prolong or expand their undeserved run of 'winning', even in ways they know are unjustified and will almost certainly be to the detriment of others (because all they care about is being seen as winning more than others any way they can get away with for as long as possible).

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  38. I was excited to hear that the Paris Conference was a success.

    But I've heard that Ted Cruz plans on withdrawing the U.S. from the agreement. This scares and infuriates me.

    Can the president him/herself withdrawl the U.S. from the plan? And what will happen if the U.S. does withdrawl?

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