STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
On Sept. 21, thousands of protestors took to dozens of cities across the world to raise awareness for climate change, with the largest demonstration involving 400,000 people occurring in New York City.
The UN met two days after the demonstrations to discuss The Global Climate Treaty, slated to be completed within a year.
The amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere hit a record high in 2013, which was one of the many factors that brought people to the streets in droves last week.
The event was orchestrated to show communal and widespread support for the actions taken by international governments to fight climate change.
The Climate Summit will not form any binding contracts, however. Its drive is meant to bring about discussion for a new protocol regarding the reduction of emissions, as well as to raise awareness for the issue. The summit has the same goal as the marchers: spread the word.
The Kyoto Protocol was the last such agreement to limit emissions globally, but it expired in 2012 after five years of activity. Every developed, industrialized, wealthy country had signed the Kyoto Protocol except for the United States, which, despite the refusal of the U.S, shows a resounding call to protect the planet internationally.
Many countries have continued acting as if the Kyoto Protocol is still in effect, and this current summit is one of many recent efforts to move towards the creation a new treaty. Attempts at creating a new international agreement have occurred for the last five years, but getting such international cooperation is an arduous task.
“At the international level progress has sort of stalled,” said Jerry Anderson, professor of environmental law.
Anderson attributes this pause to disputes between the countries of the developed world and developed countries, but in spite of the squabbles of the world’s dignitaries, the protests are attempting to spur progress again.
However, getting climate change legislation passed nationally or locally is difficult in and of itself.
“Legislators will usually not act on their own unless they are pushed to,” said Professor of environmental sociology Michael Haedicke.
Professor of environmental science David Courard-Hauri gave his input about combating inaction
“(People should) educate themselves about climate change, which generally means listening to scientists. Not listening to the Internet,” Courard-Hauri said.
Elaborating on Haedicke’s comments, Courard-Hauri continued.
“Push for changes. Talk to politicians. Vote as if climate change were an important issue,” Courard-Hauri said. “What everyone had said was, ‘Nobody cares about climate change, right?’ 400,000 people went to New York to say, ‘Holy cow we care about climate change.’”
“The activities that cause climate change also appear to be pretty negative … from a health standpoint,” he went on to say — a double incentive to decrease emissions.
“40,000 people die a year in the United States from air pollution,” Courard-Hauri said, not to mention the rising sea level or the increase in number of droughts and their severity.
Some studies have also shown that taking these steps to reduce pollution are economically beneficial, partially because of the lowering of mortality rates. All three professors attributed the biggest roadblock to climate change policy to ineffective legislature, plain and simple.
“People are consciously trying to cut back their footprint without waiting for (the) government to act,” Anderson said.
Those trying to protect the planet on their own are not enough to reverse what is happening to the environment.
“You hear a lot about how terrible it’s going to be but the process of actually addressing the issue … (but I think) we’d find that it was a lot easier than we think it’s going to be,” Courard-Hauri said.
James Hansen of The Principal Financial Group Center for Global Citizenship will speak on this topic. The speech called, “Tenant Farming to White House Arrests: A Scientist’s Perspective on the Unfolding Climate Crisis and Opportunity” will be held in Old Main on Oct. 15.