No one dared hope that the nations of the world would ever agree to dramatically curtail their use of fossil fuels. But on Saturday, all 200 countries attending the global conference on climate change did so unanimously. From this point forward, the course of humanity will be forever altered.
It won’t be easy. The agreement in Paris is little more than a collection of pledges and promises. There is no enforcement mechanism if those promises are broken. But just the fact that virtually all the nations of the earth have reached an accord on anything for the first time in history is heartening news.
The agreement “sends a very powerful message to the business and investment community that the age of fossil fuels is ending,” explains Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, who adds “Continued investments in high carbon assets conflicts with their fiduciary responsibility.”
Meyer’s comment puts the spotlight directly on heart of the matter — money. Flowery speeches and airy concepts don’t change the fact that trillions of dollars are already invested in the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels. Somehow, those investments have to be wound down and re-invested in renewable energy sources. There will be financial pain at many levels, but there will also be substantial new commercial opportunities created by the changeover to renewables, according to Think Progress.
The COP 21 conference will go down as a watershed moment in human history. But like all such moments, it took years of work by thousands of dedicated individuals. Before any change can occur, attitudes have to be amended. Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring changed many people’s minds about pesticides. Al Gore traveled the world many times over to convey his message about rising carbon dioxide levels. Elon Musk has made weaning the world off its fossil fuel habit the central focus of his life. His speech at the Paris conference made history.
Elon says burning fossil fuels is “the dumbest experiment in history,” because the world already has an inexhaustible supply of energy from a the sun. Enough sunlight hits the earth every day to power the needs of every person on earth for a year. All we have to do is harness that energy.
Now that the Paris agreement has been achieved, the United States must shoulder its responsibilities. That’s going to be a problem. Many Senators have already gone on record opposing any action that costs the United States so much one penny. These are people who are perfectly happy to sacrifice their own children and grandchildren on the altar of greed. They cannot comprehend that stopping the use of fossil fuels is a good thing for all of us.
If you support the Paris agreement, contact your elected representatives to let them know. Thanks to the internet, you can do so without leaving the comfort of your living room. Here’s a link that will help you through the process. The need is great and the time is now. Speak up. Make your voice heard. Humanity may never get a second chance.
Photo credit: Twitter/Pedro Sirgado