COP 21: A Crash Course

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In a few weeks, the nations of the world will be gathering in Paris to try to reach a global agreement on how best to respond to the challenge of climate change. The Christian Reformed Church will be participating in the negotiations both via a delegation in Paris and via a network of almost 150 CRC members from close to 30 congregations in the US and Canada. This effort is called the Climate Witness Project.

But what is COP 21, anyway? Isn't it just a bunch of diplomats speaking unintelligible jargon at each other? What's the big deal anyway?

First of all, COP is an acronym that stands for Conference of the Parties—but parties to what? Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The UNFCCC was established in 1992 at the Rio Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is an international treaty between virtually every nation of the world whose main objective is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system." The UNFCCC went into full effect in 1994, and part of the design of the treaty is to hold standing annual meetings between all of the parties of the treaty. These standing meetings began the next year, in 1995. The meeting that year was called Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC 1—or COP 1. Twenty years and twenty conferences later, we are now preparing for COP 21 in Paris at the end of the year.

Parties take turns hosting COP meetings and this year it is France’s turn to preside over the proceedings. The official meetings will occur over the course of 2 weeks, from November 30-December 11. The goal of COP 21 will be to reach a global agreement on cutting global carbon emissions enough to limit average global warming to two degrees C (3.6 F) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

There is a lot of hype building around this particular COP meeting for a few reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason is because, to this point, almost every COP meeting has been short-circuited because large emitters (mainly the US and China) have been unwilling to agree to the terms called for by the majority of the other countries. But in November of last year, the US and China announced a major agreement on their intention to cap carbon emissions and to work toward carbon reductions. This announcement shocked everyone because the US and China had been, to this point, at loggerheads both with each other and with the rest of the global community on the question of carbon reduction. This announcement signaled to the world that the two biggest emitters—and the two biggest obstacles toward global progress on climate change—not only intended to put significant skin in the game, but also would be willing to be the leaders that the rest of the world has been begging them to be.

There has also been significant grassroots movement—including the world’s largest climate march ever in New York last year—that is adding to the momentum going into COP 21. Another reason COP 21 is so important is because the only global agreement with carbon cuts attached to it on the books right now—the Kyoto Protocol—was originally set to expire at the end of this year. Though COP 20 extended the life of the Kyoto Protocol to 2020, COP 21 is where the world will gather to craft Kyoto’s successor. And if you need one more reason why COP 21 could be a milestone moment, it’s because the past 5 COP meetings have all been oriented and working toward COP 21. Because global treaties like these represent such a massive diplomatic effort, it has taken 5 years just to lay the groundwork for COP 21.

With all of this hype, it’s easy to get carried away and expect more from COP 21 than it can reasonably deliver. As Christians engaged in this process, it is critical for us to have realistic expectations for COP 21 and to remember that our engagement with the process is not about pinning all of our hopes on an ambitious climate accord coming out of COP 21, but about faithfully witnessing to the Christian hope that we have for this world. COP 21 is a crucial moment in the storyline of the world's response to climate change and, as Christians, we participate with prophetic urgency on behalf of God's creation and on behalf of the poor and vulnerable who are most affected by a changing climate. But we also participate with deep hope in the saving and redeeming power of Christ—the true Lord of all the earth who is continually reconciling all things to himself. 

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When the church advocates for our government to mandate caps on emissions we must be prepared for the effects. These types of mandates will most certainly make our energy prices to sky rocket, as President Obama said. Families struggling to make ends meet will find their electric bills higher,heating bills higher ,fuel and food prices all higher. These mandates  restrict freedom as well which is the engine of a growing economy and good jobs.   As our Church discusses social justice and climate change I think we have to look at both sides of the issue.

 

 

Participant

James Hansen, the father of the modern day concerns about global warming and climate change, has repeatedly said that the best "solution" to CO2 emissions is found in nuclear energy, and that neither renewable energy nor conservation strategies can close to solving the problem.  Sadly, most climate change alarmists are willing to follow Hansen when he talks about the danger of CO2 emissions but not when he talks about the solutions.  As to the latter, his crowd grows deafeningly silent.  Hansen is no slouch scientist, including as to nuclear reactors, which he considers extremely safe, given the advancement of nuclear technology.

Consider the % of energy that is produced by nuclear in a number of countries: France 76.9%, Slovakia 56.8%, Hungary 53.6%, Ukraine 49.4%, Belgium 47.5%, Sweden 41.5%, Switzerland 37.9%, Slovenia 37.2%, Czech Republic 35.8%, Finland 34.6%, Bulgaria 31.8%, Armenia 30.7%, South Korea 30.4%.  The United States lags way behind even if it should be in the lead.

Hansen and other climate alarmists have warned that we were reaching the "tipping point" to CO2 disaster quite some time ago.  I disagreed with their conclusions (as have more than a few world class scientists who are experts about the subject matter), and would note that if Hansen and his crowd are correct, we have already past the "tipping point."

Nevertheless, I and many others believe common ground can be found for both sides -- in nuclear energy.

In my view, COP 21 doubles down on a failed strategy, even if one agrees with Hansen's predictions, for the simple reason that its agenda cannot produce a solution, even by Hanson's analysis.  And if COP 21 is successful, the side effects in terms of world poverty will be anything but small.

If the CRCNA must enter the political fray on this topic (although I would argue it shouldn't for lack of expertise, among other reasons), it should have the courage to look for a middle ground that has the promise of being productive.  The CRCNA could do a lot worse than joining hands with James Hansen in proposing much more nuclear energy production.

Participant

James Hanson can be watched and listened to about the nuclear option at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZExWtXAZ7M

This is a must view for anyone who thinks COP 21 or the Climate Witness Project are on target to be significantly helpful, EVEN IF one agrees that CO2 emissions are cause for great alarm.

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