Paris climate talks won’t fix everything

Reducing carbon emissions and solving global warming will take a long time and everybody’s help.

by Keelia Moeller

It’s been more than a week since the climate change agreement in Paris, where representatives of nearly 200 countries voluntarily gathered and pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The conference discussed how to keep the rise in temperature less than 2 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels.
The voluntary attendance and united pledge by so many global representatives are signs of progress, but meeting these goals will not automatically solve global warming.
For example, even if all countries meet their pledges, the increase in global temperatures is still expected to exceed 2 degrees Celsius. This means the agreement made in Paris, while ambitious, will need to be followed by larger and more difficult goals.
The Paris agreement is also meant to evolve every five years. After five years pass, each country’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be reevaluated in order to move the world closer to reaching its goal of 2 degrees.
Furthermore, countries are not expected to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions immediately. Notable reductions are not expected until 2020, which is also the deadline for countries to develop more long-term climate management plans.
Eventually, the goal will be to keep global temperature increases under 1.5 degrees Celsius. By about 2050, the global goal is even lower: a zero-degree temperature increase.
Another key factor in the climate agreements is the $100 billion that will be set aside to help developed countries switch from fossil fuels to green energy. However, I don’t believe this number will be enough to finalize these switches in energy sources.
I fear that, because the headlines in the past month have praised the climate agreement itself, people will believe climate change is no longer going to be an issue.
But the world should not be breathing sighs of relief because so many countries have agreed to reduce their emissions. Rather, we should be thinking of ways we can individually help the environment.
On an individual level, we can use less hot water, recycle more, plant a tree and use less heat or air conditioning, to name just a few of many easy lifestyle changes that can make a difference. 
On a state level, Minnesota has already begun to play its part. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Gov. Mark Dayton are developing plans of bold action to address climate change. Minnesota-based companies like Best Buy and General Mills are also making individual commitments to reducing emissions.
If each country can begin notably reducing its greenhouse gas emissions before 2020, this would get a jumpstart on moving toward the goal of 2 degrees — and, ultimately, zero degrees.
However, this is going to be an uphill battle that will continue for years to come. We can only win it if the world is constantly on its toes, thinking of new solutions to save the environment.
Keelia Moeller welcomes comments at [email protected].