COP21 as the beginning of a process: Michael Mann’s thoughts on Paris climate talks

November 30, 2015 | 0 comments

We are reaching out to faculty from Penn State who have worked on climate change in multiple ways and asking them what they are watching for at COP 21, what they hope happens, and what faculty can do. As responses come in, we will post them.

Our first post comes from Michael E. Mann, Director of Penn State’s Earth Systems Science Center, co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars.

I see COP21 as the beginning of a process, rather than the end of one. I hope that a framework is agreed upon by which participating nations can substantially improve upon the commitments they have already made going into the meeting. These commitments get us roughly half way from where were are (business as usual, i.e. no policy intervention, will likely lead to as much as 5C/9F warming of the globe by the end of the century) to where we need to be, i.e. limiting warming below the “dangerous” 2C level. The most important thing that can come out of the conference is an agreement to improve on these commitments substantially by the time of the next conference in five or so years, so that we do get on the path to limiting warming below 2C.

Faculty at Penn State (and elsewhere) can contribute to this effort by making sure that our students are as informed as possible about the underlying climate threat, and the avenues available to us right now to make a difference, whether it be voluntary changes in lifestyle to decrease our carbon footprints, outreach to our friends, family, and colleagues to educate them about the nature of the challenge and the path forward that exists, or efforts to hold our policymakers and institutions accountable for taking a principled stand to act on climate.

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