The Paris Agreement exists within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and it deals with the mitigation of greenhouse gases across the world. After almost two years of negotiations, signings, and ratifications, this agreement gained enough countries supporting it to come into full force on November 4th, 2016. The text of the agreement can be found here.
Now, there has been debate on both sides about the forcefulness of the Paris Agreement. It remains to be said what effects it will have on the environment if any at all. It is still too early to tell. At the very least, gathering representatives from 195 different countries in a room and forcing them to talk and negotiate ways to minimize our collective effect on the environment is a good thing.
In spite of all this, one of the tragedies of this past election is the potential effect that Donald Trump will have on the environment during his presidency. The President-elect consistently made promises during his campaign to pull the U.S. out of The Paris Agreement and stop all US payments to UN programs aimed at fighting climate change. Now, it seems that reality is soon approaching.
Since his campaign though, Donald Trump has softened his stance against climate change in an interview with the New York Times. The full transcript of that interview can be found here. He seems to concede in the interview that he will have an open mind about climate change. Also, he vaguely admits that there seems to be "some connectivity" between humans and climate change though no one can really know for sure.
That's still not comforting. Even though it remains to be seen whether he will follow through on his plans, there is no doubt that having a climate skeptic in one of our highest offices of power is making people nervous. Environmentalists and other green groups are already looking at ways to combat Donald Trumps dangerous climate agenda. Also, other countries have threatened to slap environmental tariffs on American goods should the President-elect follow through on his plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
All this being said, the future of U.S. environmental policy is murky at best. The fight for the environment seems to be falling back down to the individual. What can you and I do on a daily or weekly basis to help protect the environment?
- Leonardo DiCaprio has recently released a documentary about climate change called "Before the Flood". I strongly suggest watching it. He approaches it as you or I would in that he comes wanting to learn more about the sheer scope of human's impact on the environment. It's currently on YouTube, but I'm not sure how much longer it'll be there. Here is a link to the film.
- President Obama recently held a festival at the White House called "South by South Lawn". Activists, industrialists, and artists of all stripes were invited to attend. During the festival, President Obama and climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe, were interviewed by Leonardo DiCaprio. The YouTube link for the whole interview is here.
- ECOSIA is a search engine that plants trees paid for by money obtained through its ad revenue. According to their website, they have planted over 5 million trees and boast about being able to, on average, plant a new tree every 11 seconds. The best part is that their search engine can also work as a plug in for Google Chrome and Firefox. Essentially, you can type your search query into Google or any other search engine. Once you do, the plug in automatically transfers that search query into Ecosia's search engine. You'll then see results via Ecosia's search engine. I have it installed on my computer. I must admit the results are good quality and it works quick and reliably. Also, they keep a record of how many trees you have indirectly had a hand in planting, and my current count is 213 trees. Check out their website here for more info.
- BUYCOTT is an app for any smartphone. Once you make a free account, it allows you to select campaigns that you care about. The campaigns can range from income inequality to the environment to animals to civil rights to healthcare. The app then is able to utilize your phone as a barcode scanner to see how products stack up against the campaigns that you care deeply about. It allows you to make an informed decision about the products you are buying. I recently downloaded the app on my phone. The user interface is easy to use and informative. I haven't been able try it out a ton yet, but I will update when I do get that opportunity. Check out their website here for more info.
These are only a few good ways I have found to become more informed, and make a conscious effort in our daily busy lives to do some good. I will update this list as I come across more ways to easily help the environment. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions, or feel free to comment.