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The diplomats’ challenge: Restore hope

Despite the horrendous terrorist killings there on the 13th, Paris is planning, still, to host the United Nation’s climate summit at month’s end.
From small island countries facing obliteration under rising seas to African and Asian nations losing agricultural lands and livelihoods to spreading droughts, the world leaders assembling in the city must forge a binding agreement for action to protect the planetary climate.
They must negotiate a pact strong enough to avoid triggering nature’s “tipping points,” before it is too late.
Just ten years ago, two Worldwatch Institute authors could title as “Climate of Hope” an essay on strategies, available technologies and their economic opportunities, for solving the climate crisis and stabilizing the atmosphere.
Yet political opposition, deceitfully fed and funded for decades by the fossil industries, has continued to prevent needed action.
Thus, when, in May this year the newspaper “Zeit” wrote about preparations for the upcoming summit in Paris, the article was titled “Climate of Fear.” The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius who must shepherd the climate negotiations despite the terror after-effects there, had authored the article. It related the now much worsened situation globally, as violence and mass migrations, among people often uprooted through climate-change related events, threaten nations’ security and world peace.
A five-year drought had driven 1.3 million rural Syrians into that country’s major cities before the outbreak of civil unrest there.
Similar climate-change consequences, whether extreme dryness and heat waves or, conversely, severe flooding and storms, predictably will make more land and coastal areas uninhabitable if greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed, rapidly and drastically, through collective national and international action.
There are signs of hope in that all the world’s largest industrial economies are taking climate change much more seriously now. At least 129 countries, which collectively account for more than 90 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, have submitted their climate pledges to the Paris summit.
In the U.S., mounting economic costs from severe weather events has led to calls by many leading economists that carbon fuels be taxed as a market-based measure to restrain their use. As documented in the “New Climate Economy Report,” 40 countries and 20 sub-national economies have already implemented carbon pricing or are scheduled to do so. [The U.S. Congress, still languishing on relevant proposed legislation, should follow suit.] There is a promising development in the House of Representatives. The Gibson Resolution (R-NY) calls on the Congress to “responsibly base our policy decisions on science” and to take action on climate change.
In the Senate on the GOP side, a new Working Group that includes Senator Lamar Alexander seeks to “focus on ways we can protect our environment and climate [and] bolster clean energy.”
The Administration’s Clean Power Plan has majority public support, and its recent rejection of the Keystone pipeline application is solidly based on climate science.
The diplomats at the Paris summit, seeing anew the stark security implications if climate change is not addressed quickly and effectively, must assure restoration of a “Climate of Hope.”