Play your part: how YOU can influence the UN climate talks in Paris

Play your part: how YOU can influence the UN climate talks in Paris

The doom and gloom cried by many climate specialists can be infuriating to the ordinary citizen. What can average people do? Already we are driving hybrids, turning off unused lights, buying local. Yet if the international bodies cannot reach an agreement, all our efforts will be in vain.

At the start of December, leaders from 196 countries will meet in Paris to formulate a plan to tackle climate change. It’s not going to be easy.

This week, countries were asked to submit national plans to curb fossil-fuel emission. Nations are expected to fully implement the actions they pledge in an effort to minimize the rate of temperature increases.

Paris will mark the first time that the United Nations attempts to limit fossil-fuel emissions the world over. The importance of cementing a viable plan cannot be stressed enough.

The hope of keeping temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius is no longer feasible- now experts just want to keep average temperatures from rising more than three degrees Celsius.

The more temperatures rise, according to scientists, the more intense the effects of climate change will be. This means glaciers melting faster, sea levels rising higher, droughts lasting longer, and storms ravaging the coast lines more violently than ever.

The UN’s pledging process “has clearly led to progress but it is clear that, in Paris, governments must consider formally acknowledging that their first round of climate plans for 2025 and 2030 will not hold warming below two degrees Celsius “, said Mr. Bill Hare, a researcher at Climate Analytics.

“Falling below three degrees Celsius is symbolically important but insufficient,” said climatologist Jean Jouzel, the IPCC vice-president. “The further we are from two degrees Celsius, the more difficult it will be to adapt (to climate change-induced challenges), especially for developing countries.”

The doom and gloom cried by many climate specialists can be infuriating to the ordinary citizen. What can average people do? Already, we are driving hybrids, turning off unused lights, buying local. Yet if the international bodies cannot reach an agreement, all our efforts will be in vain.

Do not despair. Natalie Lucas is the executive director of Care About Climate. She has attended every international summit on climate change since 2012 and will be present in Paris come December. Ms. Lucas knows the frustration observers feel as they watch politics get in the way of saving the world.

Ms. Lucas as graciously offered nine actions that you- an ordinary observer of these high level talks- can do to influence the outcome of the conference.

  1. Get a large group of people to submit support. Whether its your business, campus, or local community, sending letters to the State Department can have profound effects.
  2. Write a personal letter to the State Department describing how climate change affects you. “They respond more to stories because they hear facts and figures all the time,” said Lucas. “Tell them about the awful storms we get here.”
  3. Keep the UN climate talks in the spotlight. By being vocal on social media and other outlets, the focus- and thus the pressure- will remain fixed on this important issue. “Write to your local newspaper,” said Lucas. “The work we do here is most important.”
  4. Call your congressional representatives and tell them how you feel about climate change. Even if you live in a state lead by global warming doubters, when enough people express their concern a signal will be sent that his or her constituency is serious. “Let them know people out there care about this, and that they’ll eventually be voted out of office if they don’t act,” said Lucas.
  5. On November 29, the day before the summit begins, join in the global march that aims to send a undeniable message of concern.
  6. On December 12, the day after the summit ends, there is another march scheduled in cities throughout the world.
  7. Many are considering striking on November 30, the day the talks are set to begin. However, Lucas does not feel like skipping work or class is the best way to get the message across. Rather, she suggests you spend the afternoon volunteering for a local group like the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
  8. Vote in the US presidential election in 2016 and also in the primary elections leading up to it. “Put someone in the White House who cares about these things,” Lucas said.
  9. Register with groups like the Sierra Club or the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. All 50 states are expected to develop emission reduction plans next year under President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Participation in groups or lobbies that influence lawmakers will make all of the difference.

At the end of the Paris talks, a universal and legally binding agreement- not a treaty- should be produced which will commit all signatories to reducing the amount of greenhouse gas they release into the atmosphere.

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