What The Paris Climate Agreement Means For Louisiana

What The Paris Climate Agreement Means For Louisiana

The international climate talks wrapped up in Paris this weekend as the United Nations parties finalized an agreement to stave off climate change. The terms of the agreement call for limiting global temperature rise to around 1.5 degrees Celsius, well below the initial goal of 2 degrees.

WWNO’s Tegan Wendland talked with Bob Thomas, professor and director of Loyola’s center for environmental communication, about whether it will make a difference.

December 16, 2015 | Source: WWNO New Orleans Public Radio | by Tegan Wendland

The international climate talks wrapped up in Paris this weekend as the United Nations parties finalized an agreement to stave off climate change. The terms of the agreement call for limiting global temperature rise to around 1.5 degrees Celsius, well below the initial goal of 2 degrees.

WWNO’s Tegan Wendland talked with Bob Thomas, professor and director of Loyola’s center for environmental communication, about whether it will make a difference.

Wendland: Environmental advocates rallied for an ambitious agreement, which this seems to be, but it all depends on how the 196 countries that signed the agreement do their part. They each put forward their own plans for cutting emissions – but who will hold them to those commitments?

Thomas: Well, there’s actually nothing that holds them to commitments now. We’re very excited that we finally have some kind of an international accord and that’s a major step forward, because before, these things always collapsed at the end and everybody walked away with their heads hanging.  Today everybody left very enthusiastic but we’ve got a long way to go and I think people need to understand that. But what happens it that – number one, nothing happens. Nothing is official until 55 – minimally 55 – countries ratify this. So they have to go back to their form of government for ratification, and then even after that time they’re not held – their feet are not held to the fire, at this point. Now, it may evolve into something that will be much more workable on the international scale. But when you work on international scales, too often there’s no way to enforce.

Wendland: Louisiana shares challenges like sea level rise and an eroding coast with many island nations – is this agreement enough to make a difference for the most vulnerable?

Thomas: Yeah, well I think that it probably will be but it’s going to take the developed countries to help them through this transition. Now when you go to these international agreements there’s always the thing of saying – ‘We’re not as rich as you all, so you all need to give us money.’ And that’s a big part of the ploy – is how much money can we get from the developed countries, and at the same time the developed countries are trying to figure out how to get a deal without having to pay through their mouths for an international accord. But I think you will see, especially the most vulnerable – everybody is going to say they’re vulnerable – but the most vulnerable are those in the South Pacific and areas like that where they’re already at sea level and big storms are pushing water over their islands. Those are the ones that you’ll see everybody focusing on.

Wendland: And how might that play out at home? Could it result in any federal support for coastal states like Louisiana – and how might it impact our coastal master plan?

Thomas: In the short term I don’t think it’s going to change anybody’s mind, because in the United States we tend to focus on short-term investments and short-term thinking. To think about the loss of coastal shores like Louisiana, Miami, Norfolk and places like that – you’ve got to be thinking long term. We haven’t reached that mindset yet. A lot of it, I think, is going to turn on who the next president is and where that president chooses to take us for the future.