Power plants and factories discharge greenhouse gases. The U.S. is historically the largest carbon polluter in the world, but China has recently the surpassed the US in greenhouse gas emissions.
Photo: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

What is the Paris climate agreement and why you should care?

The Paris climate conference was held in December 2015 with representatives from 196 countries in attendance. They agreed on a legally binding accord to try and combat climate change by preventing the Earth’s temperature from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels, with a more ambitious goal of keeping it under 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) through the end of the century.

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According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 184 countries have ratified the agreement, so far, although President Donald Trump announced in June 2017 his intention to pull the U.S. out of the accord. However, the U.S. cannot legally exit the agreement, according to The New York Times, until November 2020, a day after the presidential election.

The landmark agreement is an effort to keep global temperature rise under the threshold of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit because most scientists believe a rise of any more would have a staggering impact on everything from food production and shelter to energy and the health of millions of people around the world.

Here are a few of the main points of the Paris accord:

-It’s a pact among the world’s nations to implement green energy sources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit the rise in global temperatures.

-The agreement “brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change” and help developing nations to do so, too, according to the UNFCCC.

-The accord established a $100 billion fund for the developed nations of the world to help developing countries adapt to climate change and move from fossil fuels to green energy sources.

>> Related: Climate change is already here: 8 things to know from dire new U.S. climate report

-The United Nations says on its website that the Paris Agreement has a “hybrid of legally binding and non-binding provisions,” but there are no obvious penalties for countries that do not meet their greenhouse gas reduction goals.

While China currently surpasses the U.S. in greenhouse gas emissions, according to The New York Times, the U.S. is historically the biggest carbon polluter.

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