Bioethics Blogs

Paris is Burning

June 30, 2017

by Sean Philpott-Jones, Chair, Bioethics Program of Clarkson University & Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Paris is Burning

Earlier this month, President Trump finally honored one of his many (often contradictory) campaign promises. He formally withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. America is now one of only three countries in the world who are not party to this landmark agreement, joining Syria and Nicaragua in refusing to work collaboratively to combat the threat of global climate change.

Designed to slow and eventually reverse the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the Paris Agreement calls upon the 195 signatory nations to stabilize carbon emissions by 2030; while nearly 55 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide would still be released into the air every year, the near exponential increase in annual emissions would cease. The accord also calls for nations of the world to start reducing the overall amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2050, offsetting anticipated emissions with compensatory sequestration and reforestation efforts. Should these ambitious goals be met, the estimated increase in the global average temperature would be limited to a manageable 1.5 – 2.0° Centigrade (2.7 – 3.6° Fahrenheit) above that of the pre-Industrial era.

Climate change is one of the most important yet, sadly, one of the most neglected problems that we face. According to the vast majority of climate scientists (over 97% of them, to be precise), mankind is irrevocably altering the environment as the result of industrial production and agricultural activity. One consequence is increasing global temperatures, but we can also expect to see changing rain and snowfall patterns, and more extreme weather events like heat waves, droughts, floods and blizzards over the coming years.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.