Paris Climate Deal: President Obama’s Biggest Accomplishment

 

The Daily Intelligencer article on the Paris Climate Deal asserts that this may be Obama’s biggest accomplishment in his tenure as President of the United States. Writer Jonathan Chait states the deal “represents the culmination of a patient strategy by the Obama administration that unfolded over years, and which even many sympathetic journalists long dismissed as fanciful.” Comparing climate change to the other successes won by Obama administration, such as health care reform and overhauling both the financial and educational systems, Chait sees climate issue as a case of its own. For him, climate change is irreversible and therefore requires urgent and radical action in ways that other issues don’t.  

Tracing attempts to broker a deal internationally and intergovernmentally, Chait maps how the United Nations has spent nearly 25 years trying to organize world action – but, until this point, has failed. Obama signed a $90 billion dollar stimulus in his first month as President, catalyzing global investment and research in sustainable energy. However, the 2009 Copenhagen Accord negotiations hindered the positive move towards clean energy.

[In 2014], the U.S.-China agreement broke a deadlock between the industrialized West and the developing world that had paralyzed all previous international negotiations. The plunging costs of solar and wind energy, plus new innovations in storage and other clean-energy technologies, made it suddenly plausible for governments across the world to transition their energy systems.

Currently, temperature increase is at 3.3 or 3.8 degrees Celsius. According to the Paris Climate deal, nations have pledged to hold temperature increases to 2.5 or 2.7 degrees Celsius, as well as reduce carbon emission over time, which the article sees as an immense accomplishment on the part of the 187 nations and especially the Obama administration. While this deal hasn’t completely solved the climate change problem, it is the first global commitment to reduce carbon emission and invest in green-energy technologies—a feat that “will continue the virtuous cycle of political willpower and market innovation.”

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