Is John Kerry right ‘we are running out of time’ to save the planet?


Fact Box

  • On Tuesday, July 20, 2021, John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, urged all large US economies to work towards plans of cutting emissions before Cop26 UN climate talks in Glasgow in November, saying, “The climate crisis is the test of our own times, and while it may be unfolding in slow motion to some, this test is as acute and as existential as any previous one. Time is running out.”
  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released a report on April 19, stating 2020 was “one of three warmest years on record.” The global average temperature rose 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial age temperatures. 
  • On President Biden’s first day in office, he rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement, a pact among nations created in 2015 to “address climate change.” 197 countries joined the accord to limit the temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius around the globe.
  • On June 1, 2017, former President Trump announced the United States’ removal from the Paris Accords reasoning the “draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”

Stephanie (No)

It's an understatement to say John Kerry is being slightly dramatic in his statement that 'time is running out' to address the looming specter called climate change. His claim is based on the idea that our planet is on some sort of predictable doomsday timeline. Just as Al Gore's climate predictions were a flop, it is unlikely that we now have 'nine years left,' or whatever arbitrary date is determined politically convenient. While statements such as Kerry's may be effective in creating urgency, they also create panic, which is certainly not needed at this time. 

Kerry praised global 'unity' following World War II, calling on nations to work together once again to address the issue of climate change. However, comparing the two is not an appropriate analogy: WWII undoubtedly occurred, resulting in mass destruction and loss of life; yet climate change is not quite as concrete.

There remains the entire debate as to whether climate change is a natural phenomenon or is mainly a result of man's environmental impact and whether it is a crisis at all. Modern humans have inhabited the earth for a relatively short time compared to the age of the planet, and it has been scientifically proven the earth's climate has indeed been changing, long before any man could interfere. It is also a false assumption that global warming doubters seemingly do not care about preserving the earth for future generations but rather that they subscribe to a different scientific school of thought. Even if Kerry proves to be right, his proposed solutions are not practical, including the idea to build 'the world's largest solar plant every day for the next decade.' While admirable to the cause, this is overly idealistic and not at all realistic.

Tyler (Yes)

Current United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry broke down the planet's troublesome environmental circumstances perfectly in his speech at the Royal Botanic Gardens in London. Kerry asserted that the window of time for earth's nations to handle its climate crisis is 'running out of time.” While it may seem like a bold claim, Kerry provided significant evidence to prove his point. 

The disastrous flooding in Germany and Belgium of June 2021 shows the dangers of letting the environment go unchecked and our use of it unregulated. Average temperatures are expected to rise by 2.5-3 degrees Celsius, regardless of the outcome of the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement aims for an average global temperature of below 2 degrees Celsius, but China is the world's biggest polluter. Although they have made vows of environmental reform by 2060, their plan of carbon neutrality is inconsistent with other nations in the Paris Agreement and is nowhere near as ambitious. 

So just relying on subtle emission cuts will risk us missing this goal as no proposed regulation actually goes far enough to keep nations from raising emissions.  

The average global temperature is currently right at the borderline of 1.46 degrees Celsius; however, once it reaches 1.5, we reach increased climate disasters. A United Nations environmental agency reported a 90% chance the global temperature in the next five years will reach the highest that it has ever been. While environmental concerns are often connected to errors made in the past, humans are expected to contribute to the increase of 3 degrees Celcius by the end of the century, hence Kerry’s urgency over this subject. He knows first hand what is at stake and it’s the future of the world.

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