Staff Editorial: In light of U.N. conference, politicians must confront looming climate change

After an election season during which climate change was all but ignored, it is refreshing – to say the least – that delegates from the United Nations have convened in Doha, Qatar for a two-week session of climate talk, finally shifting attention to climate change.

We at The Lamron hope these talks include a frank discussion on the impending dangers of climate change and the disastrous effects it could have, not only on global environments but the global economy as well.

After the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change initiated the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the intention was to keep global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. The reality, however, is that global temperatures are expected to increase nearly 4 degrees Celsius by 2100 if carbon emissions continue on their current course.

An increase of 4 degrees Celsius could potentially be devastating to global environments and economies. According to a report commissioned by the World Bank, such a temperature increase could result in “increasing risks for food production,” “higher malnutrition rates,” “unprecedented heat waves” and “substantially exacerbated water scarcity.”

The current U.N. climate talks are an attempt to curb rising temperatures and instate new emission standards for both developed and developing nations. An International Energy Agency report suggested that global carbon emissions must begin decreasing no later than 2017 in order to meet the goal of a yearly increase less than 2 degrees Celsius.

The danger lies not necessarily with economically developed nations – like the European Union, which has decreased carbon emissions since 1990 – but with economically developing nations like China, which has increased carbon emissions over 7 percent since 1990.

These developing nations must see the potential for economic advancement in lowering carbon emissions if a significant reduction is to be made.

The chief scientist for climate change at the Climate Institute, Mark MacCracken, believes “developed countries need to show a modern economy can prosper on low greenhouse gas emissions.” Similarly, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim wrote in an editorial for The Guardian that he hopes “the vision of economic opportunity arising from the need to create a low-carbon world inspires us to create new technologies … that can become drivers of economic growth.”

Still, there is some cause for optimism. Over the past three years, the United States has provided $7.46 billion in international climate assistance and the U.N. would begin to use “legal force” when implementing global climate initiatives by 2020. Things are being done – there just needs to be more.

And that can start here in the U.S. It is high time our political leaders begin truly and adequately addressing climate change. It’s not just our environment at risk – it’s our economy too. And if that’s not enough to get the ball rolling then nothing is.