Get smarter, faster. Subscribe to our daily newsletter.
Is The World Ready to Get Serious About Climate Change? The Paris Agreement Says Non.
Insufficient commitments to carbon cuts, and a process to encourage deeper cuts that is only voluntary, are bad news for our future.
So is the wine glass half full or half empty? Did the Paris climate talks succeed or fail? Those claiming success note that nearly all the nations of the world have agreed to cut carbon emissions, and to a process designed to encourage deeper cuts in the future, and to a verification process intended to ensure that promised cuts are being made. Those bemoaning failure observe that despite these diplomatic achievements, the emission cuts won't achieve the agreement's goal of keeping temperature increases below 2 degrees centigrade over pre-industrial levels (we're already half the way there). And they note that the process designed to ensure compliance with initial promises, and prompt deeper carbon reductions in the future, is largely voluntary.
But success or failure is only one metric by which to assess the Paris talks. Perhaps more important is to consider what those talks reveal about where humanity stands in facing this monumental challenge. From that standpoint, the results of the Paris conference are far more depressing than encouraging. The inescapable message is that nations are simply not ready to do the big, hard things necessary to adequately address the threat. Not even the nations proposing the most aggressive actions are anywhere close. All the cheering and back-slapping for the diplomatic success of Paris aside, the meetings make starkly clear that the will to seriously combat climate change is nowhere near what it needs to be.
The glass-half-full folks celebrate that many significant carbon-emitting nations — the United States, China, several European countries — are promising real cuts. But the leaders of these countries admit that these reductions — should the promises be kept — won't prevent temperatures from rising by more than two degrees C. This chart shows what most analysts calculate is where we are heading even if all the Paris promises are kept.
That's one sobering signal that key nations aren't currently willing to do enough. So is the fact that many major emitting countries, including large developing nations like India and Indonesia, promised in Paris only to increase their emissions more slowly, with eventual cuts a future goal — an aspirational maybe, not a solid commitment.
Another discouraging signal is that nations, including the United States, would only agree to a process to monitor initial promises and encourage deeper future cuts that is largely voluntary. That's another clear sign of lack of will to commit to significant action.
And despite the spin of President Barack Obama and others who claim the Paris accord is a success because it sends a clear signal to the business world that the end of fossil fuel is nigh, the inadequate emissions reductions and the voluntary nature of the compliance process are in fact a clear signal to the markets that governments are nowhere near ready to fully wean the world off fossil fuel anytime soon.
What Paris makes clear, then, is that the depth of concern about climate change doesn't nearly match the enormity and urgency of the threat; not among our political leaders, not among our business leaders, and certainly and perhaps most importantly not among the public, which means there is inadequate political pressure for the major actions the situation urgently requires. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon declared of the Paris accords, “We have come to a defining moment on a long journey that dates back decades." That's really depressing, because here's the definition of the best the world could do in the face of a potentially catastrophic threat;
Paris Climate Agreement, n, an international agreement achieved in December 2015 to deal with the threat of climate change that revealed how little the world was actually ready to do.
This image from Paris also reveals much about what the COP21 talks tell us.
These are the empty shoes of protestors who wanted to be there, but were banned because of security concerns. But they don't actually represent public concern. Rather, their emptiness captures the absence of sufficient public concern needed to push politicians to do more. These empty shoes are also part of what Paris revealed about where we stand on climate change. As Michael Grubb, an energy and climate expert at University College London told The Telegraph;
“However much people profess to care about climate change, they do not seem willing to vote for this — nor do politicians seem willing to really try and persuade them." “All the evidence from the past 15 years leads me to conclude that actually delivering 1.5C is simply incompatible with democracy."
The glass-half-full view is that the Paris climate talks created a momentum that will generate that level of concern. That is sadly naïve. It is unlikely that international negotiations that most people never even heard about will make any of us more worried. Climate change is still a threat that doesn't feel like it threatens us personally, and it certainly doesn't feel like it threatens us now as much as it threatens some abstract distant — and less scary — tomorrow.
So while negotiators in Paris were trying to get the world to reduce its carbon emissions, you and I were going about our normal lives, commuting alone and throwing away a quarter of our food and shopping for whatever we can afford and leaving the lights on and the water running and the heat (or air conditioner) up high and uploading our cat videos — instinctively doing all the normal things we do to live the lives we want, the carbon footprint of our lives notwithstanding. And people in the developing world were doing all the things that instinct compels everyone to do; acquire the food and shelter and energy and appliances and stuff that ensure our comfort, safety, and survival.
The progress in Paris is encouraging. Despite the lack of broad, deep public support, our political and business leaders have taken serious action to at least begin to seriously address climate change. But if the achievements of the COP21 talks are the measure of how far the world is willing to go in the year 2015 to combat this immense threat, Paris is a discouraging reality check that until the anthropogenic changes we are baking into the climate system are inundating coastal cities and decimating food supplies and causing countless other tangible harms, the danger won't feel personally threatening enough, or immediate enough, to get people worried enough to push for the changes that are needed. And that is a half-full glass of bitter wine indeed.
image: Getty Images, Anadolu Agency, Martin Bureau
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Philosophers have been asking the question for hundreds of years. Now neuroscientists are joining the quest to find out.
- The debate over whether or not humans have free will is centuries old and ongoing. While studies have confirmed that our brains perform many tasks without conscious effort, there remains the question of how much we control and when it matters.
- According to Dr. Uri Maoz, it comes down to what your definition of free will is and to learning more about how we make decisions versus when it is ok for our brain to subconsciously control our actions and movements.
- "If we understand the interplay between conscious and unconscious," says Maoz, "it might help us realize what we can control and what we can't."
Puerto Rico's iconic telescope facilitated important scientific discoveries while inspiring young scientists and the public imagination.
- The Arecibo Observatory's main telescope collapsed on Tuesday morning.
- Although officials had been planning to demolish the telescope, the accident marked an unceremonious end to a beloved astronomical tool.
- The Arecibo radio telescope has facilitated many discoveries in astronomy, including the mapping of near-Earth asteroids and the detection of exoplanets.
Bradley Rivera via twitter.com<p>In 1963, the concave dish was built into a natural sinkhole on the northern coast of Puerto Rico. The location was <a href="https://www.space.com/20984-arecibo-observatory.html" target="_blank">picked because it was near the equator,</a> providing scientists a clear view of planets passing overhead, and also of the ionosphere, which is the uniquely reactive layer of Earth's upper atmosphere where the northern lights form.</p><p>Since its construction, scientists have used the Arecibo telescope to map near-Earth asteroids, detect gravitational waves, study pulsars, detect exoplanets and <a href="https://www.seti.org/goodbye-arecibo" target="_blank">search for alien civilizations</a>, among other projects. Here's a brief look at some of the discoveries and accomplishments made using the Arecibo telescope:</p><ul><li>1964: Astronomer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Pettengill" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gordon Pettengill</a> discovers that Mercury's rotation period is 59 days, significantly shorter than the previous prediction of 88 days.</li><li>1974: Physicists Russell Alan Hulse and Joseph Hooton Taylor Jr. discovers the first binary pulsar, for which they won a Nobel Prize in Physics.</li><li>1974: Scientists use the telescope to transmit the "Arecibo message" to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Globular_Cluster_in_Hercules" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">globular star cluster M13</a>. The message, when translated into image form, contains basic information about humanity and human knowledge: the numbers one to 10, a map of our solar system, an illustration of a human being, and the atomic numbers of certain elements.</li><li>1989: Scientists use the telescope to image an asteroid for the first time.</li><li>1992: Astronomers Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail become the first to discover exoplanets.</li></ul>
The Google-owned company developed a system that can reliably predict the 3D shapes of proteins.