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The importance of the Paris Agreement

It is rare for there to be consensus among nearly all countries. The Paris Agreement was one of those rare moments where leaders from around the world agreed to take action to slow the warming of the planet.

The representatives of 196 parties negotiated the language of the agreement and adopted it in Paris on December 12, 2015. Its objective was to create a unified response to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius this century above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue means to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The agreement also seeks to assist countries with combating the impact of climate change.

On Thursday U.S. President Donald Trump, the leader of the richest and most powerful country, and the second biggest carbon dioxide emitter, announced his country’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

“As president, I can put no other consideration before the well-being of American citizens,” he said at a media event at the White House.

“The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers — who I love — and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production.”

Trump’s decision was misguided and dangerous. China and Europe disagreed with him, issuing statements saying they would stand by the accord.

The American president does not believe the science surrounding global warming and climate change. He has said he thinks it is a “hoax” concocted by China to advance its interests.

The data says otherwise.

Over the last 50 years the average global temperature has gone up by the fastest rate in recorded history — data began being kept at the end of the 19th century. Nine out of 10 of the warmest periods since 1880 have been years in the 21st century.

There is consensus that global warming is driven by human behavior. When greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere they trap heat and cause the planet to warm. This can lead to dramatic changes in weather patterns and glacial melt. Sea level rises would result.

Flat coastal countries such as The Bahamas are particularly at risk. Significant sea level rises would put much of The Bahamas under water.

The Bahamian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed concern at Trump’s decision, as did most of the sane world.

“While each nation must determine its own course on international matters, the prospect of the effects of climate change are particularly significant for low-lying, coastal, small island developing states (SIDS) such as The Bahamas, the very existence of which stands to be adversely impacted by climate change and global warming,” it said in a statement on Friday.

The ministry said The Bahamas “remains committed to the Paris Agreement” and its ambition to “reduce risk to economies and lives everywhere, and to build a secure and sustainable world”.

The ministry added: “The Bahamas will continue to work with its partners in the context of the Paris Agreement, as well as its neighbors in the United States in ongoing efforts to mitigate the long-term effects of global weather on states in the region.”

Trump diminishes America’s standing with each decision he makes. The Bahamas is right to stay committed to the goals of Paris. We are insignificant as a small country when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. However, if we want big countries to act to save us we must do our part to change our behaviors.

We must stop burning bunker C at the state electricity plant and aggressively switch to renewable energy. We must reform waste disposal to be more environmentally responsible. The New Providence Landfill fires are evidence that our current methods are poor. Successive governments have kept duties lower on hybrids and electric cars, but why not totally eliminate duties altogether in order to further incentivize their use?

Trump’s mindset is backward. He is taking a great nation backward. It’s a tragedy that he became the American president. We must stay focused and remain part of the group of nations seeking to make things better. The planet sustains us. We cannot prosper if we destroy it.


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