B1 Intermediate US 7014 Folder Collection
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Good morning, John!
So, the United States is pulling out of the Paris Climate...
Agreement...
Treaty...
A - Accord?
Protocol?
The - I don't -
Let's be honest - There's a really good chance that you have a strong opinion on the Paris agreement,
... And an EVEN BETTER chance you don't really know what it is.
There are too many things to know, so quick timeline...
350 million years ago
Ancient plants covered the earth, converting the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the air into Oxygen(O2)
and carbohydrates.
These plants then die, and they create massive mats of organic materials that get buried.
Those organic materials then hang around under the earth getting heated up and smushed and form
energy-dense hydrocarbons, also called "fossil fuels".
Notice how cardohydrate and hydrocarbon sound similar.
1882
(There was a big gap there)
Thomas Edison builds the first centralized coal-fired powerplant.
We've been using coal for a long time before that, of course
but I'm starting here because we have to start somewhere.
For the next 100 years, fossil fuels brought tremendous growth and
increases in quality life, specifically in Europe and America,
where the vast majority of fossil fuels were burned.
Decades pass. The benefits of fossil fuels eventually begin to spread
and everyone is consuming more and more.
It's great, for the most part, except that all that CO2 that was locked up in fossil fuels for
billions of years is now being re-released
and CO2 is really good at letting visible light pass through it
but infrared radiation that gets bounced
back up by the earth does not pass right through it.
It gets trapped.
So the earth's atmosphere and oceans start having more energy in them
and that starts to change the climate.
And while fossil fuels give us remarkable abilities to do cool and beautiful things
and increase the quality of life
here on earth, we also
rely on a stable climate, for massive farming operations
and coastal infrastructure (by which
I mean all of the cities that people live in.)
Jumping forward again
to 2015, 270 countries get
together in Paris with a goal:
We want to keep the average warming of the earth below
2 degrees Celcius because, if we don't, it's
gonna be really bad for everyone.
But the problem is no one country can handle this because even the biggest contributors, the U.S. and China, together make up less than
half of the pie. Everyone needs to
agree to make changes or no one benefits.
Worse, the poor countries
that have admitted basically zero greenhouse gases
are going to be the ones that are most negatively affected by this CO2
that's been released by the wealthy countries
because they have more food and water insecurity,
less access to good medicine, and less infrastructure.
It's very difficult to say to them,
No! Don't grow your economy using the same dirty fuels and techniques
that we used to grow our economies.
Instead! Buy these solar panels from us! With the money you don't have!
Also, like, since any country that keeps burning its usual will have
a competitive advantage in industry. (So, facing climate change) everyone agrees that everyone needs to agree,
or this agreement is useless.
With advice from scientists, the countries altogether determined
how quickly the Earth needs to stop emitting greenhouse gases
to meet the 2 degree goal.
And then, based on how developed each country is, how many people they have,
and how much they're currently emitting, they divvied up that responsibility.
At the end, every country had a goal.
There was no enforcement for meeting that goal, but there was a goal.
And, some countries that had already benefitted a lot from the last hundred years
of releasing carbon dioxide even threw in some money:
billions of dollars to aid countries that hadn't benefitted from that,
to help them grow with less reliance on fossil fuels.
Every country agreed to their own path forward, and every country was responsible
for figuring out how to meet their goals,
whether it's through energy efficiency,
subsidizing renewables, regulating businesses,
changing people's behavior through education, or
ending fossil fuel subsidies.
And if countries don't meet their target?
Again, nothing happens.
There are no penalties.
This is an agreement between nations that there is a problem,
and we must lead together, or
face the price. And, remarkably,
A treaty that only encourages countries to reduce
emissions with unenforceable promises is
a gigantic step, and one that has
already seen significant success.
But this is an investment, and it does
have costs. Do we know
exactly what that price will be?
No. We don't know precisely
how much better off we'll be if we keep temperatures
from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, and
we don't know precisely how much we need to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions to hit that target.
But we do know that we are better off
incentivizing these changes now, globally,
because more than 600 million people
live in areas threatened by sea level rise.
Every person on Earth has
to eat every single day,
and climate refugees' lost crops
and lost infrastructure could destabilize
the entire world economy and result in
a very bad era of human history,
a sentiment to which the U.S. Department of
Defense, by the way, agrees. Remarkably,
thanks to a combination of energy efficiency,
changing habits, and a shift from coal to
natural gas and renewables, the United States
was, until recently, on target
to meet its Paris goals for decreasing
emissions 26% from 2005
levels by 2025.
We've already decreased emissions by around 14%,
even as the economy has grown.
But if there is no political will to continue
this, if the majority party in both houses
of Congress and the president do not
agree that humans are causing climate change
and want to continue investing in the same energy
systems Thomas Edison pioneered
in the 1800s, we will stall.
Other countries, at the moment, are pledging
to move forward, leading in the absence
of the United states. And, several states
in the U.S., the ones with the largest economies,
also have plans to abide by the
agreement. But without the U.S.,
a country that emits 18% of the world's
greenhouse gases with just 4% of the
population, this pioneering agreement
is considerably weakened.
After all, why would other countries hold
up their side of the bargain if the country
that benefitted the most from the Carbon Dioxide
currently in the atmosphere shirks
their responsibility? I, for one,
am tired of politicians pretending that
we don't all share
this big, beautiful, but also quite small
planet. I was proud that
my country was a leader in establishing the Paris agreement,
and I am ashamed at the step backward
we have taken away from uniting humanity
to take on this great global challenge.
John, I'll see you on Tuesday.
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The Paris Accord: What is it? And What Does it All Mean?

7014 Folder Collection
g2 published on June 19, 2017
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