UN takes right step to reduce carbon footprint

By Ali Leist, COLUMNIST
On October 1, 2013

The United Nations (U.N.) has finally found a way to save the world, and it doesn’t involve world peace.

The U.N. is currently making its strongest effort yet to reduce the worldwide emissions that are contributing to the greenhouse effect. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presented their latest climate change report Friday. In the report, an upper limit on greenhouse gases, or the point before the changes from greenhouse emissions become irreparable, was established. The panel also proposed a carbon budget that would limit the amount of carbon dioxide that can be produced by industrial activities and the clearing of forests, according to the New York Times.

In 2003, 30,000 deaths in Europe occurred due to a heat wave and India reached 119 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.N. That was only the beginning of the effect global warming can have on Earth.

The U.N. also blames Hurricane Katrina on the elevated temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico.

This isn’t the first time the U.N. is trying to tackle the problem of greenhouse gas emissions and it probably won’t be the last, but the fact they are making a firm approach to prevent excess carbon dioxide emissions gives hope.

In previous years, the U.N. has promoted reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as through the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009 where the Copenhagen Accord was produced to express political intent for a reduction in greenhouse gases and respond to climate changes for both now and in the future.

What the Accord lacked was exactly how a reduction in emissions would be made. The U.N. couldn’t have expected any significant changes, which is why the new report is so important.

According to the New York Times, in the 2007 U.N. report on climate change, it was reported that it was 90 percent likely human activity was the cause of global warming. In the report released Friday, scientists are now stating that it is 95 percent probable that humans are the direct cause.

It really shouldn’t be any surprise that the probability has gone up, which is why it is important the U.N. is making a significant effort to reduce greenhouse gases to slow down global warming.

The U.N. can discuss ways to reduce greenhouses gases, as they did in 2009, but actually taking a step to create a report that enforces changes in emissions is going to make the difference.

A concern to consider with this new report and plan to place a limit on carbon dioxide emissions is that it will take years to notice a difference, and the possibilities of loopholes to avoid the limit can undermine its effect. Ongoing enforcement of this upper limit is the only way it will have an impact.

It’s a light step in the right direction to reduce the carbon footprint, but if the reported upper limit really does make a significant difference, it won’t be seen for a long period of time.

Ali Leist is a junior majoring in mass communications.

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