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In This Place

Kerry Blasts Climate Change Deniers as Hope Builds for Strong Agreement

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Heather Goldstone
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Brackets in the agreement mean the words are still negotiable.

International negotiators in Paris have just two days left to hammer out an agreement to address climate change. There’s an air of renewed energy and excitement running through the conference center after the release of a draft agreement this afternoon.

The new version includes the possibility of an even more ambitious target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial. Two degrees has been the operating goal in recent years, but advancing science has shown that to be riskier than many would like.

 

Meanwhile, in a speech this afternoon, Secretary of State John Kerry made it pretty clear how he feels about those who continue to deny even the basics of climate science.

"I know that there are still a few that insist that climate change is one big hoax, even a political conspiracy," he said at the conference. My friends, these people are so out of touch with science that they believe rising sea levels don’t matter because in their view the extra water is just going to spill out over the sides of a flat earth. They’re wrong, obviously."

Not everyone put it so pointedly. Joseph Alcamo, Chief Scientist of the United Nations Environment Programme, says that even among the negotiators, some have been slow to accept the urgency and severity of the problem. He’s sympathetic. 

“As a scientist, even though I had been acculturated to it over 20 years, I still find the whole concept that the entire world’s climate is changing, difficult to accept,” he says.

Still, he says we must face facts and take strong action to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. The international business community is one group who’s been quite vocal this week in calling for a strong agreement on emissions reductions. Mindy Lubber of the boston-based non-profit CERES, says that’s because they’re feeling the impacts.

“When you lose a cotton crop and you’re the GAP or Levi Strauss, that’s not a good thing," she says. "There is no sector in our economy that is not impacted by climate change.” 

Luber says the business sector is looking for a strong signal from the international community when it comes to cutting carbon. Environmental groups say the agreement as written needs a stronger mechanism for progressively restricting emissions and monitoring progress. And developing nations are still looking for more help from the richest nations. But many here feel that what’s on the table is a big step forward.