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According to a Pew Research study, two-thirds of Americans believe the government should do more to combat climate change. With rivers and oceans rising, ice caps melting and temperatures rising, it’s time we take action before it’s too late. One way our government reacted in recent years was by joining the Paris Agreement in 2015, and later rejoining this year under the new presidential administration. Learn more about the Agreement and what we can do to help out the cause.

What is the Paris Agreement?

In November 2016, 197 countries entered the landmark Paris Agreement, a “legally binding international treaty on climate change.” 

Prior to the Agreement, scientists estimated the Earth’s temperature to increase two degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century. The Agreement aims to slow that rise of global warming. Nations under the Agreement pledged their commitment to reduce pollution and level off greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists concluded that if our planet continues its current rate of warming, we will experience extreme flooding, harsher winters, widespread wildfires and drought. The ultimate goal is to achieve a climate-neutral world before the 22nd century. 

Every five years, representatives from the 197 countries meet to assess progress and inform parties about updates to their plans for climate change, known as nationally determined contributions or NDCs. Some countries have committed to eliminating the production of fossil fuel-burning cars and manufacturing only zero emission vehicles, while others pledged to reforming agricultural commodities trading in order to reduce deforestation and promote sustainable farming. In addition, involved governments agree to provide continued and enhanced support to developing nations and work to strengthen societies’ ability to deal with the impact of climate change. For example, the United States committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% from the 2005 levels, an ambitious but not impossible feat.

This November marks the five-year anniversary of the Agreement, and participating nations will gather in Glasgow, Scotland, as part of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26. This is the first five-year milestone and the first time these countries will meet and each share their specific NDCs and goals for 2030. 

What can we do to help?

With climate change so prevalent in our society today, you may be asking yourself, “What can I do?” Even though most of the emissions of greenhouse gases come from burning fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and natural gas, there are still steps that we can take in our daily lives to reduce our emissions and work towards a greener future. This includes:

  • Limiting meat and dairy consumption.

  • Using less energy or switching to renewable energy sources.

  • Reducing fuel emissions by carpooling, walking, biking, using public transportation or investing in an electric or hybrid vehicle.

  • Using nontoxic household products.

  • Washing clothes in cold or warm water.

While it's ultimately up to our world leaders to seriously commit to the fight against global warming, we can still contribute and create a healthier, happier environment for our generation and those to come.