The United States is finally part of the Paris climate agreement.

Ready, to the posts, via. Just established, Joe Biden's new stars and stripes administration did rejoin the US in the climate agreement of Paris. This is a nice change of pace from Donald Trump's previous administration, who had decided to leave that agreement. For the occasion, the climate expert Ed Hawkins produced a special version of his famous ones warming stripes. Despite what they think some, the Paris Agreement does not only concern the citizens of the French capital, but all of us. But one question is legitimate: what the Paris Agreement really is?

A step at a time: to begin, the agreement was stipulated in 2015, during a meeting held annually by 25 years now (except in the infamous 2020). This meeting is called COP (Conference of Parts, in Italian Conference of the Parties) and is organized byUNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), namely the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. This body was founded by 1992 to address the most important challenges regarding climate change. In the last decades, its main purpose was to find a global agreement on the limitation of gas serra, believed to be the main cause of the greenhouse effect of anthropogenic origin (that is, caused by human activities).


Let's go back to the main theme. The Paris Agreement are the final product of the COP 21, held in Paris in December 2015. They are arguably the biggest hit of "climate diplomacy" since the Kyoto protocol 1997, unfortunately shipwrecked after a few years due to the USA and Russia. Indeed, the Paris Agreement contains a series of unprecedented measures to combat climate change, or at least to mitigate the most harmful effects. In fact, the main purpose of the agreement is to limit the increase in global surface temperature to less than 2 ° C compared to the pre-industrial period. This safety threshold was not decided by chance, but it represents a point beyond which the effects of climate change are thought to become very difficult to manage. We will talk about this again later.

Let's open a little parenthesis: what does "climate diplomacy" mean? The answer lies in the mechanism of operation of the COP. As it is a conference of the parties, it is not just made up of scientists, but above all by political and economic leaders around the world (called in jargon policy-makers), who then have to put into practice the decisions made during the conference. This means that every COP is a kind of card game, in which "polluting" countries (I think there is no need to give examples) they try to play to the downside and save face, while those most at risk (as various island states) they try to get more stringent measures. The end result is sometimes ambitious, as in the case of Paris 2015, other times it is disappointing, as in the case of Madrid 2019.

Within the agreement, countries write down the measures they intend to take to limit greenhouse gas emissions, o about the mitigation of climate change, o regarding economic / technological aid to be provided to emerging countries to help them develop without polluting. These commitments are reviewed every 5 years. After, the countries that have signed the agreement must ratify the content in the form of laws in national parliaments. Therefore, it is not enough for the agreement to be signed. That's why Trump was able to get the US out in his time.

However, there are also doubts about the effectiveness of this type of agreement. First of all, a country's interest in these initiatives can change according to the current government (see the Obama-Trump-Biden case in the US). Second, national targets are decided by individual countries. Diplomatic activity serves to ensure that, globally, the national commitments serve to avoid exceeding the fateful 2 ° C threshold. Third, there are no sanctions for those who do not respect the commitments. A control body was founded which will be activated in 2024, to which states must provide reports on their progress, but it is not clear what the defaulting countries are facing.

The question of the 2 ° C threshold is fundamental; cerchiamo quindi di capire da dove esce fuori. All’interno delle Nazioni Unite esiste un organismo che approfondisce gli aspetti più tecnici dei cambiamenti climatici, called IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or Intergovernmental Group on Climate Change). The IPCC is the world's leading authority on climate change; it brings together all the leading climate experts in the world and is divided into three sub-working groups, each dedicated to a different aspect of climate change (problem, socio-economic, mitigation). There is more: every 7 about years, the IPCC publishes an evaluation report (Assessment Reports) on the "state of the climate", which contains all the knowledge we have on climate change and its effects. The latest report was published in 2014, while the next one should come out next year. In addition to these reports, others are published (called Special Reports) on more specific issues. One of the most important, pubblicato nel 2018, è proprio sulla soglia di temperatura che dobbiamo cercare di non superare. The result? Unfortunately 2 ° C is even too high, our target should be 1.5 ° C. The problem is that much of this temperature increase has already happened in the last few decades. Let's go back to Ed Hawkins, that of warming stripes. He participates in a interesting blog, which tries to explain various aspects of climate change. They made this animation, by calculating the global temperature increase from 1850 al 2020. It really seems like it's time to get going (possibly electric).

Global mean temperature variation between 1850 and the 2020

Credits: Ed Hawkins

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