Paris Agreement, Geographic Perspective

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After U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the USA out of the Paris Agreement, an immense amount of controversy has taken place. For a long time, issues such as climate change and global warming have proven to be polarizing subjects, at least when put into the political arena. First, the Paris Climate Agreement needs to be defined.

The Paris Climate Agreement is an agreement within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The goal is to decide how to mitigate climate change and how to adapt to climate change. The Paris Agreement was drafted in November-December 2015, and signed in April 2016. It became effective on 4 November 2016. 195 members of the UNFCCC have signed it, and 148 members have ratified it.

The goals involved according to the agreement.

“(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”

In short, minimize the rise of the average global temperature above pre-industrial level, adapt to changes in the world caused by climate change, and invest more money into technology that would produce less emissions.

Sounds like a noble goal. However, not all nations that signed would stay. When this agreement was signed by the USA, Barack Obama was President of the USA. Today, it is Donald Trump. And President Trump has announced, as of 1 June 2017 that the USA would withdraw from the agreement.

Now, this is to be considered. Every nation within the agreement can determine its own goals in terms of mitigating climate change. There is no force involved and there is no set dates involved. However, the idea is that once a goal is set, said nation should reach or go beyond said goals.

In short, the USA isn’t under the utmost force. According to Trump, it is a solemn duty to the USA to pull out of the agreement. Here is an important question. How is the Paris Agreement harmful to the USA? How do Americans feel about it?

There have been several polls with contrasting results. One poll could show the majority of Americans being for the Paris Agreement. Another poll could show the majority of Americans being against the Paris Agreement. President Trump mentioned that leaving the agreement would boost the coal industry. He mentioned that it would hurt the U.S. economy.

According to the Paris Agreement, the USA can set its own goals and determine the path it wants to go to. And if the USA wants to leave, no one can stop the USA from doing so.

However, it still leaves this question. Would the Paris Agreement hurt the economy? Considering that Trump’s focus on a better economy is manufacturing, there are still many things that need to be considered. Because the USA can determine its own goals in mitigating climate change, there are some things that need to be considered.

  1. The coal industry. This industry has been on the decline for decades, specifically in Central Appalachia. It is flourishing in the Powder River region in Montana/Wyoming. Geographically, it is easier to transport coal from the Powder River region than Central Appalachia, given its more abundant railroad infrastructure, better roads, and less rugged terrain. The coal in this region has a lower amount of sulfur compared to Appalachian coal.
  2. Steel. While the steel industry depends on coal, the dependence on it is dropping. More steel plants are seeking out natural gas as a cleaner fuel source.
  3. Natural gas. Natural gas emits far less CO2, a greenhouse gas, than coal does. As this power source is sought after, the economy could grow because of this resource.

These 3 considerations are just the tip of the iceberg.

And then there is this to consider. There are other forms of energy that can be harnessed, such as water, the sun, wind, geothermal power. Geography, however, will play a role. Places with high average wind speeds will benefit from wind power. Areas near strong watercourses and large tides will benefit from hydroelectric and tidal power. Sunny regions in the USA can harness solar power. Areas near high geothermal activity can use geothermal power. There are a myriad of resources. And the USA can set its own goals if it remains with the Paris Agreement. It will not mean the exclusion of a certain energy source. Energy diversification can be a factor in the USA

If one is to build on ALL of these energy resources, this will require the manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, equipment for geothermal power, the building of dams, and this could also spur more innovation. A new economic boom similar to Silicon Valley could begin, depending on the geography of an area.

If one learns more about geography, and how geography can effect energy resources and transportation. A more educated decision on whether or not the Paris Agreement would hurt the USA’s economy.

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