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The Closest Humanity Ever Came to Preventing Its Own Extinction from Climate Change

For Related Articles and More Information, Please Visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource  Page.

Those who tell the stories rule the world, it's said, but it's hard to tell a story unless you know the ending.

We don't yet know the ending of the climate change story. The beginning of the ending happened in Kyoto, Japan in 1997, where delegates from 37 industrialized nations and the European Union agreed to the binding greenhouse gas reductions known as the Kyoto Protocol. This is the best the people of the world have been able to do so far to prevent our own extinction. Unfortunately, the Kyoto emission cuts didn't go into force until 2008; Canada, one of the world's biggest oil producers, wouldn't sign it; the U.S. didn't ratify it, nor did Australia, one of the world's top coal producers; China, India and the rest of the developing world weren't covered by it; and its limits lasted only until 2012. The result of the treaty was that 20 percent of the growth of atmospheric carbon dioxide since people lived in caves occurred between 2000 and 2011.

When 2012 arrived, the world, meeting in Doha, gave itself an extension until 2020. But because China (now the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, ahead of the U.S.), India (in third place), Brazil and the developing world were again given a pass, and the U.S., Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine didn't sign on, the caps currently in effect cover only 15 percent of the world's emissions - making way for last year's news that for the first time since millions of years ago, the concentration of carbon dioxide blanketing the earth hit 400 parts per million.

So when 2020 rolls around, and the  Kyoto Protocol expires, what plan will be in effect for the decade beyond? Scientists say our fate will likely be sealed by 2030: "Another 15 years of failure to limit carbon emissions could make the problem virtually impossible to solve with current technologies."    


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