Triumph à Paris. Triumph pour la science.

By Manomet President John Hagan

 

After being the epicenter for some of the most tragic news of the year, Paris became the exact opposite—a brilliant beacon of hope for the world—with the historic climate agreement signed just last Saturday, December 12.

 

Every nation on earth concurred—even the U.S. and China, the two largest greenhouse gas emitters—to limit global warming to 2ºC (3.4ºF), or even less.  No subject has ever received such undivided support of all the nations on earth. In Paris, all nations agreed: it is time to put science to use.

 

It's true that we don't exactly know how to meet the goal we set out for ourselves in Paris. The 31-page climate accord acknowledged that point, but emphasized how the goal is essential for humanity anyway, even if we don't yet know how to meet it.

 

However, in the accord, all nations did agree to provide transparent, open progress reports to all other nations every five years. This allows new ideas to be shared among nations. The global commitment to the 2ºC goal will spur billions, if not trillions, of dollars of investment around the world in renewable energy technology.  We are all pointing in the same direction.  Finally.

 

Different nations will move at different speeds, and that’s o.k.  Though criticized, to me the genius of the Paris accord is that it is not legally-binding.  Instead, it’s ethically binding.  The Paris agreement codifies what Pope Francis said in his encyclical earlier this past May—solving climate change is a moral imperative.  Something that is a moral imperative should not require edicts to implement.  Maybe climate change is a sort of test for our species—and we got the first question right in Paris.

 

Meeting the Paris goal will take time.  Every life-supporting system we know will have to be transformed in the next two decades to meet the 2ºC goal.  How we grow food.  How we run our economy.  How we manage forest systems, and other wild species.  Everything is about to be transformed, incrementally, but with deliberate speed.

 

That's where Manomet, and you, have a critical role. Manomet knows how to give the people who run these systems the tools they need to transform the systems. And because we know them personally, we also know they will succeed. 

 

How fitting that humanity changed course in Paris.  My hope for Paris was met.