KUSA - In a global first, nearly 200 of the world's nations have agreed upon basic principles to address climate change—each agreeing to voluntarily help reduce the amount of Greenhouse gases – like carbon dioxide and methane-- emitted by their countries.
"As people are beginning to even see glaciers melting and rivers drying up and droughts that they never saw before, fires consuming Indonesia and other places, there is a sense of urgency," Secretary of State John Kerry said after the agreement was reached in Paris.
In Colorado, researchers are studying those effects at the Global Monitoring Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They say greenhouse gases know no territorial boundaries.
"We all live downwind of somebody's sewer," said Russ Schnell of NOAA's Global Monitoring Division. "We throw away our air pollution – it goes to Europe. Europe throws there's away, it goes to Russia and China. China throws there's away and it comes right over the U.S."
The agreement's key points include reducing the rise of global temperatures by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. The plan also calls for more incentives for renewable energy and $ 100-billion to developing nations, which are dealing with the effects of climate change.
"I think, in part, we're locked into some changes that we're not going to be happy with, particularly in terms of sea level rise," said CU-Boulder Professor Jim White, who studies past climate change on Earth. "But we still have a lot within our control, so we can indeed avoid some of the nastier consequences of a warmer and warmer climate."
Some Republicans in Congress have criticized the deal, though, saying aspects of the agreement are vague and that reducing emissions from power plants could cost jobs. That is something those who were at the Paris conference discussed.
"The greenhouse gases are really central to our energy economy and we want to make changes that maintain our economies, but still allow us to deal with a very difficult problem," said Dr. Sandy MacDonald, with NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research in Boulder. He was in Paris for the climate change talks, known as COP21.
The agreement also calls for the all of the countries involved in the agreement... to meet every five years starting in 2023 and report what they have done to cut their emissions.
Congress would need to approve any climate change agreement to make it binding for the U.S. In 1997, the U.S. failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change.
(© 2015 KUSA)