Climate change deal now international law, but can leaders sell it?

Climate change deal now international law, but can leaders sell it to their people?

Recently, the Paris Agreement to combat climate change was approved as international law. The decision came even as those at the Paris Conference worry that the globe is heating up faster than originally expected. At present, 96 countries have signed onto the deal, which is one step in the attempt to limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius.

Organizers hope that those 96 are just the beginning. Speaking to the media, Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon said, “Today we make history in humankind’s efforts to combat climate change… We are still in a race against time. We need to transition to a low-emissions and climate-resilient future… Now is the time to strengthen global resolve, do what science demands, and seize the opportunity to build a safer more sustainable world for all.”

It was a rousing speech greeted warmly by most of the nation
al representatives in the room, but not by everyone, and certainly not by everyone in the countries represented at the conference. And this is the key distinction. Just because nearly 100 countries signed onto the deal doesn’t mean much. They still have to convince their people and, in many ways, work to change their cultures if they want to accomplish their goals.

When it comes to delivering a message, it’s not about how much one side believes it; it’s about how well they can articulate that to the other side and convince them to come to their way of thinking. They don’t need everyone, but they will need most of the people who are ambivalent as well as some of those who currently think climate change is bunk. More than that, though, these partisans will need to convince doubters that there’s a way to continue growing their economies and enjoying a first world existence without giving up their energy.

The U.S., Russia, and other world powers are not likely to look kindly on reducing carbon emissions, and there will be powerful groups out there trying to control the narrative to protect the status quo. Emerging economies like China and India are even more dependent on fossil fuels and carbon-emitting energy sources.

Supporters of the accord say they “know” a lot about what causes climate change and what could happen because of it. But, in the end, it doesn’t matter what they know, it doesn’t really even matter what they can prove. It only matters who they can convince.

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