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Climate's Big Deal

“After the largest climate mobilization ever, the world’s two biggest polluters – the United States and China – announced their most ambitious climate action yet…. John Kerry was right to use the phrase in his New York Times oped announcing the deal: for the first time a developing nation has agreed to eventually limit its emissions. This is a necessity for advancing international climate negotiations.”
Bill McKibben,

Veterans Day 2014 will be memorable as the day the U.S. and China perhaps turned the tide in the battle against global warming and climate disruption.

Physicist and Founding Editor of Climate Progress Joe Romm writes, “The historic new U.S.-China climate deal changes the trajectory of global carbon pollution emissions, greatly boosting the chances for a global deal in Paris in 2015. The deal would keep, cumulatively, some 640 billion tons of CO2 emissions out of the air this century, according to brand new analysis by Climate Interactive and MIT.”i

Line chart illustrating lower CO2 emissions.
(Image Source:

Scientific American relates Everything You Need to Know about the U.S.-China Climate Change Agreement. The Carbon Brief also has a detailed look at the US and China’s ‘historic’ climate deal, but summarizes the deal as follows:

  • The US and China both make new pledges to cut emissions.
  • Unfortunately, the pledges are not enough to prevent temperatures rising by more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels.
  • Negotiators say the deal is vital to policymakers' chances of agreeing a new climate deal in 2015.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that, “It will take just six years of current emissions to exhaust a carbon budget that would give a good chance of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.”ii

The Atlantic writes, “[The deal] doesn’t mean that global climate negotiations will succeed. But it means they’re no longer guaranteed to fail.”iii

Bill McKibben of agrees that this climate deal is historic. However, he also cautions that:

  • It is not binding in any way.
  • It is proof – if any more was needed – that renewable energy is ready to go.
  • It is not remotely enough to keep us out of climate trouble.
  • It is a good way to put pressure on other nations.
  • It is a reason projects like Keystone XL and fracking make even less sense than ever.
  • It is another reminder that it is past time to divest from fossil fuels.
  • It's not, in any way, a stretch goal.iv

We at Ecotech Institute agree that renewable energy is ready to go. According to Dr. Sandy MacDonald, Director of the Earth System Research Laboratory at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), renewable energy (not even including hydroelectric) could cheaply supply the 48 states of the continental U.S. with 70% of their electricity demand by 2030.

McKibben concludes that “[This deal] is – and this is the real key – a reminder that movements work,” and that “It isn't, in other words, a reason to slack off one bit in the ongoing fight for a livable climate, a fight we must continue at all cost.”

I can’t think of a better ending quote.

Kyle G. Crider (MPA, LEED AP ND) is a professional science and sustainability “story teller.” In his spare time he is pursuing his Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary (Environmental Health) Engineering and traveling the highways and by-ways of home state with his wife Beverly in search of fact, fiction, and folklore for Strange Alabama.