By Dominic Salacki, Staff Writer

According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), February 2016 has set a record for the hottest month our planet has faced so far.

“The February average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 2.18°F (1.21°C) above the 20th century average,” reported the NOAA. February also surpassed the all-time monthly record set in December 2015 by 0.16°F (0.09°C).

This is very disturbing. The leap month has shattered previous heat records as well as any speculation as to whether or not global warming is man-made, or even real. But this is for certain, the latest results put Earth that much closer to the ominous two-degree Celsius threshold, what meteorologists could call ‘uncharted territory.’

“Climate change is real, it is happening right now,” said Leonardo DiCaprio in his Oscar acceptance speech, Feb. 28, 2016. “It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.”

This is exactly what our people have been doing for the past few decades. When Al Gore came out with An Inconvenient Truth, the world wasn't ready to get serious and buckle down. Instead, we made fun of Gore, hence the fictionalized speculation of a so-called "ManBearPig." But finally, a saving moment has arrived in the form of a meeting of all the world's leaders.

The 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), recently concluded with the care and contribution of hundreds of the world’s leaders, ended on a high note in Paris, France with the twenty-first annual Conference of the Parties (COP 21). This resulted in the introduction of The Paris Agreement. This agreement brought all of the world’s countries together in an effort to combat global climate change and slow the efforts of global greenhouse gas emissions.

 COP 21 Logo

COP 21 Logo

“In Paris, the world witnessed as 196 Parties to the UNFCCC reached a historic agreement to combat climate change,” reported the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat in a Message to the Parties. “This agreement will accelerate progress towards a low-carbon, resilient and sustainable future.”

As predicted by The U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), by the end of 2015, the planet warmed an additional one degree Celsius since the late 1800s. But in reflection towards our future, in decades past, leading scientists have been asked, ‘How much warming can humanity tolerate, before experiencing the most destructive and dangerous effects of climate change?’ Because of this life-grappling question, it is how the world’s leading scientists came up with the infamous two-degree Celsius threshold that holds such importance concerning sustainable life on Earth.

“While there’s some uncertainty about how much of a problem two degrees of additional warming will be and how we will be able to adapt to it, scientists say we will likely see longer droughts and more intense heat waves, which could cause huge disruptions to the world’s food supply,” reported William Brangham, PBS NewsHour Senior Correspondent, in Washington D.C.

For most of human existence, the Earth’s temperature has fluctuated fairly steady, reasonably enough for humans to adapt to without any drastic changes to our everyday routine. However, remember that all of human existence, meaning everything we have ever done as a species, has occurred in this narrow range.

“At two degrees, sea levels could rise several feet, which would flood many coastal communities in the U.S. and potentially cause large migrations of people from countries like Bangladesh, India and Vietnam,” Brangham said.

When we consider our shared use of burning oil, gas and coal, its atmospheric living situation eventually traps the sun’s radiation and gradually drives up the Earth’s temperature, causing global warming. Now, for the first time in human history, we have pushed above our safe, historical temperature range.

“The power of El Niño will fade in the coming months but the impacts of human-induced climate change will be with us for many decades. We have reached for the first time the threshold of 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in a press release. “It is a sobering moment in the history of our planet.”

The overwhelmingly dangerous chemical emissions keep pushing closer and closer to the ever-so infamous two-degree Celsius threshold, meaning our global temperature is unstable, and so is Mother Nature. Snow in mid-April in a temperate region like D.C.? That is worrisome. But it looks like the human race, the world as a whole, will soon begin to take responsibility for global warming, for the sake of future generations, beginning with The Paris Agreement.

“The universal agreement’s main aim is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below two degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels,” reported the UNFCCC on Dec. 12, 2015. “Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability to deal with the impacts of climate change.”

"We are not discussing just the environment, the climate. It's life," said Laurent Fabius, former French Prime Minister and former President of the COP 21. "We have to succeed here."

The UN climate conference covered the following crucial areas identified as essential for a considerably landmark conclusion:

  1. Mitigation – Reducing emissions fast enough to achieve the temperature goal
  2. A Transparency System and Global Stock-Take – accounting for climate action
  3. Adaptation – strengthening ability of countries to deal with climate impacts
  4. Loss and Damage – strengthening ability to recover from climate impacts
  5. Support – including finance, for nations to build clean, resilient futures
 Flags of the World outside the United Nations

Flags of the World outside the United Nations

“We have entered a new era of global cooperation on one of the most complex issues ever to confront humanity,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “For the first time, every country in the world has pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and join in common cause to take common climate action. This is a resounding success for multilateralism.”

To fulfill global expectations and goals, the UNFCCC says that appropriate financial flows must be put in place, thus allowing vulnerable and developing countries to take part in this effort, without the disturbance of their own national objectives. The UNFCCC requires all involved world leaders to submit updates, what they call Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The reported progress will be delivered every five years, thereby steadily increasing their ambition in the long-term.

“Climate action will also be taken forward in the period before 2020. Countries will continue to engage in a process on mitigation opportunities and will put added focus on adaptation opportunities,” the UNFCCC said. “Additionally, they will work to define a clear roadmap on ratcheting up climate finance to USD 100 billion by 2020.”

The UNFCCC is planning accordingly for all new climate action plans, made up by, at least, the 188 involved countries, to provide a firm foundation for their goal of higher ambition in the future, establishing the principle that those future national plans will be no less ambitious than existing ones.

“The Paris Agreement allows each delegation and group of countries to go back home with their heads held high,” Fabius said. “Our collective effort is worth more than the sum of our individual effort; our responsibility to history is immense.”

“The idea was to... agree on a collective target, that would mobilize the action needed to get the whole world to act together,” said Scott Barrett of Columbia University, who served on the U.N.’s Climate Panel and now studies global climate treaties.

 Paris Agreement Signing Ceremony Logo

Paris Agreement Signing Ceremony Logo

The Paris Climate Change Agreement will open for signatures on Friday, Apr. 22, 2016 following a ceremony convened by Head of the UN Ban Ki-moon in New York. The United Nations headquarters have confirmed that over 130 countries will attend the signing ceremony. I implore that we find an safe and efficient solution.

“Let us not take this planet for granted,” DiCaprio said

Challenge: Calculate your ecological footprint to see how you measure up. Then, tweet your results to @genYize #EarthDay.

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AuthorNick Salacki