President Obama’s Climate Progress at Risk

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) at Paris Agreement Ratification Ceremony. From Paris to Hangzhou – Climate Response in Action. H.E. Mr. XI Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China (center) and H.E. Mr. Barack Obama (right), President of the United States of America present the instrument for the Paris Agreement to the Secretary-General.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) at Paris Agreement Ratification Ceremony.
XI Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China (center) and Barack Obama, President of the United States of America (right) present the instrument for the Paris Agreement to the Secretary-General.

When President Barack Obama took office January 2009, he did so with a vision for the future of the United States of America. As he would eloquently lay out over what now feels like eight docile years of domestic politics, the United States must lead the world through difficult political and economic choices to address its most pressing and dangerous issue: climate change. On November 8th, that vision and policy born are at stake.

On September 3rd, President Obama and Xi Jinping of China formally committed their respective nations to the historic Paris climate agreement representing a rare display of harmony between the world’s two largest economies.

This international agreement aims to hold global warming below the infamous 2.0° Celsius warming threshold. The announcement followed a more harrowing, solemn reality: August was the warmest August on record. Which itself followed the warmest January to July on record.

While the world watched as temperature records soared, American diplomats led by Secretary of State John Kerry worked behind closed doors with counterparts from around the world to address one of the biggest threats to meeting the Paris climate goal: hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

HFCs, commonly used as refrigerant in air conditioning and refrigeration, are the world’s fastest growing greenhouse gas and possess many times the warming potency of carbon dioxide. If Earth is to have any hope of slowing climate change, HFCs must be addressed.

A heat wave early this year saw temperatures across South and East India soar to between 110 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit. In rural and impoverished areas, more than 160 people lost their lives and countless more fell ill.

India’s climate reality relies on the increased access and availability of technologies using HFCs to not only provide a comfort of living, but to simply keep people alive. The negotiations, years in the making, faced a rocky, tumultuous road littered by political pressures exacerbated by situations like that in India.

Such dangers like the aforementioned heat wave underscore the very real and powerful issues countries often bring to the table.

But through adept diplomatic maneuvering and targeted, concise concessions, an agreement took form. On October 15th in Kigali, Rwanda, more than 170 countries, including India, agreed to phase out the use of HFCs in yet another historic agreement.

Because the agreement amends an existing international treaty known as the Montreal Protocol, it carries the weight of law and the United States Senate must ratify it if we are to officially join the agreement. A Senate where many members choose to deny the very existence of climate change.

The Kigali amendment signifies America’s first major step toward fulfilling its obligations agreed to under the Paris agreement. The two policy victories represent our last chance to hold back the dangers of warming climate and the culmination of a president’s vision for the future of a nation and the world. And they are at stake this coming November 8th.

In a somewhat poetic bout of timing, the Paris Agreement takes effect this Friday before the election. Do you know where your favorite candidate stands? It matters.

Your vote matters. Your vote will help decide whether the United States of America continues to address the threat of climate change or chooses to stick its collective head in the sand. Your vote will help decide the future of our nation and the health, safety, and environment of peoples all over the globe.

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