In case you missed it: Week of Nov. 1

Two horses are standing in a pasture in front of the RWE lignite power plant Niederaussem, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. Power plants such as these are one of the largest culprits of greenhouse gas emissions, which the United Nation’s Paris Agreement was designed to reduce. The US officially withdrew from the agreement this week. (Oliver Berg/dpa via AP)

United States officially withdraws from the Paris Agreement 

The United States’ withdrawal from the United Nations’ 2015 Paris Agreement to “combat climate change and adapt to its effects” was finalized on Wednesday, the earliest possible date for a signing country to back out of the agreement, according to the New York Times

By the rules of the United Nations, the signatories of the accord were first able to back out on Nov. 4, 2019, but their decision would not be finalized until a full year had passed. As soon as the opportunity presented itself, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo filed the paperwork to remove the United States from the agreement — which was automatically finalized on Wednesday. 

According to TIME Magazine, the United States is the second largest global emitter of greenhouse gases and was instrumental in arranging the international agreement five years ago under President Barack Obama and his administration. Originally, the U.S. pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26% of 1990 levels by 2025. 

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Changes described the main goal of the Paris Agreement as strengthening “the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 C.” 

“The Paris Accord would undermine our economy, hamstring our worker, weaken our sovereignty, impose unacceptable legal risks and put us at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world.” – President trump

“Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives,” according to the UNFCC. 

At the international conference where the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report 1.5 found that global temperatures have already increased by 1.0 C, and are likely to reach a 1.5 C increase by 2040

One major difference reported by the Special Report 1.5 is that half a degree of global temperature increase would lead to the devastation of coral reefs. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wrote, with “high confidence,” that a global temperature increase of 1.5 C would bring the loss of more than 99% of coral reefs, which are important ecosystems and are valuable to ecotourism in some countries. 

In June 2017, President Donald Trump first announced his intention of leaving the Paris Agreement. 

“The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States,” Trump said. “The Paris Accord would undermine our economy, hamstring our worker, weaken our sovereignty, impose unacceptable legal risks and put us at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world.” 

“We don’t want other leaders, and other countries laughing at us anymore, and they won’t be,” the president promised. 

The original framers of the Paris Agreement specifically designed the accord to minimize the effects of a change of leadership in one of the signing countries. It was signed in 2015, and only came into effect in November of 2016, when at least 55 countries responsible for the majority of the global greenhouse gas emissions had domestically ratified the international agreement. After that, countries had a three year grace period, where they were unable to even start the process of pulling out of the agreement. On Nov. 4, the day after the presidential election, the U.S. became the only one of the 196 original signatories to pull out of the agreement. 

However, Byford Tsang, a reporter for a London-based climate research think-tank called E3G told the New York Times that “the world has moved on” after the United States’ withdrawal. 

On Wednesday, presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden promised to rejoin the Paris Agreement in 2021

“Today, the Trump Administration officially left the Paris Climate Agreement. And in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it,” the candidate tweeted. 

However, results of the U.S. presidential election are still unclear, as of Thursday. 

If the former vice president wins the election, and becomes the 46th president of the U.S., the country will have to catch up to the efforts of others in the international community. Biden has said that he plans to divest the U.S. from the use of fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil in the production of electricity by 2035. 

Global pandemic spikes in United States 

The United States reported its highest number of new daily cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, breaking 100,000 for the first time, according to USA Today

John Hopkins University reported that there were 102,831 new cases on Wednesday — more than a 3,000 case increase from when the U.S. reported 99,321 new cases less than a week ago on Oct. 30. 

Oregon becomes the first state to decriminalize ‘hard drugs’ 

On Tuesday, citizens of Oregon voted to decriminalize possession of drugs like heroin, cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine in the state, according to the Associated Press

This June 26, 2020 file photo from video provided by the Yes on Measure 110 Campaign shows volunteers delivering boxes containing signed petitions in favor of the measure to the Oregon Secretary of State’s office in Salem. The measure said the U.S., possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine, LSD and other hard drugs would be decriminalized in Oregon. Election returns show the measure passed on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3. (Yes on Measure 110 Campaign via AP, File)

The Secretary of State’s office reported that 59% of 2 million votes counted approved the measure to not jail people who are caught in possession of “user-amounts” of these drugs. Instead, they will have the option of paying a $100 fine or becoming a part of the state’s new initiative, and attending an “addiction recovery center.” 

The addiction recovery centers will reportedly be funded by Oregon’s legalized, regulated marijuana industry and represents a pioneering effort in the nation to save people from addiction rather than punishing them. 

“This is such a big step in moving to a health-based approach instead of criminal punishment, and we’re devoting significant new resources to help Oregonians who need it,” Janie Gullickson, co-chief petitioner of the measure, told the Associated Press. 

According to the Oregon Nurses Association, one in 11 people in Oregon is addicted to drugs. As a result of this new law, the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission estimates that 3,700 fewer Oregonians will be convicted for drug possession each year. 

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