07 January, 2015
In 2014, the United Nations released a series of climate reports that showed temperatures on Earth are rising. That is the bad news. The good news is that countries are working together to fight climate change.
Experts say a two-degree rise in temperature above pre-industrial times will cause serious damage that cannot be reversed. The pre-industrial period ended in the middle of the 18th century. That was followed by the Industrial Revolution, when machines and new manufacturing processes were created.
Michael Oppenheimer is a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University in New Jersey. He says air pollution emissions must be reduced before temperatures rise.
"That makes it incumbent upon governments to get moving quickly, which is why there's so much focus on the meeting in Lima and the meeting a year from now that's planned for Paris."
The recent United Nations talks in Peru were designed to prepare officials for a meeting in Paris, France later this year. Many nations will sign a global climate agreement at that meeting.
The agreement reached in Peru is different from earlier agreements. Developing countries like China and India are promising to join richer countries in reducing emissions. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said developing nations are having a large effect on the environment.
"More than half of global emissions -- more than half -- are coming from developing nations. So it is imperative that they act, too."
China and the United States acted -- they signed an agreement. American officials said the U.S. would reduce emissions between 26 and 28 percent by 2025. China said it would begin reducing emissions in 2030.
Michael Oppenheimer says other countries will release their environmental plans early this year. He says negotiators continue to discuss details of the agreement before the conference opens in Paris. But he says he hopes people understand that an agreement is just the beginning of efforts to reduce global warming.
"No matter what comes out of Paris, it's important that this problem be revisited continually to make sure that countries are living up to their commitments. And that means active and engaged citizenries in all these countries have to push, push, push on their governments."
Professor Oppenheimer says if countries do not take action the planet will become warmer faster than at any time in the history of civilization.
I'm Christopher Cruise.
VOA's Rosanne Skirble prepared this report. Christopher Cruise wrote the story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in this Story
reversed - v. to cause something such as a process to stop or return to an earlier state
emissions – n. something sent out or given off
incumbent upon – idiomatic. to be necessary for someone
imperative – adj. very important
revisited – v. to think about or look at (something) again
citizenries/citizenry – n. all the citizens of a place (usually singular)
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