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A World of Change Created by Paris Climate Talks
Two College of Engineering and Computer Science faculty members with expertise in climate change and environmental engineering are applauding the recent agreement on a global climate deal reached in Paris, but for separate reasons.
President Obama hailed the agreement as historic, saying it “lays the foundation for countries to work together to put the world on a path to keeping global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius and sets an ambitious vision to go even farther than that,” according to a White House press release. “It also sends a strong signal to the private sector that the global economy is moving towards clean energy, and that through innovation and ingenuity, we can achieve our climate objectives while creating new jobs, raising standards of living and lifting millions out of poverty.”
University Professor of Environmental Systems and Distinguished Professor Charles Driscoll has conducted extensive research on the positive environmental impact of reduction in power plant emissions, having co-authored a study on the health benefits of a new policy to reduce power plant emissions. The Climate Summit, according to Driscoll, “appears to have been a remarkably successful and productive meeting that resulted in an aggressive and binding treaty to limit the emissions of gases that cause climate change. This event provides the opportunity for countries to develop innovative approaches to control emissions that will also maximize co-benefits to the local environment or economy. An example is the air quality and human health benefits associated with the U.S. Clean Power Plan, which has the potential to decrease local air pollution and save lives, in addition to decreasing emissions of carbon dioxide.”
Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor of Practice Svetoslava Todorova credits the accord not only for its effect on clean air, but also for the spirit of cooperation that led to the agreement in the first place. In her work, Professor Todorova has advised the United Nations in development of a global mercury treaty, which aims to mitigate the environmentally toxic chemical element. While Professor Todorova lauds the agreement, she is equally impressed by the spirit of cooperation.
“While the Paris Agreement may not seem aggressive to some, those who understand international negotiations will see that it is an incredible achievement,” says Todorova. “It is truly historic for nearly 200 countries to agree on a global temperature reduction target. This is the first long-term commitment on climate change since 1997’s Kyoto Protocol and it sets a numerical benchmark for everyone to live up to. The world has united around a common goal. Scientists contributed substantially to the development of the Paris Agreement. In global conventions, scientists take on the role of lobbyist. We communicate fundamental science to policy makers and provide guidance for the development of technically sound solutions. The scientific knowledge and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports have contributed tremendously to the development of the current goals of 2 C and 1.5 C .”