The Hubris of the Paris Agreement

My position on climate change is simple. The world is getting warmer, due to human activity. With over 7 billion persons on the face of the earth, there is a vast and serious effect on the environment by civilization. However, I’m not convinced that the short terms consequences of global warming will be as dire as many proponents are saying. And we don’t really know how much we can affect the average global temperature by various proposed changes to commerce and society.

In the long term, over the course of the next few hundred years, I believe that global warming will become very severe: rising sea levels, droughts, harm to agriculture, increasing severity of storms, and other bad effects will result. But these dire consequences are long term, not short term. And political agreements will ultimately be woefully insufficient to reduce or prevent this warming trend.

The hubris (pride-filled over-confidence) of the Paris Agreement is found in their assumption that a political agreement will result in control over the average global temperature. The agreement proposes “to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2 ˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing emissions to 40 gigatonnes or to 1.5 ˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing to a level to be identified in the special report referred to in paragraph 21 below….” [Paris Agreement]. The claim that reducing greenhouse gas emissions to any specified level will be sufficient to control or reduce the global temperature to a stated goal is scientifically unproven. In fact, it is unprovable until and unless it is accomplished. Many different factors affect climate and temperature.

Another issue is that the Agreement assumes that if all these nations agree on paper, that everything in the agreement will actually happen. Many practical obstacles make it difficult for each government to meet its own goals. Also, the leadership of the nations is constantly changing, and new leaders might not be willing to implement the agreement. Then there is the reluctance of businesses to take measures which adversely affect their revenues and profits, for the sake of an agreement which they themselves did not sign.

Finally, I must add a comment about eschatology. My understanding is that the tribulation will begin soon, which includes World War 3, severe civil unrest, famine, and a great increase in death and the fear of death in society. These sufferings will be very disruptive to commerce and politics, in all likelihood resulting in a complete failure to implement what has been agreed at Paris. Then, subsequently, in the 2030’s, there will be an all-out nuclear war, resulting in nuclear winter. The world will regret spending so much time and effort attempting to reduce global temperatures, when suddenly the global temperature plummets.

Even so, in the long term, my understanding from eschatology is that global warming will resume and continually increase, until the effects are very harmful throughout the world. So the intentions of the Paris Agreement are good, but it will fail because they incorrectly assume that the politicians of the world can control the environment.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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