Wow, both Lima and the COP 20 have already been incredible opportunities, and it is all just getting started! Lima is absolutely gorgeous with its luscious green gardens filled with people out for their morning jogs, its steep cliffs that lead straight to the beaches, and its rolling mountains off in the distance. Before the conference started, we got to visit the historic Plaza de Armas, which had the Government Palace and a beautiful colonial cathedral. We’ve also been able to experience my favorite part about any culture—the food. Kowan and I were brave enough to try one of their infamous guinea pig dishes, which was absolutely delicious! The scenery, the history, and the culture here in Lima have been just awesome to get to experience first-hand.
I digress; we did not come to Lima for the culture. We came here for the 20th session of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC—my gosh, that is a mouthful of a name). Thus far, my time at the COP has been incredibly enlightening. It’s absolutely insane to walk into a plenary session and see those name plates with the names of every country on the planet with their respective delegates. It’s quite surreal.
Something else that is surreal is the data. At the opening session, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gave a quick talk about some of the major points of this year’s report. One of the major goals of the UNFCCC has been to keep the global average temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times. This 2 degree goal is from a previous IPCC report and basically states that a temperature increase greater than 2 degrees C would cause seriously dangerous climate change. The IPCC reported that in order to meet this target, we have a set amount of CO2 that we can emit globally from pre-industrial times to…forever… We have used 65% of this amount.
To quantify this amount, that is 1000 gigatons of CO2 that we can emit for the rest of human existence. Currently, we emit roughly 40 gigatons of CO2 annually. If we maintain this current rate, we have 25 years before we royally screw up the planet. Actually, it is even less since our rate of emitting CO2 has been increasing faster than ever—yes, even after the actions of the Kyoto Protocol. Action must be taken. We have one planet. There are no second chances to get this right. Although, I guess that’s good case for increasing NASA’s funding...