The United Nations recently held their climate summit in New York City. A few days ahead
of the event, more than 300,000 people joined a peaceful march in Manhattan to call attention to the issue of climate change. Secretary Of State John Kerry recently argued that the problem of climate change should be addressed with the same immediacy as Ebola or ISIS. So, putting politics aside, how serious is this issue? Well, there’s an incredible amount of statistical evidence that illustrates the severity of climate change. But instead of getting mired down in talk about ice caps and polar bear populations, let’s just discuss what the UN Climate Summit is really about: air pollution. The UN is meeting in hopes of signing a deal that could cut down on carbon emissions worldwide. Just to be clear, we are talking about cars and our dependence on oil, but we’re also talking about things like coal power. Climate change is a pressing issue now because there are nations, chief among them China, that are actively pumping carbon into the environment on an enormous scale. According to the Global Carbon Project, China alone accounts for 28% of the world’s total carbon emissions. And they increased their emissions last year by 4.2%, which increased global emissions worldwide, by 2.3%. In other words, year over year - the situation is getting worse, not better. The ultimate goal of this meeting is to establish a plan to reduce these emissions. And one way to do that - is switching away from coal and fossil fuels, to cleaner forms of energy; a switch that some economists and ecologists now argue could also help developing countries, like China, save money in the long run. They also argue that it would benefit not just the environment, but also the health of the people in those nations. The argument against committing to cleaner energy is that it requires an enormous initial investment and could potentially slow down economic progress. The problem is that the very nations that need economic progress most, are also the nations that emit the most carbon. It’s a catch-22, and a large part of why an agreement still hasn’t been reached.