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Earth Day 2016: A Historic Day For Earth's Future

Earth Day in 2016 will be one to remember for its significance on a global scale climate agreement between two economic powerhouses. The Earth Day movement, started in the 1970′s by John McConnell, has since seen billions take part in planting trees, cleaning up local neighborhoods, and pushing government officials to enact more progressive environmental laws.

 

The United States President Barak Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a statement recently that both sides will sign the Paris climate agreement on April 22nd, (Earth Day) 2016. This imminent agreement marks what could be the most important Earth Day in history. In addition, in a lead up to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020, the Earth Day Network has pledged to plant 7.8 billion trees worldwide to account for every single person living on Earth.

 

As a sign of solidarity and in an attempt to gain quick momentum, the United States and China will sign the agreement at the official signing ceremony at the United Nations headquarters in New York on April 22 . Both leaders hope signing the climate agreement early will provide the push the agreement needs to obtain the required 55 countries accounting for a minimum of 55% of global emissions.

 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead

 

Paris Climate Agreement On Earth Day: April 22, 2016

The Paris climate agreement negotiated at the end of 2015 laid the framework for attempting to keep global temperatures from rising above 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their most recentassessment noted “widespread and consequential” impacts seen from climate change to date. Overwhelming evidence points to human driven greenhouse gas emissions as the primary driver of the observed warming in the recent centuries.

At the end of 2015, 188 countries had published their action plan to combat rising global temperatures and the rippling affects that follow. The Paris agreement asks for concrete and scaling contributions from each country to lower emission targets in the coming years to decades.

The global annual average temperature over time measured on land and over oceans. Red bars denote temperatures that are above and blue bars indicate temperatures that are below the 1901-2000 average temperature. The black line overlaid on the graph tracks the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in parts per million over time. (Credit: NOAA)

The global annual average temperature over time measured on land and over oceans. Red bars denote temperatures that are above and blue bars indicate temperatures that are below the 1901-2000 average temperature. The black line overlaid on the graph tracks the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in parts per million over time. (Credit: NOAA)

The agreement will set aside $100 billion in funds to be raised each year from 2020 to help finance projects aimed at curbing climate change. Funding has been a key difference in principles between developed and developing countries, with developing countries arguing that they should not bear the same burden as developed countries. The agreement outlined common but unequal responsibilities in tackling climate change, linked largely to the country’s wealth and past emissions.

 

The agreement takes effect when at least 55 countries that represent at least 55% of emissions have joined the agreement. To encourage your leaders to sign the Paris agreement on Earth Day 2016, head over to this petition where you can add your name to an ever-growing petition.

 

History of Earth Day

In the 1970’s there was an emerging realization that our planet needed help. To increase awareness of environmental issues facing Earth, a special day was created to dedicate educating the public. April 22 was chosen because University campuses were in session, the weather is traditionally temperate and finals exams were somewhere in the future.

New York Times cover for Earth Day on April 22, 1970. (Credit: pps.org)

New York Times cover for Earth Day on April 22, 1970. (Credit: pps.org)

John McConnell was the first to propose an Earth Day concept, but it was Senator Gaylord Nelson a democrat from Wisconsin who was instrumental in raising awareness about protecting the environment. On April 22, 1970, rallies were held in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, DC and Los Angeles as well as numerous college campuses across the country.

The mission of Earth Day was formally established by theEarth Society Foundation in 1976. Its mission was:

“Conduct educational programs and seminars and promote research and investigation throughout the world for the purpose of providing data to all individuals and institutions who are joining in the movement to promote and implement the Earth care ethic: namely, that the stewardship and care of earth requires action to produce and use materials and services that help nurture, conserve and recycle, without destructive pollution, the organisms and nutrients of Earth’s web of life. Coordinate or assist the work of like-minded organizations for the purposes of minimizing unnecessary duplication of energies and maximizing the impact and effectiveness of the earth care movement.”

Through awareness triggered by Earth Day, the United States government was pushed to enact many environmental acts. Enacted were the Clean Air Act,Water Quality Improvement ActEndangered Species Act,Toxic Substance Control as well as Surface Mine and Reclamation Act.

In 1990 a group of environmental awareness leaders tasked Denis Hayes to take Earth Day global. Two hundred million people in 141 countries brought worldwide environmental issues to light. A decade later global warming was the highlighted issue. Earth Day 2000 featured 5000 environmental groups in 184 countries that connected with hundreds of millions of people using the blossoming internet.

 

Link Between Global Temperatures And Greenhouse Gas Emissions

There is significant and substantial evidence that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gassesincluding carbon dioxide are correlated with global temperatures. The reasoning is fairly simple asgreenhouse gases act to trap in heat that bounces off the Earth’s surface and prohibits it from escaping our atmosphere. The greenhouse gases change the equilibrium of heat exchange between the Earth and Sun. However, linking global climate change to one single source can often times be difficult and inconclusive. This, in a large part, is why it has taken climate scientists decades to determine with almost definiteness that thewarming of the Earth we are witnessing is linked to greenhouse gas emissions in recent centuries.

 

As global temperatures rise, the sea levels also rise from melting of glaciers and polar ice. The oceans of the worldabsorb about a large majority of the greenhouse gasses emitted into the air through carbon dioxide dissolution and the carbonate factory. In addition, the pH of the ocean water is becoming more acidic from the increased carbon dioxide and hence carbonic acid in oceans. Warming and increasing acidity of our oceans is reflected directly on ocean life and as scuba divers know, the extensive coral reef ecosystems in tropical oceans.

 

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