Newspaper editorial pages rushed to get across their view on the merits, or lack of same, from the just-concluded COP21 meeting that led to the “Paris Agreement” on climate change. A number of leading scientists who had labored for decades in the trenches unearthing the scientific principles behind the agreement also shared their early impressions. A sampling:

Newspaper editorials

Los Angeles Times, Paris climate pact: A good moment for the planet (Dec. 14, 2015)

Despite the agreement’s shortcomings, this is a good moment for the planet. The pact could have been better, and stronger, but the focus shifts now to getting signatories to live up to their pledges. Because even if they do, it may not be enough.

New York Times, The Paris Climate Talks: The Hard Part Comes After the Celebration (Dec. 15, 2015)

… Paris is over…. Now comes the hard part…. This is an agreement built firmly on science, but also on the hope that the enthusiasm generated in Paris will translate into concrete measures across the globe that will, in fact, prevent the worst consequences of climate change. The behavior of individual governments will be critical….

Sacramento Bee, Paris climate change accord marks historic progress, if it’s not too late (Dec. 12, 2015)

But with the approval of the landmark global climate accord this weekend, the world can celebrate progress in at least one important battle: From government leaders to big business to financial markets, no one can seriously deny the shared urgency on global warming.

Wall Street Journal, Paris Climate of Conformity (paywall) (Dec. 14, 2015)

… if climate change really does imperil the Earth, and we doubt it does, nothing coming out of a gaggle of governments and the United Nations will save it…. To the extent the Paris accord increases political control over human and natural resources, it will make the world poorer and technological progress less likely…. rich countries in Paris bought the cooperation of the developing world by promising to send $100 billion a year in climate aid…. transfer money to the clean and green governments run by the likes of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe…. The grandiose claims of triumph in Paris represent the self-interest of a political elite that wants more control over the private economy in the U.S. and around the world.

Washington Post, With the Paris climate pact, critics now have no basis to say action is pointless (Dec. 13, 2015)

… a landmark in the world’s response to manmade climate change, with every nation that matters acknowledging the problem and pledging to respond. But the hard work lies ahead. Opponents, including many in Congress, can no longer claim that action is pointless because big emitters such as China will never cooperate…. also enshrines the principle that countries should be held to their promises.

Scientists’ comments

James Hansen, Former NASA climate scientist and now a scientist/activist, in comments at AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco (Dec. 14, 2015)

We’re missing a golden opportunity if we don’t begin to put a price on carbon. That’s the fundamental thing that’s needed and that nobody [at COP21 in Paris] wanted to bring it up because there would have been arguments. And frankly that wasn’t going to be achieved at a United Nations meeting.

Michael Mann, Penn State University, The Power of Paris: Climate Challenge Remains, But Now We’re on the Right Path (Dec. 13, 2015)

Though the resulting agreement is modest in scale, by bringing the world together, it sends a clear signal to global energy markets: The age of fossil fuels is ending, and a new clean global energy economy is taking its place…. Finally, global energy policy is beginning to reflect the clear message of climate change research…. One cannot understate the importance of the agreement arrived at in Paris. For the first time, world leaders have faced up to the stark warnings that climate scientists have been issuing for years, instead of shrinking away with denial and delay…. There is a great amount of work that remains to be done if we are to avert dangerous and irreversible climate change. But there is light now at the end of the tunnel and hope that we not only can but indeed already are rising to the challenge.

Stefan Rahmstorf, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany (e-mail exchange) (Dec. 12 & 13, 2015)

YES!!! The end of the fossil fuel age has been decide, in a consensus of all nations. That this is possible, despite the huge variety of cultures and interests, is a fantastic victory of reason and of diplomacy. A common response of humanity in the face of crisis is possible!

….I’ve seen some disappointed comments on the Paris climate agreement. To those who say we need to do more to stop global warming: Yes, of course! To those who expected more from a UN consensus agreement (where a single dissenting country can make the whole thing collapse): You live in la la land. This UN process is just one of many levels where we need to fight the climate crisis, and it has finally delivered its contribution (with the exception of aviation & shipping emissions which have been deferred to next year). This is a huge step. It is a good foundation for everyone to turn to their own governments and business leaders and demand concrete steps that will help to stop global warming near 1.5 degrees C.

Veerabhadran “Ram” Ramanathan, Scripps Institute for Oceanography, in comments at AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco (Dec. 14, 2015)

COP21 was aware of need for negative emissions to get to 1.5 C warming…. Very much so, because there as an abundant supply of IPCC authors there at that meeting. But there was no talk there about geoengineering, but capturing carbon by BECCS [bio-energy with carbon capture and storage] and biochar, etc.

Richard B. Rood, University of Michigan, Just What is Going On? (Dec. 11, 2015)

… My principal worry is that … many will perceive that the agreement to a goal is tantamount to having achieved that goal. In a similar vein of concern, if that goal is discredited as impossible in the public arena, then it will be viewed as unserious, and it will be abandoned. Such a goal is a commitment to rapid transformation of the energy sector (won’t that actually require energy policy and legislation?) and development of new carbon management technologies and policy. There are enormous implications for economies, technology, and finance. I love the courage and the statement of these ambitious goals, but I am notoriously anchored with discretion being the better part of valor.

Hans Joachiml Schelinhuber, Germany advisory committee on climate change and advisor to Pope Francis quoted in New York Times (Dec. 13, 2015)

This is a turning point in the human enterprise, where the great transformation towards sustainability begins.

Marshall Shepherd, University of Georgia, on CBS “Face the Nation” (Dec. 13, 2015)

This is really that is part of something that will [carry] through the next several decades…. emphasis on the role of deforestation and changing landscapes… There is really strong language in there in terms of deforestation and preservation of landscape.

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