Good News for the Weekend: The World Just Took a Huge Step to Fight Climate Change


Barack Obama is, by far, the most climate-friendly president ever. Granted, the competition isn’t fierce, and he failed in his signature effort to pass a carbon tax, but he’s still done fairly well:

  • He doubled CAFE standards.
  • He played an instrumental role at both the Copenhagen and Paris climate negotiations.
  • He forged an agreement with China to cut greenhouse gases and ratify the Paris agreement.
  • He pushed the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. All that’s left is for the Supreme Court to let it go into effect.
  • Via the stimulus bill and in other ways, he has funded a big increase in solar power.

And now he’s added one more big achievement to his list. On Friday the world agreed to a legally-binding treaty to phase out and eliminate hydrofluorocarbons in air conditioners:

The talks in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, did not draw the same spotlight as the climate change accord forged in Paris last year. But the outcome could have an equal or even greater impact on efforts to slow the heating of the planet.

….HFCs are just a small percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but they function as a sort of supercharged greenhouse gas, with 1,000 times the heat-trapping potency of carbon dioxide.

….The Kigali deal includes specific targets and timetables to replace HFCs with more planet-friendly alternatives, trade sanctions to punish scofflaws, and an agreement by rich countries to help finance the transition of poor countries to the costlier replacement products. So, narrow as it is, the new accord may be more likely to yield climate-shielding actions by industry and governments, negotiators say. And given the heat-trapping power of HFCs, scientists say that the Kigali accord will stave off an increase of atmospheric temperatures of nearly one degree Fahrenheit.

Bottom line: this agreement may do as much for climate change as the Paris agreement that became effective last week. The phase-in dates for eliminating HFCs vary by country, but once the market starts supplying air conditioners using other refrigerants, it’s likely that even hot, poor countries like India and Pakistan may beat their targets. And the United States and other developed countries have agreed to fund R&D into new refrigerants and to provide financial support to poorer countries for the changeover.

Bit by bit, the world is finally taking climate change seriously, even if the Republican Party isn’t. Greenhouse gas reductions may not be happening as fast as they need to, but they’re happening.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.