President Obama said Monday night the Paris climate change agreement will take effect within a few weeks, now that India has signed on to the U.N.-sponsored deal aimed at reducing carbon emissions.
During an event on the South Lawn of the White House, Mr. Obama said the agreement “will actually go into force in the next few weeks.” India signed the pact on Sunday.
“Officially this agreement will be into force much faster” than expected, the president said, adding that global leaders also are beginning talks to curb aviation emissions and the production of hydrofluorocarbons often used in refrigeration.
“We’re really in a race against time,” Mr. Obama said.
Under the terms initially agreed to by more than 180 countries, the Paris climate change plan will not become binding until it is ratified by 55 countries that generate at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. India is the 62nd county to sign on, but the current signatories account for about 52 percent of worldwide carbon emissions, the U.N. said Sunday.
On the stage with Mr. Obama at the White House were actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Katherine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech. Mr. DiCaprio told the audience that citizens concerned about global warming “must empower leaders who not only believe in climate change but are willing to do something about it.”
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“The scientific consensus is in, and the argument is now over,” Mr. DiCaprio said. “If you do not believe in climate change, you do not believe in facts or in science or empirical truths, and therefore, in my humble opinion, should not be allowed to hold public office.”
Mr. DiCaprio pressed the president on the possibility of imposing a carbon tax, a proposal that Mr. Obama abandoned in his first term in the face of broad-based, vehement opposition.
“The likelihood is a ways away,” Mr. Obama said.
While Mr. Obama asserted that the more “pessimistic” forecasts of climate change are coming true, he added, “There’s no single hurricane or tornado or drought or forest fire that you can directly attribute to climate change.”
The president also said advocates of clean energy need to be more realistic about China and India developing nuclear power to supply some of their energy needs, despite environmentalists’ concerns about waste storage and accidents.
“We’re going to have to have a conversation with them about nuclear power,” the president said. “We’ve got to live in the real world. We’re going to have to straddle between the world as it is and the world as we want it to be.”
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