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Global Affect hosts climate change demonstration

Students show support for climate change awareness one shoe at a time.
Global Affect, an organization that focuses on environmental preservation, is coordinating a demonstration on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. to draw attention to the United Nations climate change conference in Paris. The conference is set to end on Friday.
Emily Stanevicius, Global Affect president, said Augustana demonstrators will tie shoes to the railing in of the tower staircase in the Gerber center to mirror a similar demonstration in Paris. She said her organization will also have paper cutouts in the shape of shoes people could symbolically hang up.
The Paris demonstration was planned after the climate change march in France was canceled because of the terrorist attacks.Silent demonstrators offered their encouragement by leaving their shoes, according to the New York Times.
“(The climate talks) are a huge deal, and I feel like our campus isn’t too aware of it,” said Stanevicius. “It’s like they’re deciding our future, and we should show we want change just as much as anyone else, and we also kind-of want it on a more local level.”
Jennifer Burnham, Global Affect adviser, said climate change is one of the most important topics for everyone to think about, both globally and locally.
“It’s not just if you hate winter things are going to get better, because you’re going to have longer summers,” said Burnham. “It’s beyond that.”
According to NASA, the average global temperature has risen 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1880, based on a study done in January 2014. Global leaders at the conference are discussing how to keep the earth from warming no more than 2 degrees Celsius.
Since the globe is already almost halfway to the plateau objective, Burnham said this meeting is important, because the world can’t wait years to reach an agreement. However, she said it is likely the world is already going to surpass two degrees anyway.
“It’s sad and disheartening,” said Burnham.
Xiaowen Zhang, associate professor of political science, said the goal of the conference is to create a legally binding agreement similar to the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty created by the 1992 climate conference global leaders that pledged to reduce carbon emissions.
Each country came to the conference in Paris with a target goal of reducing carbon emissions. Zhang said the Obama administration’s pledge for the U.S. to reduce its carbon emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below the 2005 level by 2025 is not that ambitious since the European Union’s baseline year was 1990.
Since 1992, the United Nations has taken the lead in organizing the climate change convention. Zhang said one issue that has continually come up is the responsibility of paying for the efforts of reducing carbon emissions.
“Converting an economy from a carbon-based economy to a clean energy-based economy is, in itself, very costly,” said Zhang.
Some countries, such as China and India, were exempt from legally binding commitments to cut carbon emissions due a need to develop their economies, said Zhang.
“(Developing countries) claim that historically, developed countries contributed to today’s accumulation of carbon emissions,” said Zhang. “So they argue that industrialized and Western countries like the United States should take the leadership role.”
However, she said the U.S. argues if China, as one of the leading carbon emitters in the world was left out, the rest of the world would be compromised.
For these reasons, the U.S. did not completely ratify the Kyoto Project and since then has mostly held its emissons standards on a voluntary basis instead of global standards, which would have asked for more.
“From the perspective of the rest of the world, the U.S. should have done more,” said Zhang.
Burnham said climate change cannot be stopped, but the impact of it can be lessened–since all countries are the problem and therefore should also be the solution.
The science supports climate change’s existence, but it cannot predict how quickly the changes will occur.
“I tell students in all my classes that talk about climate change it doesn’t matter what your major is, what your career path is, where you’re going to live, everybody will be affected by this in someway or another,” said Burnham, an associate professor of geography.
Burnham said climate change will affect ecosystems, food sources, public health and rising ocean levels, pointing out that actions people take in the U.S. affect people around the world.
“It’s not just more air conditioners and fans because it’s hot,” said Burnham. “It’s the ability to survive.”

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Global Affect hosts climate change demonstration