I’d like to thank my opponent for willing to engage in debate on this topic, and I hope that we’ll have a substantive debate. That said, before I move into my primary arguments, I’m going to move into the establishment of the framework of this debate, so we can narrow down a fairly broad resolution into a specific case statement that can be debated cogently and clearly.
Definitions and Framework
I’m going to define “preventing climate change” as “multilateral legislative or policy action taken by international organizations(such as the United Nations) or the general international community to halt or reverse the relatively rapid shift in global and regional climate patterns predominantly caused by the increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere”. Thus, my burden as Pro is established as such: I must fulfill my burden of preponderance of evidence and argumentation-that is, I must provide superior argumentation, analysis, and evidence to show that legislative and/or policy efforts by international organizations would be futile in stopping or reversing climate change.
Let’s now get into my arguments.
Point 1: Futility of International Policy
First, I’d like to argue that efforts on the part of international organizations and the general international community have generally failed to effectively prevent climate change, and further efforts to do so will continue to fail, in part due to the nature of the policies or agreements enacted by the international community. We can see this through analysis of two of the more(if not most) notable international climate agreements of the past few decades: The 1997 Kyoto Protocol(and the subsequent Doha Amendment), and the more recent 2015/2016 Paris Climate Accords. For the purposes of context, the Kyoto Protocol was an agreement by 192 sovereign nations to prevent climate change, with a goal of accomplishing a five percent reduction in carbon emissions. By the end of the Protocol’s first stage in 2012, global carbon emissions had risen by fifty-eight percent. Using the metric of the Kyoto Protocol’s goal of preventing climate change, it’s been a clear failure. Sadly, it is likely that similar ineffectiveness will be seen from the Paris Accords, and any other future international policies, due to the fatal flaw that these agreements share: A lack of effective enforcement. With the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement with binding targets, the worst that its Compliance Committee would be able to do to any noncompliant nations would be to send strong words and impose a “negligible financial fear factor”, which are rather ineffective in the face of substantial impacts to local and national economies from cracking down on the not insignificant industries that produce greenhouse gases. In regard to such enforcement, the Paris Accords are even worse, because the fulfillment of the set emissions targets are not a legally binding obligation, which means for developing nations or nations heavily reliant on fossil fuels, there is no actual impetus or mandate to reduce emissions.
The fact of the matter is that it’s virtually impossible for the international community or international organizations to enact and effectively enforce a legally binding agreement with the intention of preventing climate change, because sovereign nations, for some odd reason, are unwilling to undermine their sovereignty in order to enforce an agreement that could lead to negative economic repercussions. This is what happened to cause the failure of the Kyoto Protocol, what will ensure the ineffective nature of the Paris Accords, and what will render futile any future policy or legislative efforts by the international community to prevent climate change.
Point 2: Earth's Positive Feedback Cycle of Carbon Emission
Second, it must be acknowledged that preventing climate change is not only impossible due to the nature of multilateral international agreements, it’s also scientifically impossible, due to the nature of soil and ocean carbon storage. As a result of the increasing global temperatures wrought by the greenhouse effect, the amount of soil-stored carbon released to the atmosphere increases, which in turn exacerbates the greenhouse effect, leading to a vicious cycle of increasing temperatures as soil-emitted carbon increases global temperatures which in turn increase the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere from Earth’s soil. According to Dr. Thomas Crowther of the Netherlands Institute for Ecology(formerly of Yale Climate and Energy Institute), this vicious cycle of increasing soil carbon emission has reached the point to where “we have passed the point of no return on global warming and we can’t reverse the effects”. Unfortunately, this vicious cycle of rising global temperatures and increasing amounts of carbon emission isn’t just limited to the soil. Earth’s oceans have also seen decreases in carbon storage capacity and increases in the emission of stored carbon corresponding with the increase in global temperatures, and this is likely to worsen with continued climate change. Similar feedback cycles are present in regions with formerly substantial permafrost, which would release stored methane as the permafrost melts, further exacerbating climate change.
The evidence is clear: we’ve reached a point in time where so much carbon and other greenhouse gases are in the atmosphere, that climate change has become a self-sustaining phenomenon. Even if at this very moment the international community as a whole managed to drop human carbon emissions to zero, climate change would still continue, with any preventative efforts being rendered thoroughly futile.
At this point, I think it’s fairly clear that I’ve upheld my burden as Pro on this side of the debate. I have given a preponderance of evidence and argumentation, using substantial and substantive arguments, evidence, and analysis thereof to quite clearly show that the international community, international organizations, and international actors can not prevent climate change, due to the ineffectiveness of enacted agreements and policies, and also due to the now-unstoppable feedback loops of carbon and greenhouse gas emission from Earth’s oceans and soil. Thus, I affirm this resolution, and respectfully await a response from Con.
Return To Top | Posted:
I would like to thank YUDB8M8? for presenting his arguments.
sequestration in the U.S. over the next
century is projected in one model to be
substantially smaller than the cumulative
emission reductions anticipated from
changes by all other methods." Even so, it should be added that there is a "widely held view" among scientists working on this area that simply implementing carbon sequestration is insufficient for climate change reversal, and that reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are also necessary.
Return To Top | Posted:
Return To Top | Speak Round
Thanks to Con for responding.
1) Future Peak
-Con argues that “global emissions are projected to peak in the 2020-2030”, claiming that as evidence that current environmental policy is effective. However, Con has no actual evidence as support. The two sources that Con cites for that section don’t even mention global emissions projections.
-Looking through the rest of Con’s sources, it seems only the 4th source could be interpreted to support Con’s claim. The chart explains that the “graph shows scenarios that give a 50% chance of keeping global warming below the 2°C ceiling”. What Con’s graph shows is when global emissions should peak in order to keep global temperatures stable, but not actual projections as to when global emissions will actually peak. According to actual projections, global greenhouse gas emissions are projected to increase well on through 2030.
-Con tries to redefine the term “preventing climate change”. Instead of Pro's definition of “action taken...to halt or reverse [climate change]”, Con attempts to define the prevention of climate change as “any action that alleviates either the cause or symptoms of climate change”. The problem with Con’s proposed definition is that it makes the debate about something that isn't topical to the actual text of the topic. Con’s attempt to equate prevention and alleviation are akin to a doctor telling an ill patient that a cure is the same as hospice. It’s factually wrong(something that Con themselves has acknowledged in cross examination). Using Con’s definition of the topic would undermine the integrity and balance of this debate, and thus I urge that Pro’s definition stand. Con’s arguments about the benefits of alleviation are non-topical and only distract from the question presented by the topic: “Can we stop climate change?”.
3) International community
-Con wishes to disregard international entities in this debate. The problem with doing that is if we do so, we’ve devolved from a debate about real world issues into straight out fantasy. It is imperative to consider the bureaucratic and political factors present in any attempt by the international community to implement a global solution to the global problem that is climate change, because not arguing the flaws in the practical implementation of climate change prevention measures would render this debate moot.
-As the only entities with some international agency, international organizations such as the UN are the only viable actors for any attempt to prevent climate change. Thus, they should be considered, and Pro’s definition of the topic should stand.
1: Climate Fixing
-Con claims that carbon sequestration, also known as carbon capture and storage(CCS), can help attain an overall rate of removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, known as “negative emissions”. Unfortunately, Con’s argument is based on technology that doesn’t exist at the scale needed for practical implementation.
-Peer-reviewed scientific journals state CCS is “applicable to large CO2 point emission sources” and “not proven at full commercial scale”. Essentially, the very best carbon sequestration technology available at hand for the slightest possibility for feasible implementation at a global scale can only reduce the amount of emissions produced by power plants, much less halt or reverse emissions entirely. In fact, it’s unlikely that CCS will even be able to reach that point. According to Sami Yassa of the Natural Resources Defense Council, “There is no scientific basis for assuming that [bioenergy with carbon capture and storage] can deliver ‘negative emissions’”.
-Even experts on carbon sequestration agree that carbon sequestration can’t take carbon emissions out of the atmosphere, but only reduce the amount being added to it. Con’s argument that carbon sequestration combined with emission reduction can reverse climate change is negated, because even with hypothetical emissions reduction, the best carbon sequestration can achieve is slightly more emissions reduction, which is a far cry from the “negative emissions” needed to actually prevent climate change.
-Con argues cloud seeding as a potential technology to reduce global temperatures. Literally all of Con’s cited articles about cloud seeding state that there’s no conclusive evidence about its effectiveness.
-However, if cloud seeding was implemented(and somehow successful) globally, there are two logically deduced results.
-First, cloud seeding works, and unprecedented amounts of water vapor are drawn from the atmosphere to create more dense heat blocking/releasing clouds. Unfortunately, since cloud seeding doesn’t generate water vapor out of nothing, vapor is drawn from other sources of atmospheric moisture, which would be Earth’s cloud cover. Thus, in exchange for having more efficient heat blocking/releasing clouds, Earth has fewer clouds to block sunlight, increasing the amount of solar energy hitting the earth, and increasing overall global temperature.
-The second possibility is that cloud seeding results in a zero-sum game of atmospheric moisture draw, because when you implement cloud seeding globally, that means that there’s no non-seeded atmosphere to draw moisture from. Therefore, there’s no actual change, because each seeded region is drawing moisture from and having moisture drawn from them by other seeded regions.
-Cloud seeding doesn’t have any effect at the very best, and worsens climate change at the worst.
-Con point clearly falls, because I’ve clearly shown why Con’s suggested “permanent ways of fighting climate change” are ineffective at best and harmful at worst, and how such efforts in the end do nothing to prevent climate change.
2: Benefits of Reduction
Con brings up economic and health benefits of reducing emissions. None of these benefits are relevant to the international community’s ability to halt climate change, aside from creating “a better environment to do research”, for which Con has failed to provide any supporting evidence or logic.
Con hasn’t addressed this point, so it still stands. I’ve shown why Con’s presented means for fixing the climate won’t work, but even if Con presents a technology outside the realm of scientific possibility capable of removing greenhouse gases en masse, climate change would still not be prevented. In order for any global solution to have actual impact, there needs to be actual consensus and enforcement by the international community. I’ve shown why that won’t happen, due to the impossibility of getting nations to forfeit sovereignty.
2: Cycle of Emission
Given that Con acknowledged my correctness on this, this point stands. The chances of Con’s stated technologies of attaining the mythical “negative emissions” are nonexistent, and Con has failed to show how climate change prevention efforts have done or will do anything to stop the vicious cycle of Earth’s increasing emissions.
The result of this debate boils down to one question: “Has Pro succeeded in showing how climate change can’t be prevented?” Here, the clear answer is yes. I’ve shown how Con’s arguments have no logical or factual basis, and fulfilled my burden of providing superior argumentation and evidence to show that it would be futile to stop or reverse climate change due to the political and scientific impossibility of such endeavors. I affirm.
Return To Top | Posted:
Return To Top | Posted:
Return To Top | Speak Round
Apparently this round is supposed to be for each participant to summarize their arguments. However, I said all I wanted to say in round 2, and I even wrote what I consider to be a complete conclusion at the end of that round, so I really don't have anything to add. I will though take this space to again thank my opponent for engaging in this nice debate.
Return To Top | Posted:
Again, thanks to my opponent for debating.
I've shown that the answer to the question is a resolute no, providing undeniable data, clear historical precedent, and the analysis of some of the foremost experts in environmental and political science showing that stopping climate change is not only scientifically impossible, but also politically and bureaucratically infeasible.
Return To Top | Posted: