The COP24 in Katowice, Poland, ended without agreement on all the major issues facing the U.N. Climate Change Conference.
That means almost everything is up in the air and the planet will keep baking. Here’s an overview of what’s up in the air:
Atmospheric concentration of CO2 and methane
We’re all going to have to get used to the idea that we’re not going to get rid of all of those bad-guy greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The sources of greenhouse gases remain the same, but all the heat-trapping pollutants have to be stored somewhere. One possible solution is to put the pollutants into a natural gas substitute — a technology that the U.S. has flirted with. However, it’s such a tiny fraction of the global total that it will take decades to amass a big enough storage space.
Catastrophic weather and climate
As if the greenhouse gases weren’t bad enough, the developed world has seemingly found ways to get less and less serious about the problem at the same time as the world’s atmosphere is getting hotter. The planet may be on track to set a new temperature record this year. Along with all that, extreme weather events like Hurricane Harvey and North Dakota’s drought have made headlines. The short-term solution is to increase energy efficiency and install more renewable energy, but if all our efforts come to naught in a few decades, then climate change could cause humanity to unravel.
Fairtrade, sustainable and fair
Some of the biggest problems at COP24 were focused on sustainable trade. Or as one version of that included “high-income countries doing nothing,” or as a better representation of the situation had it, “all industrialized countries with the exception of Nordic economies” had agreed to a deal that encouraged them to adopt what was known as the “fair trade” system. While there’s no question that we need much better trade rules, fair trading came under fire from those who saw it as little more than a question of enriching farmers at the expense of the consumers.