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A Global Retrospective

This past weekend, December 8-9th, 2018, was notable for many reasons. In particular, three events occurred in three different countries across the world that at first blush seem to be unconnected. Upon closer inspection, however, these distinct happenings across the globe were all related.


The first major storm of the winter barreled through the southwest into the southeast over the weekend, leaving historic levels of ice and snow in its wake. The hardest hit states were North Carolina and Virginia, some areas of which recorded two to three feet of snow, and whose Governors declared states of emergency. Winter Storm Diego impacted northern Georgia—eight inches of snow fell in Sky Valley—into South Carolina and on up the Coast. When the storm finally moved out into the Atlantic, the devastation was immense: app. 300,000 without power; app. 1,300 flights canceled; 672 traffic accidents reported in North Carolina alone; and schools closed on Monday, Dec. 10th—including Duke University—in too many locations to count. All of this occurred before the first official day of winter.


While Winter Storm Diego was dumping historic levels of snow in parts of the United States, leaders from around the world gathered in Katowice, Poland to finalize the “rules” that will determine how signatories to the 2015 Paris Accord will record and report their greenhouse gas emissions—i.e. how countries show their compliance with the goals stated in that agreement. The U.N. Climate Talks are the 24th annual meeting under the COP, the Conference of Parties, and hence are billed as the COP24 Talks. The COP was signed under George H.W. Bush in 1992, and therefore this 24th meeting has special significance in the wake of his recent passing.

Holding the Climate Talks in Katowice, Poland also has special significance: Katowice is in the heart of Poland’s coal mining region of Silesia, and consequently has serious air pollution problems. When the U.S. held an event at the talks promoting the use of more coal and fossil fuels despite recent scientific reports predicting increasingly dire consequences if CO2 emissions are not drastically reduced, protesters wore face masks to highlight the issue of already bad air pollution, and marched with signs reading: “Make the Planet Great Again.”


For a fourth consecutive weekend in Paris, the “yellow vest” protesters took over the streets. The protests started as a reaction to a new tax to be levied on diesel fuel and gasoline to help finance France’s transition to a greener economy. In the face of increasingly violent protests and damage to businesses, President Macron canceled the fuel tax increases.

What started out as protests against fuel tax increases morphed into protests by the middle and working class against the growing inequality in France. While France is Europe’s third largest economy (behind Britain and Germany), its recovery from the global recession has not benefited the citizens of France equally. The middle and working classes are angry about what they believe are declining living standards, eroding purchasing power, and the still high unemployment (9-12%). Macron promised tax cuts and income increases for the middle class and working poor, and a raise to the minimum wage.


Although these three events occurred on two different continents and in three different countries, they are all linked by the common thread of climate change. Climate change is making our weather events—hurricanes, droughts, snow storms—more severe, more frequent, more devastating, and more costly. Obviously, the U.N. Climate Talks are due to climate change and the need to address it. The yellow vest protests were triggered by a fuel tax increase, an attempt by the government of France to encourage its citizens to move away from the use of fossil fuels and toward the use of clean energy alternatives.

The fact that these three very different events occurred across the globe on the very same weekend points to an essential fact: climate change connects us all, and connects all parts of our lives. From the horrific wild fires in California, to the deadly floods in the South, to the recent car accidents in North Carolina and Virginia, climate change is not only costing billions of dollars in recovery, it is costing lives. The issue is not if we transition to clean energy alternatives, but how we do so in a way that distributes the costs equally.


If you or someone you know has been injured in an automobile accident, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free evaluation of your legal rights.

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