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COP 21 – Trying to save planet Earth

Droughts, tornadoes, floods, melting polar ice caps – climate change is causing disasters around the world. The representatives of almost 200 nations met in Paris to find a solution to this dramatic problem. What did they decide and what can you do to help save the environment?

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Look around you: how much of what you see is the product of humans? You might see streets, buildings, factories, farms and crop fields where there once flourished natural environments. According to many studies, humans have transformed 50% of the Earth's land surface! We have caused the extinction of many species and ruined many habitats. When we burn fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, we produce dangerous greenhouse gases (for example CO2) that cause the Earth's temperature to rise. This planetary "fever" or "global warming" is causing disasters such as droughts, tornadoes, floods and the melting of the polar ice caps. Most scientists say the situation is critical. Even Pope Francis wrote an encyclical (a special papal letter) called Laudato Sí – On Care For Our Common Home urging action against climate change. But what are the governments of the world doing about it?

COP 21

From 30 November to 12 December 2015 the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP 21, was held in Paris, France. Political leaders from around the world met to talk about global warming and its disastrous consequences. The debate was intense. There were deep divisions and contrasting ideas. At the end, the participating 195 nations reached a compromise: the Paris Agreement. This document calls for the reduction of human-produced greenhouse gases. The president of the Conference said the Agreement was a “historic turning point” in the fight against global warming. But not everybody agreed with him...

It's not enough!

Thousands of people demonstrated around the world calling the Agreement "weak". They pointed out that parts of the Agreement are “promises” and not commitments. Some important issues were left out, such as livestock agriculture that, according to the UN itself, produces more greenhouse gases than all cars, trains, planes and boats combined! Also, the Agreement is not yet law for its member states. Each state has to approve it first – probably some never will. But even if all goes well, many scientists say that the Agreement is not enough to contain global warming.

What can you do?

Do we really have to wait for governments to solve this problem? The answer is no. Many environmental associations are already fighting climate change. There are businessmen investing in new, green technologies for a cleaner future. There are millions of ecologically conscious people, adults and children, doing their part. That´s because we all have an "environmental footprint" (meaning an impact on the environment) and we can all do something to reduce it by acting, for example, on how we eat, live, travel. A "climatarian" diet consumes foods that have a low impact on the environment. An energy-efficient home saves on heating and electricity using good insulation, LED lights and maybe solar panels. Walking and biking are ecological alternatives to taking the car. And if you feel that you want to do more, when you're older, you can choose a "green career", a job that helps solve climate change problems. So, what are you doing to help save the planet?

Useful links

To know about COP 21 check out its official website:

http://www.cop21paris.org/

To know more about climate change and get some good advice check out this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqxMzKLYrZ4

Here´s some more good advice from NASA!

http://climatekids.nasa.gov/how-to-help/

Interested in a "climatarian" diet? Check this out:

http://www.lessmeatlessheat.org/

Do you want to calculate your ‘environmental footprint’? Try WWF’s easy quiz:

http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.

1. 50% of Earth's land surface has been
  1. destroyed by humans.
  2. transformed by humans.
  3. covered with cities.
2. Global warming is caused by
  1. governments.
  2. tornadoes and floods.
  3. greenhouse gases.
3. Most scientists and the Pope agree that
  1. climate change is dangerous.
  2. we have to burn more fossil fuels.
  3. the Earth is OK.
4. COP 21 is the name of
  1. a place in France.
  2. a greenhouse gas.
  3. a UN conference.
5. The Paris Agreement is
  1. a compromise between almost 200 nations.
  2. a document written by the President of the Conference.
  3. a ban on greenhouse gases.
6. Thousands of protesters called the Paris Agreement
  1. weak.
  2. strong.
  3. a historic turning point.
7. The Paris Agreement
  1. is already law for all member states.
  2. might become law for all member states.
  3. will never become law for all member states.
8. Climate change is a problem that
  1. only adults can solve.
  2. only governments can solve.
  3. even children can help solve.
9. A "green career" is
  1. a job at the Conference in Paris.
  2. a job that cares for the environment.
  3. a job in the countryside.
10. Ecologically conscious people
  1. try to increase their environmental footprint.
  2. try to decrease their environmental footprint.
  3. never take the car.
  VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words.

drought  *  compromise  *  greenhouse gases  *  global warming  *  turning point  *  environmental footprint *  green career  *  demonstration  *  encyclical  *  conference

1. ______ give Earth a fever.

2. The planet's "fever" is called ______.

3. You can say that a ______ is the opposite of a flood.

4. A papal special letter is called an ______.

5. Political leaders often meet at a ______.

6. A ______ is when different people agree on something.

7. A ______ is a crucial development.

8. If you don´t agree with a political decision, you can take part in a ______.

9. The ______ is our ecological impact on the planet.

10. A ______ is a job that helps solve the problems of the environment.  

GRAMMAR

3) Choose the correct alternative.

1. Human beings have been/were transforming the Earth.

2. Many scientists are afraid that the future will be warmer/more warm than the present.

3. One of the main problems of the Earth's/Earths climate is global warming.

4. To burn/Burning fossil fuels produces greenhouse gases.

5. COP 21 is held/was held between November and December 2015.

6. There are many greenhouse gases, such as/like CO2.

7. Political leaders met in/at Paris.

8. The outcome of/for COP 21 was the Paris Agreement.

9. Demonstrators wanted a more strong/stronger Agreement.

10. It's time to take/taking action to solve global warming.  

SHORT ESSAY

4) Everybody can do something to help fight global warming. Are you already helping? How? What else could you do to save the planet? (60-80 words)                          

(Carlo Dellonte) --- (Image credit: Alisdare HicksonRon Mader, via flickr)  

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