Instead of sea levels, let's watch the rise of the 'Paris Effect'

GlobalPost
A stork at sunset in Thailand's Ayutthaya Province. 
Sukree Sukplang

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Need to know:

Of course we won't see overnight benefits, but it's hard not to be happy about the Paris Agreement. In times of unprecedented woe, the world has shown it can come together behind something that matters — and that something is climate change.  

Nearly 200 nations, rich and poor alike, officially decided yesterday to slash emissions and aim for a global temperature target of “well below” a rise of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In fact, everyone was in such a good mood that they said they would try to do even better than that and “pursue efforts” to keep the increase to just 1.5 degrees.

Rich countries agreed to help poor countries. Poor countries agreed to do more stuff. Everyone said they would keep each other on task by reconvening every five years to make sure progress was being made and to set new, more ambitious goals. That's what makes this accord so historic, nearly everyone was on board. It appears truly universal.

Even though nobody is legally bound to do anything, we can see that everyone wants to do something. Either that or peer pressure seems to be working. And does it matter?

British billionaire Richard Branson says the "Paris Effect" is already happening. There's a cultural shift signaling a future clean-energy economy.

People may stop investing in coal, oil and gas and start investing (more than they already do) in zero-carbon energy sources like wind, solar and nuclear power. The rise in emissions that started with the Industrial Revolution may now level off and then decline.

The Paris Effect could mean many things indeed. It will all depend on the follow through. Today at least, we are optimistic.

Want to know:

Was Nelson Mandela a sellout? Some people get offended by the very question. Others say without hesitation that the answer is, "yes." 

GlobalPost's Erin Conway-Smith reports from South Africa, where many feel that black people got a raw deal in the negotiations that ended apartheid. Black South Africans achieved political freedom, they say, but much of the country’s wealth remained in white hands.

Critiquing Mandela's legacy is not a new sport, of course, but it is one that has gained popularity in recent weeks thanks to Julius Malema, the outspoken former youth league leader of the African National Congress, Mandela’s party. 

He apparently went off during a speech at Oxford in the UK, saying that Mandela got coopted by white businessmen after he was released from prison. He said the Mandela we deify is a "stage-managed" Mandela who "compromised the principles of the revolution." 

Malema's motivations are pretty clearly political, but the fact remains: Today, South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world. By one estimate, according to Conway-Smith, a white household on average earns six times more than a black one.

Strange but true:

There are now four people legally allowed to grow and smoke their own marijuana in Mexico. But apparently none of them smoke pot!

"The goal is to change the policy, not to promote consumption," said Juan Francisco Torres Landa, an attorney and member of the foursome.

"We will set an example and we will not consume [marijuana] because we have enough information to take a responsible decision. But it will be based on our own conviction, not on threats from the state."

The foursome, who secured the authorization in a historic Supreme Court ruling last month, hope that their victory will force Mexico to legalize marijuana. Mexican health authorities issued them the official permit on Friday.