A key message from COP21: 'It always seems impossible until it's done'

December 7, 2015, 12:18 p.m.

Over the weekend, negotiators from 195 countries agreed on an outline plan to reduce global carbon emissions and slow global warming.The draft has three primary goals:

  • "To hold the increase in the global average temperature [below 1.5 °C] [or] [well below 2 °C] above preindustrial levels by ensuring deep reductions in global greenhouse gas [net] emissions;
  • "To Increase their ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change [and to effectively respond to the impacts of the implementation of response measures and to loss and damage];
  • "To pursue a transformation towards sustainable development that fosters climate resilient and low greenhouse gas emission societies and economies, and that does not threaten food production and distribution."

The task is enormous — so big it seems impossible. But what is at stake is equally as big, and is impossible to live without. Vast swaths of forest to house and unfathomable diversity of species, ice at the poles to support ocean ecosystems and weather systems, an abundance of marine life under the sea, coastlines that shift only with the tides and are not swallowed by a rising sea. These are just a few aspects of the planet that make human life here possible, and which we are on the knife edge of losing forever. The stakes are huge, and worth all our efforts. Can we do it?

"Whether you're a government, a business, a university or an individual, you can make a difference," said U.S. astronaut Kjell Lindgren at the summit.

"It always seems impossible until it's done," French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal told the conference Saturday, quoting Nelson Mandela. She then added, "We will do it."

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.