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Paris Agreement comes into effect

April 13, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On November 4, 2016, the Paris Agreement comes into effect. A sweeping international pledge to dramatically reduce carbon emissions, the Agreement remains a potential turning point in the history of human relations with the Earth’s climate. With one of the world’s most prolific polluters bowing out, however, the future and effectiveness of the deal remain uncertain.

The agreement’s goal was to keep the global average temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by dramatically reducing carbon emissions, and to aim for an increase of fewer than 1.5 degrees. Small island nations were particularly vocal in insisting on the 1.5-degree target, as they are the most at risk to any change in the sea level. While some felt these goals were too lofty, as global temperatures in 2016 were already 1.3 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, many argued that the agreement did not go far enough, and that allowing each country to set its own goals rendered it toothless. Nonetheless, it was historic when the world’s largest emitters—China, the United States, the European Economic Area and India—all agreed to set new goals for lower emissions. After the European Union ratified the treaty on October 5, the Paris Climate Agreement had enough signatures to go into effect on November 4.

People the world over hailed the Agreement as an unprecedented victory for the environment, as did the leaders who signed it. In the United States, however, President Barack Obama’s victory turned out to be short-lived. Five days after the Agreement went into effect, Donald Trump won the election to succeed Obama. Less than a year later, on June 1, 2017, Trump officially announced the end of the United States’ participation in the agreement.

Technically, the earliest date the U.S. can withdraw is November 4, 2020, the day after the next presidential election. Still, the world’s second-largest emitter’s decision not to participate was a massive blow to the international deal. So far, 24 states, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa have opted to hold themselves to the Paris standards, and the other signatories have remained committed to the deal.

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Source: HISTORY

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How Americans Have Voted Through History: From Voices to Screens

April 13, 2020 in History

By Dave Roos

From shouting candidates’ names, to hanging chads to electronic scanning, the nature of voting has a long, sometimes bumpy history in the United States.

Voting is the cornerstone of American democracy, but the United States Constitution doesn’t say exactly how Americans should cast their ballots in elections. Article 1, Section 4 simply states that it’s up to each state to determine “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections.” Over the past 200 years, the mechanics of voting have evolved from open-air “voice votes” to touch screen digital consoles.

Voice Voting

For the first 50 years of American elections, most voting wasn’t done in private and voters didn’t even make their choice on a paper ballot. Instead, those with the right to vote (only white men at the time) went to the local courthouse and publicly cast their vote out loud.

Known as “viva voce” or voice voting, this conspicuous form of public voting was the law in most states through the early 19th century and Kentucky kept it up as late as 1891. As voters arrived at the courthouse, a judge would have them swear on a Bible that they were who they said they were and that they hadn’t already voted. Once sworn in, the voter would call out his name to the clerk and announce his chosen candidates in each race.

Campaigning and carousing were allowed at the polling place, and a drunken carnival atmosphere often accompanied early American elections, which might explain why elections in the voice-voting era commanded turnout rates as high as 85 percent.

The First Paper Ballots

The first paper ballots began appearing in the early 19th century, but they weren’t standardized or even printed by government elections officials. In the beginning, paper ballots were nothing more than scraps of paper upon which the voter scrawled his candidates’ names and dropped into the ballot box. Newspapers began to print out blank ballots with the titles of each office up for vote which readers could tear out and fill in with their chosen candidates.

Then the political parties got savvy. By the mid-19th century, state Republican or Democratic party officials would distribute pre-printed fliers to voters listing only their party’s candidates for office. They were called Republican and Democratic “tickets” because the small rectangles of paper resembled 19th-century train tickets. Party faithful could legally use the pre-printed ticket as their actual ballot making it easier than ever to …read more

Source: HISTORY