-This article originally appeared at news@Northeastern.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from 196 coun­tries left the U.N. Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change in Paris this weekend after agreeing on a his­toric accord to address cli­mate change head-​​on.

The 31-​​page agree­ment, adopted after two-​​weeks of nego­ti­a­tions, includes a number of objec­tives, the most sig­nif­i­cant of which is lim­iting the rise in the world’s average tem­per­a­ture to below 2 degrees Celsius—and pos­sibly even below 1.5 degrees Cel­sius. The agree­ment also sets out to bring an end to fossil fuel use.

We asked two North­eastern fac­ulty mem­bers to share their thoughts on what about the agree­ment works, where it falls short, and what’s next.

nisbet150Matthew Nisbet is an asso­ciate pro­fessor of com­mu­ni­ca­tion studies who has written exten­sively on cli­mate change and studies the role of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in debates over sci­ence, tech­nology, and the envi­ron­ment, and is the editor-​​in-​​chief of The Oxford Ency­clo­pedia of Cli­mate Change Com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Brian HelmuthBrian Hel­muth is a pro­fessor of envi­ron­mental sci­ence and public policy with joint appoint­ments in the Col­lege of Sci­ence and the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, and is an expert on envi­ron­mental policy, eco­log­ical fore­casting, and sustainability.

The good

Nisbet: The ambi­tious com­mit­ments agreed to by coun­tries as part of the his­toric Paris accord may mark a major par­a­digm shift in how we think and talk about cli­mate change. We may look back at Paris as the turning point when gov­ern­ment funding agen­cies, pri­vate investors, and engi­neers took the baton from envi­ron­mental groups, cli­mate activists, and sci­en­tists, embarking on a mas­sive research and devel­op­ment race to create a new gen­er­a­tion of clean energy and carbon-​​trapping technologies.

This new par­a­digm shift has been sev­eral years in the making, as a net­work of coura­geous experts and jour­nal­ists have slowly but effec­tively coun­tered long­standing claims by many envi­ron­mental groups and activists that solar, wind, and other renew­ables are all the tech­nolo­gies we need to combat cli­mate change.

Per­suaded by these argu­ments and rec­og­nizing the limits to what can be done with existing renew­ables, to kick off the Paris meet­ings, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the Obama admin­is­tra­tion, and more than 20 other bil­lion­aires and gov­ern­ments promised to double their finan­cial invest­ments in research on advanced energy technologies.

The announce­ment marked a new approach aimed not at making fossil fuels more costly, but at making a broad port­folio of clean energy tech­nolo­gies less expen­sive and more powerful.

Hel­muth: This is an impor­tant step for­ward, but we are still far away from a lasting solu­tion to the chal­lenge of cli­mate change.

The first step in any nego­ti­a­tion is to find some common ground, and to acknowl­edge that the problem being tackled is and should be of impor­tance to everyone at the table. Essen­tially the world has just pub­licly declared that cli­mate change is an exis­ten­tial threat that can’t be solved by only one or a handful of nations.

It is frus­trating that it has taken so long to get to this point, but there have been some very deter­mined efforts to stall cli­mate change leg­is­la­tion, and they have been very effec­tive in pre­venting the U.S. from engaging. As part of the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity that has rec­og­nized the threat of cli­mate change for decades, it is amazing to see the world finally pay so much atten­tion to this issue, and I hope that this is just the begin­ning of an new, invig­o­rated conversation.

Where the agree­ment falls short

Nisbet: In laying an impor­tant foun­da­tion for progress, the Paris accord may have promised too much by pledging to keep global tem­per­a­ture rise “well below” 2 degrees Cel­sius and as low as 1.5 degrees Cel­sius. Achieving such a goal will only come through the rapid devel­op­ment and deploy­ment of advanced clean energy and carbon-​​trapping technologies.

That’s one reason why at a press con­fer­ence in Paris, James Hansen and other leading cli­mate sci­en­tists urged an all-​​of-​​the-​​above tech­nology approach that com­bined invest­ments in renew­ables with an accel­er­ated world­wide deploy­ment of advanced nuclear reactors.

Social protest and polit­ical mobi­liza­tion can create some of the pres­sure and incen­tives needed to mobi­lize society at a scale not seen since World War II, but ulti­mately we will also have to depend on the inge­nuity of engi­neers, cor­po­ra­tions, and cap­i­tal­ists including those in the fossil fuel and nuclear energy industries.

Hel­muth: The U.S. entered the con­ven­tion making it clear that the end result could not be a treaty, which by law would need to be rat­i­fied by Con­gress. One of the biggest acid tests of whether this agree­ment will make a dif­fer­ence is whether nations like the U.S. can put teeth into the accord, so that the “should”—in terms of what will be done to cut emissions—can become “shall.” How devel­oping nations—those most vul­ner­able to cli­mate change—will fare in coming decades is also unclear.

Next steps for par­tic­i­pating nations

Nisbet: If we are going to quickly ratchet up global emis­sions reduc­tions, in the U.S. we will also have to quickly ratchet up public engage­ment with the issue. The problem is not so much public denial, but public ambivalence.

Research that I have con­ducted along with sev­eral col­leagues sug­gests a port­folio of related com­mu­ni­ca­tion strate­gies can help shift the con­ver­sa­tion about cli­mate change, building broader public demand for gov­ern­ment action.

These actions include cor­recting public beliefs about the over­whelming level of con­sensus among cli­mate sci­en­tists about the problem; re-​​framing cli­mate change in terms of public health and other dimen­sions that convey per­sonal rel­e­vance and con­nect to issues that a broader seg­ment of Amer­i­cans care about; and working with a diver­sity of opinion leaders across soci­etal sec­tors who can con­nect with difficult-​​to-​​reach audiences.

Hel­muth: No one likes reg­u­la­tion, but until we reach a point where we as a society rec­og­nize just how close to the precipice we are standing, it may be our best way of slowing down the train of cli­mate change.

There will always be some—including some very promi­nent polit­ical figures—who will con­tinue to cast doubt on the very exis­tence of cli­mate change, but we can’t wait for them to see the light before we as cit­i­zens demand action.

Boston and the com­mon­wealth of Mass­a­chu­setts are, thank­fully, leading the nation in preparing for cli­mate change and we need to keep that momentum going and not become com­pla­cent until the next big storm. No gov­ern­ment is going to fix this problem alone, and so we need all hands of deck.