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It's amazing to think that the United Nations Framework on Climate Change went into effect 21 years ago. For more than two decades, the global community has been grappling with the potentially disastrous effects of a planet that is undeniably heating up at an alarming rate.

The goal of the 190 countries gathered in Paris for the Climate Conference that began Monday is to achieve a legally binding agreement on climate “with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 degrees C,” thereby avoiding catastrophe.

Participating countries have proposed emissions-reductions plans, but at the rate of warming, those plans don't come close to the U.N.'s 3.6 degrees F limit.

Emerging-market/developing countries feel that bigger countries, like the United States, have more responsibility to take climate-reducing action because developed countries have contributed the lion's share of the emissions to the atmosphere.

This in response to the idea of a carbon budget to cap emissions and divvy equally what remains between all nations — an idea recommended by climate scientists.

At the end of the day, the issue is really one of personal, local and regional responsibility, as well.

On an individual level, it is difficult to know what can be done. And many of us may feel that our little contribution won't really make a difference.

But we are wrong.

We have the power of the ballot and we can — in 2016, a major election year — use that power to support candidates who understand the urgency around reducing emissions and thereby slowing global warming.

Vote for those who know that businesses and environmental sustainability need not be mutually exclusive.

As Kevin Miller of Brogue told us: “More corporations are realizing that ... extinction is bad for profits.”

As consumers, we also have the power to purchase goods and services from those companies who act in a responsible manner when it comes to the environment.

So we urge our readers to do your homework and use your power to do your part to reverse the catastrophic trends of global warming.

Future generations — your grandchildren and their grandchildren — depend mightily on the decisions you make today.

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