Why This Goal To Curb Climate Change ‘Is Not Ideal’

If you’re planning to follow the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Conference of the Parties — which starts today and runs through Dec. 11 in Paris — you’ll likely hear a lot about the threshold of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

That number separates us from climate change-induced floods, droughts, storms, heat waves and rising sea levels more severe than those we’ve already seen, according to some scientists. Keeping our world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 — so the average global temperature doesn’t rise above roughly 61.6 degrees Fahrenheit — may help us maintain the somewhat stable climate conditions that humans have adapted to since we started burning fossil fuels in the late 1800s, they say.

But not everyone agrees.

Other scientists and some world leaders want to push for a stricter limi. They say the threshold should be 1.5 degrees to help protect countries, such as island nations, that are most vulnerable to these effects.

Tensions between these two camps are running high as the global average temperature reached about 58.86 degrees Fahrenheit in October, making last month the warmest October ever recorded and putting 2015 on track to be the hottest year.

The 2-degree threshold emerged in the 1970s, when Yale University economist William Nordhaus published research suggesting damage to economic growth and environmental quality can intensify once the global average temperature rises by more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

“He wrote that … ‘this would take the climate outside of the range of observations which have been made over the last several hundred thousand years,'” Kelly Levin, senior associate in the climate program at the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C., —> Read More