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15 December 2014 – 3.6 Degrees of uncertainty

After two weeks of grinding meetings in Lima, Peru, the world’s climate negotiators emerged this weekend with a deal. They settled on preliminary language, to be finalized a year from now in Paris, meant to help keep the long-term warming of the planet below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That upper boundary was first settled on four years ago at another round of talks in Cancun, Mexico. On the centigrade scale, it equals two degrees above the global average temperature at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution — the “2C target.” But where did that target come from in the first place? And even if we manage to stay below it, will it really protect the planet from serious harm?

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