In 2010, United Nations member states agreed to try to hold the planet’s temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. It was a goal that acknowledged it was too late to stop the planet from warming, so instead we aimed to cap the potential damage from rising temperatures and sea levels.
More than 20 years since climate talks began, we’re already at least halfway to the 2-degree limit while emissions continue to rise. We know what staying below the 2-degree ceiling will take: leaving vast quantities of fossil fuel reserves untapped. To keep the planet cool, we’ll have to resist our urge to draw from it.
We’ve known that much for some time now. But a report published Wednesday in the journal Nature shows, in the finest detail yet, which fossil fuel reserves can be exploited and which should remain untouched if we’re to have at least a 50 percent chance of meeting the 2-degree limit.
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