Since the 1992 Rio Summit on Environment and Development, the largest international gathering in history, world leaders have repeatedly pledged to limit human-induced climate catastrophe. But there’s been little actual progress on achieving a binding agreement on climate change to date. Activists hope next year’s Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris will deliver a better response. Facts belie their optimism.

Despite investments in energy efficiency and a movement toward cleaner energy in the U.S., Europe, China and some emerging economies, annual emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) have risen almost twice as fast since the 1990s compared with the prior decade. Even if an agreement is reached to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, the atmosphere already carries far more carbon dioxide than the responsible upper limit of 350 parts per million (ppm). Right now we’re at 400 ppm, while adding 2 ppm of CO2 to the atmosphere every year. Unless global leaders agree to return to under the 350 ppm limit within this century, we risk triggering irreversible damage that could make climate change spin out of control. A recent study by the World Bank found that average temperature […]

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