What’s at stake in the Paris climate talks

Addressing climate change is one of the most important collective decisions facing us as humans living in 2015. Based on decisions made in the next two weeks, the states of the world will either commit to restrain global climate change to under 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, or plan for modest reductions in pollution that still put us on track for 4°C of warming by 2100 (with greater increases beyond that).

Let’s assume you know the importance of this choice in theory, but maybe not in its details. Or even that you knew what the major risks of a 4°C warmer world back when the climate talks were held in Copenhagen, but haven’t updated your knowledge since then. Or that you know, and want something to share with those who don’t. Here are some places to get informed, in way that speaks to the immensity of the risks ahead, relatively fast…

  • Getting To Four Degrees: This hour-long  BBC radio drama puts a typical British family in a world warmed by 2°C and 4°C, while climate experts interrupt and discuss the details of what those world will look like. (original weblink dead; archived here)
  • Five possible scenarios for our future climate (The Guardian, 2009) — Degree by degree summaries of the world at 1°C through 5°C. Begins with our unavoidable future: Most of the world’s corals will die, including the Great Barrier Reef. Glaciers that provide crops for 50m people with fresh water begin to melt.
  • Turn Down the Heat — A series of reports from the Potsdam Institute and the World Bank spelling out the case for limiting warming to 2°C. Remember, the World Bank technocrats are people who have prioritized market-based growth and resource extraction, but they’re not afraid of the science on global warming. In this series, they’ve brought together detailed analyses of how much worse 4°C is than 2°C. If you’re doubting that controlling climate change matters, read about somewhere you love. Comes in three parts: A global summary released in 2012; and regional details for Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and South Asia, and for Latin America and the Caribbean; the Middle East and North Africa; and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
  • Professor Kevin Anderson on what’s under negotiation in Paris.
  • Understanding key positions of the Least Developed Countries in climate change negotiations: “Warming and associated risks will still be unevenly and unfairly distributed with a global average rise of 2°C, and temperature change will be highest in those regions where particularly vulnerable countries are located. A more ambitious ‘1.5°C pathway’ for limiting global average temperature increase is essential to minimise the risks to Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States, and Africa.”
  • The state of the carbon budget to reach 2°C (Washington Post, November 29).

And when you’re wondering how to feel about all this, read these for some company in the face of stark realities:

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