Louvre in Paris, France.

Paris and the Fate of the Earth

The lives of billions of people, for centuries to come, will be at stake when world leaders and government negotiators meet at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris at the end of the month. As it stands, vast areas of our planet could soon become uninhabitable.

PRINCETON – The lives of billions of people, for centuries to come, will be at stake when world leaders and government negotiators meet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris at the end of the month. The fate of an unknown number of endangered species of plants and animals also hangs in the balance.

At the “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, 189 countries, including the United States, China, India, and all European countries signed on to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and agreed to stabilize greenhouse-gas emissions “at a low enough level to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

So far, however, no such stabilization has taken place, and without it, climate feedback loops could boost rising temperatures further still. With less Arctic ice to reflect sunlight, the oceans will absorb more warmth. Thawing Siberian permafrost will release vast quantities of methane. As a result, vast areas of our planet, currently home to billions of people, could become uninhabitable.

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