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Unless significant, steady reductions in the emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels begin extremely soon, the Earth might be much closer to potentially catastrophic warming than is widely believed. So argues climatologist James Hansen of the Columbia University Earth Institute and an international team of colleagues in a new analysis published today in the journal PLOS One. Their paper further underscores other recent studies showing that even small delays in shrinking the industrial output of carbon dioxide (CO2) could steeply complicate not only attempts to temper climate change but also any attempts by future generations to adapt to it.

Without abrupt action to restrict higher emissions "it will become exceedingly difficult to keep warming below a target smaller than 2° C" they write. Furthermore, they say, the supposedly safe “limit” for warming of 2 degrees Celsius—which has driven global climate negotiations for years—is too high. Anything more than 1 degree C could imperil the Earth's ecosystems and societies. Hansen in particular is concerned about inaction imposing a crushing burden on today's children, as reflected in the paper's title: "Assessing Dangerous Climate Change: Required Reductions of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature."

But is the jury still out on this? To read more, click here.