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Significant Digits From The Paris Climate Talks

The Paris climate talks kicked off Monday and run through Dec. 11. The talks have been met online with a bevy of articles and data showing that it’s too late to totally stop global warming — the world is already getting hotter and hotter — and serious action is required to limit how hot it gets. To help you find those stories, we’re bringing you dispatches of the best climate work and data points from around the Web throughout the duration of the conference.

21 conferences

The negotiations that began this week represent the 21st formal meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The first meeting, COP 1, took place in Berlin in 1995, and a meeting has been held at least once a year ever since. The Paris talks are considered crucial because even though they won’t result in commitments large enough to solve climate change, they will allow nations to set their own emission targets and decide on their own how to reach them. The resulting agreement is expected to include measures for accountability and verification. [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change]

183 countries

As of Monday, 183 countries had submitted plans for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. These proposals cover about 95 percent of the world’s population and include those from the U.S., China, the European Union, Brazil and Australia. Of the 183 countries, only two — Ethiopia and Morocco — have plans that Climate Action Tracker (a consortium of research organizations) rated as “sufficient” to meet climate goals. [Climate Action Tracker]

2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit)

In 1975, Yale economist William Nordhaus proposed that a global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius or more above pre-industrial levels represented a critical limit. Over the next decades, 2 degrees became a widely accepted (though sometimes disputed) threshold above which warming would become catastrophic. The negotiators in Paris are still trying to hit that goal. [Carbon Brief]

3.5 degrees Celsius (6.5 degrees Fahrenheit)

Without any preventive measures, global temperatures are on track to rise 4.5 degrees Celsius (8.1 F) by 2100. If countries follow through on the proposals they’ve submitted in advance of the Paris talks and do nothing more, global temperatures are expected to rise 3.5 C. That 2 degree limit is looking distant. [Climate Interactive]

6 years

While negotiations have bogged down, global warming has continued to get worse. The Kyoto Protocol was negotiated in 1997, a year that set a new high for the hottest year ever recorded. But that mark was broken the next year, 1998, and again in 2005, 2010 and 2014. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that when the data is all in, 2015 will be the sixth record-breaking year since 1997. [AP]

Christie Aschwanden was a lead science writer for FiveThirtyEight. Her book “Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery” is available here.