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The 11 Numbers That Sum Up the Climate Change Talks in Paris

system change climate change talks paris

A demonstration calling for system change, not climate change. (Friends of the Earth International / Flickr)

The 21 in #COP21

The Paris conference is known as #COP21 because it's the 21st United Nations Conference of the Parties, part of the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Conference of the Parties, or COP, is the name of the decision-making group of the convention.


196 countries are meeting at #COP21. The meeting will last for two weeks. And in addition to the 22,000 delegates, there will be so many activists, journalists and others that total attendance is expected to be about 50,000 people.

500,000 demonstrators

About a half million people took part in about 2,500 different climate change marches and demonstrations around the world yesterday, in coordination with #COP21. Here are photos from some of them.

Paris (where shoes stood in for marchers in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks there):

Cape Town, South Africa:

Mexico City, Mexico:

Ottawa, Canada:

Washington, DC:


1992 was the year when the UN agreed on what level greenhouse gas emissions are considered to be dangerous. It's relevant at #COP21 because the goal is to finally, now, 23 years later, get the #COP21 countries to agree on how to keep emissions near or below that dangerous level.

2 degrees Celsius

That's the dangerous level of global temperature rise that the world has agreed is dangerous: 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Just 2C? Is that really a big deal? Yes. If the Earth warms up just 2C overall, experts think that seemingly minor level of global warming will cause catastrophic damage to the planet and and humankind, and we won't be able to reverse it.

Remember, weather and climate aren't the same thing. If the weather (local temperature and precipitation) is 2 degrees different one day to the next it's no big deal--you may not even notice it. But when the climate--the overall levels of temperature and precipitation--shifts as little as 2 degrees over time, it seriously majorly affects weather patterns, the level of the oceans, glacier melt, and more.

For you (and your children and grandchildren), that means what's coming is more droughts, more extreme weather like hurricanes, more flooding, and shortages of food (due to farming problems) and clean drinking water.

Seriously scary stuff.

1.7 degrees Fahrenheit

As of just last month, that's the amount the Earth has already warmed up since 1880. Remember, the dangerous level is 2C, or 3.6F, so 1.7F means we're already halfway there.


This year, 2015, will go down as the hottest year on record so far. So if you're looking for evidence that the climate of Earth is heating up, there's something for you.

And on top of that, the average temperature for October 2015 was .98 degrees Celsius, or 1.76 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer than average.

So what? That's the highest average temperature compared to normal for any month EVER.

In other words, October 2015 was the warmest month on record AND the "greatest above-average departure from average for any month," according to the government.

Feel like you keep hearing "warmest month ever"? You're right. October 2015 is also the 6th month in a row to break a global temperature record. It also means that 7 of the 10 warmest months of all time have been in 2015.


How can we keep from hitting that 2C rise in temperature? By drastically cutting carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. DRASTICALLY--by between 40% and 70% by 2050, and as much as 100%(!) by 2100.

A year ago, the US and China agreed to cut their emissions. It's a start. Though some people are very skeptical that our leaders can and will do anything meaningful.

1 foot

One problem caused by climate change is rising ocean levels. The oceans are rising about 1 foot per century.

We don't know just how fast the oceans are going to keep rising. But if they do--and it sure looks like they will--that means we'll keep having devastating floods and, eventually, major cities will become seriously flooded and coastal areas will be uninhabitable.


You know how "4 out of 5 dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum"? Well, 98%, or virtually 100%, of climate scientists believe climate change is real. So the only real debate over it isn't scientific--it's political.


Still, despite all the overwhelming evidence and the prospect of major catastrophe staring us all in the face, only 63%, or about 2/3, of Americans think climate change is a serious problem. And only 47% think the government should do more to combat it.

So there's a big disconnect between how serious a danger climate change really is and how concerned Americans are about it--and even how convinced people are that humans are responsible for it.

If you do care about climate change, don't feel hopeless or helpless. Here are 6 things you can do right now to make a difference.

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The 11 Numbers That Sum Up the Climate Change Talks in Paris

Holly Epstein Ojalvo

Holly’s mission is to inform, inspire, and empower engaged activists who will change the world. She was previously an editor at The New York Times and a high school teacher. She spent her brief 20’s slump at a mousepad factory. Holly earned a B.A. at Lafayette College and M.A.'s at U Delaware and NYU. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter, and cat, Tomie Twotone. Follow: @heoj.

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