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The Truth About the Two-Degree Target

Why It Hasn't Helped Mitigate Climate Change

A coal-burning power plant can be seen behind a factory in the city of Baotou, in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, October 2010.  David Gray / REUTERS

Upon reading Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan’s response (“Don’t Abandon the Paris Temperature Target,” February 28) to my recent Foreign Affairs article (“The Two-Degree Delusion,” February 8), one might think the world had made great headway in its efforts, dating back to the early 1990s, to stabilize global emissions. “It would be wrong,” she writes, “to become indecisive or to consider no longer pursuing the goals that to date have driven climate action.”

In reality, global emissions have risen faster in the 20 years since the world ratified the two-degree target at Kyoto in 1997 than they did over the 20 years before. Global clean energy as a share of total primary energy consumption has seen no increase. The long-term carbon intensity of the global economy, the amount of carbon emitted for every unit of economic production, also fell faster before Kyoto than after. Most nations, in fact, are not even on

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