Policy ForumClimate Change

Dangerous Climate Impacts and the Kyoto Protocol

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Science  14 Jun 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5575, pp. 1971-1972
DOI: 10.1126/science.1071238

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The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change defines the long-term goal for climate change policy as stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that avoids "dangerous anthropogenic interference" with the climate system. O'Neill and Oppenheimer propose plausible interpretations of dangerous interference in terms of the potential for severe degradation of coral reef systems, disintegration of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, and shut down of the large-scale, density-driven circulation of the oceans. Taking into account uncertainties in links between emissions, climate change, and impacts, they show that the Kyoto Protocol provides a first step that may be necessary for avoiding dangerous interference.