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The main goal posts in the global fight against climate change are set in the wrong place, one researcher argues in a new paper this week.

The established international target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius leaves too much wiggle room and doesn’t move the world fast enough to avert catastrophic warming, explained Oliver Geden, head of the E.U. research division at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

“The whole discourse on 2 degrees is focusing on targets and not action,” Geden said. “If you say 2 degrees, you’re addressing us all, which is humanity, which diffuses responsibility.”

He made his case for setting an objective of driving carbon emissions down to zero in a commentary article published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

In theory, an international temperature target gives countries a trajectory for fighting climate change. In practice, it doesn’t tell anyone much about who needs to act and what they should do.


However, other analysts warned against throwing out temperature goals altogether, since the ultimate goal is to keep the planet from warming too much.

“Without that guidepost, one could get to net zero hypothetically and overshoot the temperature goal,” said Kelly Levin, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute. “They both serve different roles.”

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