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Why do I say that the best goal for the Cancun climate talks is to make real progress on a sound foundation for meaningful, long-term global action, not some notion of immediate triumph? This is because of some basic scientific and economic realities. First, the focus of scientists is (and the focus of policy makers should be) on stabilizing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at acceptable levels by the year 2050 and beyond, because it is the accumulated stock of greenhouse gas emissions - not the flow of emissions in any year - that are linked with climate consequences. Second, the cost-effective path for stabilizing concentrations involves a gradual ramp-up in target severity, to avoid rendering large parts of the capital stock prematurely obsolete.


Stavins, Robert N. "Knowing Success if You See It." Outreach. November 28, 2010.