Climatic Change

, Volume 73, Issue 3, pp 195-226

First online:

Article 2 of the UNFCCC: Historical Origins, Recent Interpretations

  • Michael OppenheimerAffiliated withWoodrow Wilson School and Department of Geosciences, Princeton University Email author 
  • , Annie PetsonkAffiliated withEnvironmental Defense

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Article 2 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which states the treaty's long-term objective, is the subject of a growing literature that examines means to interpret and implement this provision. Here we provide context for these studies by exploring the intertwined scientific, legal, economic, and political history of Article 2. We review proposed definitions for “dangerous anthropogenic interference” and frameworks that have been proposed for implementing these definitions. Specific examples of dangerous climate changes suggest limits on global warming ranging from 1 to 4 C and on concentrations ranging from 450 to 700 ppm CO2 equivalents. The implications of Article 2 for near term restrictions on greenhouse-gas emissions, e.g., the Kyoto Protocol, are also discussed.