Though an atmosphere that is 3.6 degrees warmer, on average, than preindustrial temperatures may seem like a paltry difference, the effects would be anything but. With such a rise, research predicts the "point at which the world will be locked into a near-term future of drought, food and water shortages, melting ice sheets, shrinking glaciers, rising sea levels and widespread flooding," the New York Times writes.
In her opening address on Monday, Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the U.N. climate convention, declared that the world "must write history" now to fight climate change. "2014 is likely to be the hottest year on record and emissions continue to rise. We must act with urgency."
Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, another U.N. effort, estimated that as fish flee warmer water near the equator, tropical fish stocks will contract by 40 to 60 percent. Amphibians, too, would be hit particularly hard. In early 2014, a study of 36 reptile and amphibian species in the U.S. determined that they would have an overall 28 percent chance of extinction over the next 100 years, compared with a 1 percent chance without global warming.