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Scientists have ruled out the worst-case climate scenario — and the best one too

The Extinction Chronicles

There’s a range of possibilities for how much the earth will warm. A new study narrows the likely window by the largest margin in decades.

An oil refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Oil refineries like this one in Corpus Christi, Texas, are heating up the planet.
 Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock

The basic mechanics of climate change are simple: Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps heat. More carbon dioxide means more heat is trapped across the Earth, causing it to warm up.

But scaled up over the entire planet, these physical processes interact in a myriad of complex and sometimes unexpected ways. The Arctic reflects sunlight back into space. Clouds in some circumstances trap heat, and in others, they cool the region beneath them. Forests store a big chunk of carbon, but they’re being burned, cut down, and dying off from warming. The ocean soaks up a huge amount of heat and carbon…

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