Members of Earth in Brackets at COP21, December 2015. Members of Earth in Brackets at COP21, December 2015. Credit: Kimberly Lopez Castellanos

Over the weekend, negotiators in Paris produced a slimmer, but still heavily-bracketed final draft of a proposed climate change [accord][protocol][agreement][anything but a treaty] aimed at doing what the first climate treaty, adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, failed to do: curb emissions of greenhouse gases and boost the capacity of poor countries to handle climatic and coastal dangers amplified by warming.

There was quite a bit of celebration around this accomplishment. But when you look at text sections on the most important issues — mitigation of greenhouse-gas emissions, financial aid for vulnerable countries and any mention of aspects of the deal that might be legally binding — you encounter not only brackets but, surreally, [[brackets] within brackets]…

Text that isn’t there

Of course there’s another category of problem with the agreement besides those identified by brackets — the issues that aren’t in the text at all. A team of students from the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Me., using the brilliant Twitter handle @EarthinBrackets, pointed to one this morning, commenting on some official’s comment: “‘Although agriculture isn’t in the final text we’ve still seen great progress.’ If it’s not even on the table what do you define as progress?”

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