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Daily Briefing: This number will shape Earth's future

Countries at a U.N. climate conference are hoping to agree on new ways to keep the planet from catastrophic heating by the end of the century. Also in the news: A truce between Israel and Hamas was extended through Thursday at the last minute and U.S. foreign policy juggernaut Henry Kissinger has died at 100.

🙋🏼‍♀️ I'm Nicole Fallert, Daily Briefing author. Look up! The aurora borealis could be visible across northern U.S. Thursday night.

Here is the news to know Thursday.

Just a few degrees could mean the difference of climate catastrophe

World leaders from 197 countries including the U.S. will be spending considerable energy over the next few days pondering a number: 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (Or 1.5 degrees Celsius).

Representatives and negotiators are gathering in Dubai at an event called COP (Conference of the Parties), a 13-day meeting that comes at what scientists say is a critical moment in the fight to keep climate change from tipping into the catastrophic.

  • The background: In 2016, the United States and other parties signed the Paris Agreement, a legal commitment to try as hard as possible to keep the global average temperature increase below 2.7 degrees.

  • Why is a few degrees a big deal? The Earth is warming — fast. From wildfires to red tides to flash floods, Americans are increasingly feeling the effects. At their heart, the 13 days of COP negotiations are the place global governments will sit down to hammer out just how much each will lower its carbon emissions to curb these extremes.

  • How important is this big meeting, really? The U.N.’s climate change body said earlier this month that global greenhouse gas emissions need to fall by 45% by the end of this decade in order to meet the goal. Things are not going in the right direction. Instead, emissions are set to rise by 9%.

Related: Pope Francis says he's ''not well'' after canceling his trip to COP28.

Truce in Israel-Hamas war extended minutes before it was set to expire

A temporary truce between Israel and Hamas has been extended another day, just minutes before it was set to expire Thursday. The Israel Defense Forces said Thursday that the temporary truce will be extended for a seventh day “in light of the mediators’ efforts to continue the process of releasing hostages, and subject to the terms of the agreement." Officials in Qatar, Egypt and the U.S. have been working with Hamas and Israeli leaders on a temporary extension with an eye toward ending the war. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, has said fighting will ultimately continue until Hamas has been crushed. Read more

Pornsawan Pinakalo, a Thai hostage who was freed from Hamas, leaves after arriving at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Samut Prakarn Province, Thailand, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023.
Pornsawan Pinakalo, a Thai hostage who was freed from Hamas, leaves after arriving at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Samut Prakarn Province, Thailand, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023.

More news to know now

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Legendary US statesman Henry Kissinger dies at 100

Henry Kissinger, a German-born American diplomat who shaped U.S. foreign policy in the second half of the 20th century and won a Nobel Prize for brokering an end to the Vietnam War, has died. Kissinger, 100, was the most celebrated U.S. statesman in modern times, helping former President Richard Nixon establish U.S. relations with China, reaching Cold War detente and arms agreements with the Soviet Union and conducting “shuttle diplomacy” to defuse Middle East tension. Kissinger at the same time was an intensely controversial figure and a lightning rod for critics of Nixon’s foreign policy, particularly in conduct of the Vietnam War as well as staging the rise of authoritarian rulers in Latin America. Read more

U.S. President Ronald Reagan talks with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 1984 in Washington.
U.S. President Ronald Reagan talks with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 1984 in Washington.

Cases of this COVID variant tripled in just two weeks

Incidence of a COVID-19 variant appears to have increased threefold in the U.S. in recent weeks, federal tracking showed. The BA.2.86 variant – a mutated COVID-19 strain previously thought to be uncommon – is projected to account for nearly one-tenth of circulating viruses, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracking. So it may be time to get that shot before any planned holiday travel: The updated COVID-19 vaccines are expected to increase protection against BA.2.86, the CDC said. Read more

Keep scrolling

These are Usher's must-haves

Usher's reign continues as the king of R&B – and as the king of Las Vegas. The singer, whose final show of his Vegas "My Way" residency at Park MGM is Dec. 2, will keep his Sin City streak going come February when he headlines the 2024 Super Bowl halftime show at Allegiant Stadium. From his pre-show routine to Go-Karts with his kids, his must-haves help him stay grounded and playful. In a new series, USA TODAY’s The Essentials, celebrities share what fuels their lives. We're kicking off with UsherMeg Ryan and Ariana DeBose.

Usher talks about his Las Vegas must-haves for USA TODAY's The Essentials.
Usher talks about his Las Vegas must-haves for USA TODAY's The Essentials.

Photo of the day: The coolest ice rink is at the White House

Throughout December, the children of military families, frontline workers, first responders, educators and local school children will get to lace on skates on the South Lawn of the White House.

1988 Olympic figure skater Brian Boitano, left, skates next to first lady Jill Biden during the unveiling of the White House Holiday Ice Rink, located at the south panel of the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) ORG XMIT: DCJM101
1988 Olympic figure skater Brian Boitano, left, skates next to first lady Jill Biden during the unveiling of the White House Holiday Ice Rink, located at the south panel of the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) ORG XMIT: DCJM101

Nicole Fallert is a newsletter writer at USA TODAY, sign up for the email here. Want to send Nicole a note? Shoot her an email at NFallert@usatoday.com or follow along with her musings on Twitter. Support journalism like this – subscribe to USA TODAY here.

Associated Press contributed reporting.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COP28, Israel-Hamas war, Henry Kissinger, COVID, Usher, Taylor Swift: Daily Briefing