Grounds for Cautious Hope on Climate

Friends, ‘doomerism is – understandably – everywhere. But it is such a corrosive perspective.

So I was pleased to encounter a one hour talk by Zeke Hausfather on the The Case for Cautious Climate Hope.

This is Zeke’s précis to which I have added some punctuation.

The world is currently on the brink of both potential climate catastrophe and rapid decarbonization.

On one hand the climate crisis has become too severe to ignore; what was once a problem that people thought their children would face is now something that is impossible to ignore, with record-breaking heat, droughts, wildfires, flooding, and other climate impacts happening on a daily basis. While climate change is not necessarily happening faster than we thought, many of the impacts of climate change are proving more severe than we initially expected. Atmospheric CO2 has now risen to levels last seen more than four million years ago, and current global temperatures are likely higher than any multi-century period in at least the last 125,000 years.

At the same time, the energy transition is happening far faster than anyone predicted a decade ago. Solar and battery prices have fallen by a factor of ten in a decade, global coal use peaked back in 2013, around 14% of new vehicles sold globally are electric, and the darkest climate futures where emissions doubled or tripled by the end of the century are now receding from view.

Close to 90% of global emissions are covered by pledges to get to net-zero around the middle of the 21st century, and countries are starting to pass meaningful climate policy to put us on a path toward achieving those goals.

But it is increasingly clear that the world will overshoot our most ambitious climate change target of limiting warming to 1.5°C in the next decade or two, even though our ability to limit warming to below 2°C is growing much stronger.

It is a time for a cautious climate hope that both acknowledges the progress we have made and how far we still have to go. 

If you have an hour to spare, the talk is worth listening to. In particular because it realistically acknowledges the depth of the hole we are in – which is deep –  while pointing out that we have made real and measurable progress.

If you only have 30 minutes, then just listen to the start. Despite a few IT problems it does manage to convey that although things are still bad, they are not as bad as we thought they were going to be.

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