The world has made real progress on climate change.
Five years ago, the journalist David Wallace-Wells explored a worst-case scenario for climate change: one in which the planet warmed by as much as 5 degrees Celsius by 2100 — causing widespread extreme weather, economic collapse, famine and war.
Now, David sees that level of doom as much less likely, he writes in an essay for this Sunday’s climate issue of The New York Times Magazine, where he is a columnist. While 5 degrees of warming once seemed possible, scientists now estimate that the Earth is on track to warm by 2 to 3 degrees. That difference might not seem huge, but it translates to fewer record-breaking floods, storms, droughts and heat waves and potentially thousands or millions of lives saved in the coming decades.
“The window of possible climate futures is narrowing, and as a result, we are getting a clearer sense of what’s to come: a new world, full of disruption but also billions of people, well past climate normal and yet mercifully short of true climate apocalypse,” David wrote.
In other words, humanity has made progress on one of the most serious challenges it has ever faced. “I’ve grown more optimistic than I used to be,” David told me. “The endgame looks calmer and more stable than it did a few years ago.”