In the first of a five-part series, authors Jing Cao and Lawrence MacDonald situate themselves in 2030 to look back on a mostly successful transition to a low-carbon economy.
In their (so far) fictional future, “instead of racing toward the brink of climate catastrophe, we have begun to back away,” they write. “Annual global emissions of heat-trapping gases have fallen two-thirds—faster than anybody had dared to hope as recently as a dozen years ago—with continued steep reductions ahead.” The annual increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations has slowed, so “attention and investment are shifting from the need for steep emissions reductions—a global goal that has largely been attained—to large-scale, low-cost biological methods for extracting carbon from the atmosphere.”
In Cao’s and MacDonald’s future, the low-carbon transition has led to job growth, improved economic performance, and continued reductions in global poverty, even in the absence of a binding international treaty. In fact, “an emerging school of academic climate historians argues that all this might have come about sooner had it not been for the global climate negotiations.”