By SETH BORENSTEIN and FRANK JORDANS
Excerpt: The forecast for global warming is looking a little less bleak in the long term, but not so rosy in the short term.
With numerous countries pledging to clean up their act and projected temperature rises now smaller than they once were, scientists and diplomats say the outlook for mid-to-late century is not as gloomy as it was when the historic 2015 Paris climate accord was signed.
But they caution that impacts of warming already are hitting Earth harder than scientists predicted. And they say the use of coal, oil and natural gas that fuels climate change is not dropping as much as needed, despite cheaper renewable energy.
The climate change landscape has changed in five years, and UN officials credit both cold, hard economics and a push from an idealistic younger generation. But Swedish teen environmentalist Greta Thunberg on Thursday blasted world leaders for setting “distant hypothetical targets” while “speeding in the wrong direction.”
Carbon pollution barely rose globally from 2018 to 2019, then dropped 7% this year because of the pandemic, although it’ll likely rise again. Wind and solar power costs dropped so fast that renewable energy is often cheaper than dirtier fossil fuels.
“Globally the top 1% of income earners emit more than twice the combined share of the poorest 50% of the global population,” said U.N. Environment Programme policy and planning chief Ann Olhoff. For the world to reach the most stringent Paris goal, she said, “The richest 1%” would need to cut their emissions to one-thirtieth of what it is now.
But Christiana Figueres, the former U.N. climate chief who was a driving force at the Paris negotiations, said the undercurrents have shifted since 2015 — evidenced by the decisions of major investors, such as New York’s public pension fund, to stop funding fossil fuel power.
“We’re moving faster than we ever were and will continue to increase the speed,” said Figueres. “So am I optimistic? Yes, by choice and by evidence.”