In the meantime, global efforts to combat climate change continue. Despite some pessimism about the slow pace of talks, international cooperation was boosted by a joint Chinese-U.S. climate pledge last month. China has promised to peak its emissions by 2030, with one-fifth of its energy coming from renewable sources. Like 195 other nations, the U.S. will be setting its own long-term aims but has already committed to doubling previous reduction targets.
Key to reducing carbon footprint is lessening the carbon intensity of the of energy sources — a central part of the vision going into next year’s climate change conference in France. Countries are aiming to seal a final Paris alliance deal by the end of next year, and a loose, nonbinding framework is being considered.
But that will not satisfy most activists and countries already experiencing the effects of climate change, which demand more decisive action to avert disaster. Most studies indicate current cutbacks are insufficient to cap the global temperature increase at the widely cited threshold of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide is quickly approaching 400 parts per million (ppm), well above a frequently cited goal of 350 ppm. Lee, the Harvard environment expert, recommended focusing on a 450 target instead.
“Forget the 350 goal,” he said. “We’re not even going to come close.” But on the bright side, he added, “we’re beginning to see signs of things that countries four to five years ago just were not doing. We’re making progress.”
Stockman agreed. “I’m encouraged by Lima,” he said, referring to the U.N. climate negotiations this month in Peru. He added that the participants had a clear view of "the writing on the wall with climate change.”
“The younger generation is fired up about the future,” he said. “But I still probably wouldn’t invest in seafront property in New Jersey right now.”