Why you should be (skeptically) optimistic about climate change

Gerald Butts, Vice Chairman & Senior Advisor of Eurasia Group, discusses reasons the rapid global response to climate change warrants optimism on UNGA In 60 Seconds.

There's a lot of doom and gloom out there about climate change. Can you give me a reason to be optimistic?

I'm going to say something you don't hear set very often when it comes to climate change. You should be an optimist. You should be a skeptical optimist, but an optimist nonetheless. Let me explain what I mean. We are scaling up climate solutions faster than even the most ardent among us thought possible a decade ago. Consider this. In 2010, about half of US electricity was generated from coal. This year less than 20% will be, and it's trending towards zero at increasing velocity.


Yesterday, just yesterday, Xi Jinping announced at UNGA that China's emissions will peak this decade, and he set an economy-wide net zero target for the middle of the century. And this afternoon, yes, just this afternoon before recording this segment, California Governor Gavin Newsome said the state will outlaw the internal combustion engine by 2035. All of this is happening against the backdrop of the European Green Deal, making a truly historic investment in clean growth, and a presidential nominee running on a climate plan that would have been unthinkable one election cycle ago. And that's just the politics. On the market side, ESG investing is more than holding its own against traditional vehicles, and the cost of renewable energy is truly competitive with thermal fossil, almost everywhere in the world, about a decade sooner than conventional wisdom, expected it to be. In short, things are changing, and fast.

But more than any of these trends, I'm optimistic because the demographics are finally on the side of climate action. Countries, global institutions, and firms are increasingly being led by a generation of people who will live through the harsh reality of the climate change era. They've seen the future, and they don't like it. None of this is to say the change is going to be easy or that it's going to happen automatically. These big changes that I've been talking about... They need to get bigger, and they need to happen faster, but there's too much doom-saying out there about climate change. There is hope, you should be skeptical, and you should always, always read the fine print, but there's lots of reasons to be hopeful. I'm Gerald Butts, and this has been UNGA in 60 Seconds.

More from Global Stage

Highlights from Davos 2022

World leaders gathered this week in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum at a moment of heightened global uncertainty. Three months into the Russian war in Ukraine, the conflict seems no closer to resolution. A global food crisis — made worse by the war — is putting more than a billion people at risk of food insecurity. Meanwhile, cyberattacks and misinformation continue to wreak havoc around the globe. The world faces many dangerous challenges, but the biggest one may be this: “you can’t solve a problem unless you agree on what the problem is,” says GZERO’s Ian Bremmer.

The yet-unseen consequences of Russia's war in Ukraine

World leaders attending the 2022 World Economic Forum in Davos know there's a crisis going on — but Ian Bremmer thinks they are still unaware of the first- and second-order consequences of Russia's war in Ukraine. First, "people are mostly thinking about this as a war inside Ukraine. It's not a war in Ukraine. It's actually a war between Russia and NATO," the president of GZERO Media said Global Stage livestream conversation hosted by GZERO in partnership with Microsoft.

Moisés Naim: With inflation & low trust in democracy, Latin America faces perfect storm for nasty politics

How much power does the World Economic Forum in Davos still have? For Moisés Naim. distinguished fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, not much, and this year's leitmotif is confusion, he tells Ian Bremmer in a Global Stage interview. And what about Latin America's future? He sees a"very dangerous convergence of inflation and disappointment with democracy that could result in "a perfect storm to create nasty politics" in the region.

Wolfgang Ischinger: Ukraine made German foreign policy go "out the window"

For Wolfgang Ischinger, former chair of the Munich Security Conference, the state of transatlantic relations is in good shape right now, although whether we'll have the stamina to stay on course is uncertain. In a Global Stage interview with Ian Bremmer, he seems more worried about American war fatigue than the Europeans — although the EU has Viktor Orbán and it's hard for Germany to cut off Russian gas. One lesson Ischinger has learned from the current crisis is that Europe must have America's back on China, especially with Taiwan. And he calls German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's recent foreign policy U-turns as "going out the window."

In a food crisis, export controls are "worst possible" thing to do, says UN Foundation chief

The war in Ukraine has aggravated a global food crisis that started with the pandemic. Is there anything we can do about it? The UN is trying, but there needs to be a much more ambitious response to what is already a catastrophic humanitarian crisis, UN Foundation President Elizabeth Cousens said during a Global Stage livestream discussion hosted by GZERO in partnership with Microsoft at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Gillian Tett: Ukraine knows how to get what it wants from the West

The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is not known for big outbursts of human emotion. But this year, the Ukrainian delegation got a standing ovation from the usual crowd of global business leaders. Gillian Tett, US editor-at-large and chair of the Financial Times board, met with the Ukrainians and shares her perspective with Ian Bremmer in a Global Stage interview.

Digital Equity