Did we just win?

It’s certainly sounding that way. Emissions from fossil fuels — the key driver of global warming since the dawn of the industrial era — are set to peak within two years, according to Rystad Energy, an oil and gas consultancy. Carbon pollution from electricity, the sector with the biggest footprint, will never again hit the levels it reached last year, the International Energy Agency said Feb. 8.

That’s a remarkable and somewhat unexpected achievement. Predictions of large-scale decarbonization are "the academic equivalent of science fiction,” Vaclav Smil, Bill Gates’s favorite energy thinker, argued last year. Exxon Mobil Corp. still expects petroleum demand to be growing in 2050. One of the main models used until recently to map out the future of climate assumes emissions won’t fall until the 2090s.