John Foster considers what climate change tells us about the place of human beings in the world and what being realistic about our climate future entails. On one interpretation, it could mean recognising the compelling evidence that we have left it too late to save ourselves from climate disaster. But on another interpretation, it might be realistic to insist that we can never, even in extremis, rule out the transformative possibilities of human action. We could call hope inspired by such possibilities counter-empirical, since it refuses to be daunted by likelihoods, albeit dismaying, derived from past experience. Active recognition that our climate plight is already tragic is the only way to keep honest the kind of hope on which we must now rely. That means not only escaping from the recently-popular and still solutions-oriented ‘wicked-problem’ framing of the issues, but also building tragic awareness into all practical policy thinking henceforth. If we can manage this, hope can still reach out for transformative possibility while remaining deeply and realistically grounded.