Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • I have given the slide show that I gave here two years ago about 2,000 times.

  • I'm giving a short slide show this morning

  • that I'm giving for the very first time, so --

  • well it's -- I don't want or need to raise the bar,

  • I'm actually trying to lower the bar.

  • Because I've cobbled this together

  • to try to meet the challenge of this session.

  • And I was reminded by Karen Armstrong's fantastic presentation

  • that religion really properly understood

  • is not about belief, but about behavior.

  • Perhaps we should say the same thing about optimism.

  • How dare we be optimistic?

  • Optimism is sometimes characterized as a belief, an intellectual posture.

  • As Mahatma Gandhi famously said,

  • "You must become the change you wish to see in the world."

  • And the outcome about which

  • we wish to be optimistic is not going to be created

  • by the belief alone, except to the extent that the belief

  • brings about new behavior. But the word "behavior"

  • is also, I think, sometimes misunderstood in this context.

  • I'm a big advocate of changing

  • the lightbulbs and buying hybrids,

  • and Tipper and I put 33 solar panels on our house,

  • and dug the geothermal wells, and did all of that other stuff.

  • But, as important as it is to change the lightbulbs,

  • it is more important to change the laws.

  • And when we change our behavior in our daily lives,

  • we sometimes leave out the citizenship part

  • and the democracy part. In order to be optimistic about this,

  • we have to become incredibly active as citizens in our democracy.

  • In order to solve the climate crisis,

  • we have to solve the democracy crisis.

  • And we have one.

  • I have been trying to tell this story for a long time.

  • I was reminded of that recently, by a woman

  • who walked past the table I was sitting at,

  • just staring at me as she walked past. She was in her 70s,

  • looked like she had a kind face. I thought nothing of it

  • until I saw from the corner of my eye

  • she was walking from the opposite direction,

  • also just staring at me. And so I said, "How do you do?"

  • And she said, "You know, if you dyed your hair black,

  • you would look just like Al Gore." (Laughter)

  • Many years ago, when I was a young congressman,

  • I spent an awful lot of time dealing with the challenge

  • of nuclear arms control -- the nuclear arms race.

  • And the military historians taught me,

  • during that quest, that military conflicts are typically

  • put into three categories: local battles,

  • regional or theater wars, and the rare but all-important

  • global, world war -- strategic conflicts.

  • And each level of conflict requires a different allocation of resources,

  • a different approach,

  • a different organizational model.

  • Environmental challenges fall into the same three categories,

  • and most of what we think about

  • are local environmental problems: air pollution, water pollution,

  • hazardous waste dumps. But there are also

  • regional environmental problems, like acid rain

  • from the Midwest to the Northeast, and from Western Europe

  • to the Arctic, and from the Midwest

  • out the Mississippi into the dead zone of the Gulf of Mexico.

  • And there are lots of those. But the climate crisis

  • is the rare but all-important

  • global, or strategic, conflict.

  • Everything is affected. And we have to organize our response

  • appropriately. We need a worldwide, global mobilization

  • for renewable energy, conservation, efficiency

  • and a global transition to a low-carbon economy.

  • We have work to do. And we can mobilize resources

  • and political will. But the political will

  • has to be mobilized, in order to mobilize the resources.

  • Let me show you these slides here.

  • I thought I would start with the logo. What's missing here,

  • of course, is the North Polar ice cap.

  • Greenland remains. Twenty-eight years ago, this is what the

  • polar ice cap -- the North Polar ice cap -- looked like

  • at the end of the summer, at the fall equinox.

  • This last fall, I went to the Snow and Ice Data Center

  • in Boulder, Colorado, and talked to the researchers

  • here in Monterey at the Naval Postgraduate Laboratory.

  • This is what's happened in the last 28 years.

  • To put it in perspective, 2005 was the previous record.

  • Here's what happened last fall

  • that has really unnerved the researchers.

  • The North Polar ice cap is the same size geographically --

  • doesn't look quite the same size --

  • but it is exactly the same size as the United States,

  • minus an area roughly equal to the state of Arizona.

  • The amount that disappeared in 2005

  • was equivalent to everything east of the Mississippi.

  • The extra amount that disappeared last fall

  • was equivalent to this much. It comes back in the winter,

  • but not as permanent ice, as thin ice --

  • vulnerable. The amount remaining could be completely gone

  • in summer in as little as five years.

  • That puts a lot of pressure on Greenland.

  • Already, around the Arctic Circle --

  • this is a famous village in Alaska. This is a town

  • in Newfoundland. Antarctica. Latest studies from NASA.

  • The amount of a moderate-to-severe snow melting

  • of an area equivalent to the size of California.

  • "They were the best of times,

  • they were the worst of times": the most famous opening sentence

  • in English literature. I want to share briefly

  • a tale of two planets. Earth and Venus

  • are exactly the same size. Earth's diameter

  • is about 400 kilometers larger, but essentially the same size.

  • They have exactly the same amount of carbon.

  • But the difference is, on Earth, most of the carbon

  • has been leeched over time out of the atmosphere,

  • deposited in the ground as coal, oil,

  • natural gas, etc. On Venus, most of it

  • is in the atmosphere. The difference is that our temperature

  • is 59 degrees on average. On Venus,

  • it's 855. This is relevant to our current strategy

  • of taking as much carbon out of the ground as quickly as possible,

  • and putting it into the atmosphere.

  • It's not because Venus is slightly closer to the Sun.

  • It's three times hotter than Mercury,

  • which is right next to the Sun. Now, briefly,

  • here's an image you've seen, as one of the only old images,

  • but I show it because I want to briefly give you CSI: Climate.

  • The global scientific community says:

  • man-made global warming pollution, put into the atmosphere,

  • thickening this, is trapping more of the outgoing infrared.

  • You all know that. At the last

  • IPCC summary, the scientists wanted to say,

  • "How certain are you?" They wanted to answer that "99 percent."

  • The Chinese objected, and so the compromise was

  • "more than 90 percent."

  • Now, the skeptics say, "Oh, wait a minute,

  • this could be variations in this energy

  • coming in from the sun." If that were true,

  • the stratosphere would be heated as well as the

  • lower atmosphere, if it's more coming in.

  • If it's more being trapped on the way out, then you would

  • expect it to be warmer here and cooler here. Here is the lower atmosphere.

  • Here's the stratosphere: cooler.

  • CSI: Climate.

  • Now, here's the good news. Sixty-eight percent of Americans now believe

  • that human activity is responsible

  • for global warming. Sixty-nine percent believe that the Earth is heating up

  • in a significant way. There has been progress,

  • but here is the key: when given a list

  • of challenges to confront, global warming is still listed at near the bottom.

  • What is missing is a sense of urgency.

  • If you agree with the factual analysis,

  • but you don't feel the sense of urgency,

  • where does that leave you?

  • Well, the Alliance for Climate Protection, which I head

  • in conjunction with Current TV -- who did this pro bono --

  • did a worldwide contest to do commercials on how to communicate this.

  • This is the winner.

  • NBC -- I'll show all of the networks here -- the top journalists

  • for NBC asked 956 questions in 2007

  • of the presidential candidates: two of them were about

  • the climate crisis. ABC: 844 questions, two about the climate crisis.

  • Fox: two. CNN: two. CBS: zero.

  • From laughs to tears -- this is one of the older

  • tobacco commercials.

  • So here's what we're doing.

  • This is gasoline consumption in all of these countries. And us.

  • But it's not just the developed nations.

  • The developing countries are now following us

  • and accelerating their pace. And actually,

  • their cumulative emissions this year are the equivalent

  • to where we were in 1965. And they're catching up

  • very dramatically. The total concentrations:

  • by 2025, they will be essentially where we were in 1985.

  • If the wealthy countries were completely missing

  • from the picture, we would still have this crisis.

  • But we have given to the developing countries

  • the technologies and the ways of thinking

  • that are creating the crisis. This is in Bolivia --

  • over thirty years.

  • This is peak fishing in a few seconds. The '60s.

  • '70s. '80s. '90s. We have to stop this. And the good news is that we can.

  • We have the technologies.

  • We have to have a unified view of how to go about this:

  • the struggle against poverty in the world

  • and the challenge of cutting wealthy country emissions,

  • all has a single, very simple solution.

  • People say, "What's the solution?" Here it is.

  • Put a price on carbon. We need a CO2 tax, revenue neutral,

  • to replace taxation on employment, which was invented by Bismarck --

  • and some things have changed

  • since the 19th century.

  • In the poor world, we have to integrate the responses

  • to poverty with the solutions to the climate crisis.

  • Plans to fight poverty in Uganda

  • are mooted, if we do not solve the climate crisis.

  • But responses can actually make a huge difference

  • in the poor countries. This is a proposal

  • that has been talked about a lot in Europe.

  • This was from Nature magazine. These are concentrating

  • solar, renewable energy plants, linked in a so-called "supergrid"

  • to supply all of the electrical power

  • to Europe, largely from developing countries -- high-voltage DC currents.

  • This is not pie in the sky; this can be done.

  • We need to do it for our own economy.

  • The latest figures show that the old model

  • is not working. There are a lot of great investments

  • that you can make. If you are investing in tar sands

  • or shale oil, then you have a portfolio

  • that is crammed with sub-prime carbon assets.

  • And it is based on an old model.

  • Junkies find veins in their toes when the ones

  • in their arms and their legs collapse. Developing tar sands

  • and coal shale is the equivalent. Here are just a few of the investments

  • that I personally think make sense.

  • I have a stake in these, so I'll have a disclaimer there.

  • But geothermal, concentrating solar,

  • advanced photovoltaics, efficiency and conservation.

  • You've seen this slide before, but there's a change.

  • The only two countries that didn't ratify

  • -- and now there's only one. Australia had an election.

  • And there was a campaign in Australia

  • that involved television and Internet and radio commercials

  • to lift the sense of urgency for the people there.

  • And we trained 250 people to give the slide show

  • in every town and village and city in Australia.

  • Lot of other things contributed to it,

  • but the new Prime Minister announced that

  • his very first priority would be to change Australia's position

  • on Kyoto, and he has. Now, they came to an awareness

  • partly because of the horrible drought that they have had.

  • This is Lake Lanier. My friend Heidi Cullen

  • said that if we gave droughts names the way we give hurricanes names,

  • we'd call the one in the southeast now Katrina,

  • and we would say it's headed toward Atlanta.

  • We can't wait for the kind of drought

  • Australia had to change our political culture.

  • Here's more good news. The cities supporting Kyoto in the U.S.

  • are up to 780 -- and I thought I saw one go by there,

  • just to localize this -- which is good news.

  • Now, to close, we heard a couple of days ago

  • about the value of making individual heroism so commonplace

  • that it becomes banal or routine.

  • What we need is another hero generation. Those of us who are alive

  • in the United States of America

  • today especially, but also the rest of the world,

  • have to somehow understand that history

  • has presented us with a choice -- just as Jill [Bolte] Taylor was figuring out

  • how to save her life while she was distracted

  • by the amazing experience that she was going through.

  • We now have a culture of distraction.

  • But we have a planetary emergency.

  • And we have to find a way to create,

  • in the generation of those alive today, a sense of generational mission.

  • I wish I could find the words to convey this.

  • This was another hero generation

  • that brought democracy to the planet.

  • Another that ended slavery. And that gave women the right to vote.