I just did something I’ve never done before. I spent a week at sea on a research vessel. Now I’m not a scientist, but I was accompanying a remarkable scientific team from the University of South Florida who have been tracking the travels of BP’s oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
This is the boat we were on, by the way.The scientists I was with were not studying the effect of the oil and dispersants on the big stuff — the birds, the turtles, the dolphins, the glamorous stuff. They’re looking at the really little stuff that gets eaten by the slightly less little stuff that eventually gets eaten by the big stuff. And what they’re finding is that even trace amounts of oil and dispersants can be highly toxic to phytoplankton, which is very bad news,because so much life depends on it.
So contrary to what we heard a few months back about how 75 percent of that oil sort of magically disappeared and we didn’t have to worry about it, this disaster is still unfolding. It’s still working its way up the food chain. Now this shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. Rachel Carson — the godmother of modern environmentalism — warned us about this very thing back in 1962.She pointed out that the “control men” — as she called them — who carpet-bombed towns and fieldswith toxic insecticides like DDT, were only trying to kill the little stuff, the insects, not the birds. But they forgot this: the fact that birds dine on grubs, that robins eat lots of worms now saturated with DDT. And so, robin eggs failed to hatch, songbirds died en masse, towns fell silent. Thus the title “Silent Spring.”I’ve been trying to pinpoint what keeps drawing me back to the Gulf of Mexico, because I’m Canadian,and I can draw no ancestral ties.
And I think what it is is I don’t think we have fully come to terms with the meaning of this disaster, with what it meant to witness a hole ripped in our world, with what it meant to watch the contents of the Earth gush forth on live TV, 24 hours a day, for months. After telling ourselves for so long that our tools and technology can control nature, suddenly we were face-to-face with our weakness, with our lack of control, as the oil burst out of every attempt to contain it — “top hats,” “top kills” and, most memorably, the “junk shot” — the bright idea of firing old tires and golf balls down that hole in the world. But even more striking than the ferocious power emanating from that well was the recklessness with which that power was unleashed — the carelessness, the lack of planning that characterized the operation from drilling to clean-up. If there is one thing BP’s watery improv act made clear, it is that, as a culture, we have become far too willing to gamble with things that are precious and irreplaceable, and to do so without a back-up plan, without an exit strategy. And BP was hardly our first experience of this in recent years.
Our leaders barrel into wars, telling themselves happy stories about cakewalks and welcome parades. Then, it is years of deadly damage control, Frankensteins of sieges and surges and counter-insurgencies, and once again, no exit strategy. Our financial wizards routinely fall victim to similar overconfidence, convincing themselves that the latest bubble is a new kind of market —the kind that never goes down. And when it inevitably does, the best and the brightest reach for the financial equivalent of the junk shot — in this case, throwing massive amounts of much-needed public money down a very different kind of hole. As with BP, the hole does get plugged, at least temporarily, but not before exacting a tremendous price. We have to figure out why we keep letting this happen, because we are in the midst of what may be our highest-stakes gamble of all — deciding what to do, or not to do,about climate change. Now as you know, a great deal of time is spent, in this country and around the world, inside the climate debate, on the question of, “What if the IPC scientists are all wrong?” Now a far more relevant question — as MIT physicist Evelyn Fox Keller puts it — is, “What if those scientists are right?” Given the stakes, the climate crisis clearly calls for us to act based on the precautionary principle — the theory that holds that when human health and the environment are significantly at risk and when the potential damage is irreversible, we cannot afford to wait for perfect scientific certainty. Better to err on the side of caution. More overt, the burden of proving that a practice is safe should not be placed on the public that would be harmed, but rather on the industry that stands to profit. But climate policy in the wealthy world — to the extent that such a thing exists — is not based on precaution, but rather on cost-benefit analysis — finding the course of action that economists believe will have the least impact on our GDP.
So rather than asking, as precaution would demand, what can we do as quickly as possible to avoid potential catastrophe, we ask bizarre questions like this: “What is the latest possible moment we can wait before we begin seriously lowering emissions? Can we put this off till 2020, 2030, 2050?” Or we ask, “How much hotter can we let the planet get and still survive? Can we go with two degrees, three degrees, or — where we’re currently going — four degrees Celsius?” And by the way, the assumption that we can safely control the Earth’s awesomely complex climate system as if it had a thermostat, making the planet not too hot, not too cold, but just right — sort of Goldilocks style — this is pure fantasy, and it’s not coming from the climate scientists. It’s coming from the economists imposing their mechanistic thinking on the science. The fact is that we simply don’t know when the warming that we create will be utterly overwhelmed by feedback loops.
So once again, why do we take these crazy risks with the precious? A range of explanations may be popping into your mind by now, like “greed.” This is a popular explanation, and there’s lots of truth to it, because taking big risks, as we all know, pays a lot of money.Another explanation that you often hear for recklessness is hubris. And greed and hubris are intimately intertwined when it comes to recklessness. For instance, if you happen to be a 35-year-old banker taking home 100 times more than a brain surgeon, then you need a narrative, you need a story that makes that disparity okay. And you actually don’t have a lot of options. You’re either an incredibly good scammer,and you’re getting away with it — you gamed the system — or you’re some kind of boy genius, the likes of which the world has never seen. Now both of these options — the boy genius and the scammer — are going to make you vastly overconfident and therefore more prone to taking even bigger risks in the future.
By the way, Tony Hayward, the former CEO of BP, had a plaque on his desk inscribed with this inspirational slogan: “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” Now this is actually a popular plaque, and this is a crowd of overachievers, so I’m betting that some of you have this plaque.Don’t feel ashamed. Putting fear of failure out of your mind can be a very good thing if you’re training for a triathlon or preparing to give a TEDTalk, but personally, I think people with the power to detonate our economy and ravage our ecology would do better having a picture of Icarus hanging from the wall,because — maybe not that one in particular — but I want them thinking about the possibility of failure all of the time. So we have greed, we’ve got overconfidence/hubris, but since we’re here at TEDWomen,let’s consider one other factor that could be contributing in some small way to societal recklessness.Now I’m not going to belabor this point, but studies do show that, as investors, women are much less prone to taking reckless risks than men, precisely because, as we’ve already heard, women tend not to suffer from overconfidence in the same way that men do. So it turns out that being paid less and praised less has its upsides — for society at least. The flipside of this is that constantly being told that you are gifted, chosen and born to rule has distinct societal downsides. And this problem — call it the “perils of privilege” — brings us closer, I think, to the root of our collective recklessness. Because none of us — at least in the global North — neither men nor women, are fully exempt from this message. Here’s what I’m talking about. Whether we actively believe them or consciously reject them, our culture remains in the grips of certain archetypal stories about our supremacy over others and over nature — the narrative of the newly discovered frontier and the conquering pioneer, the narrative of manifest destiny, the narrative of apocalypse and salvation. And just when you think these stories are fading into history, and that we’ve gotten over them, they pop up in the strangest places. For instance, I stumbled across this advertisementoutside the women’s washroom in the Kansas City airport. It’s for Motorola’s new Rugged cell phone,and yes, it really does say, “Slap Mother Nature in the face.” And I’m not just showing it to pick on Motorola — that’s just a bonus. I’m showing it because — they’re not a sponsor, are they? — because, in its own way, this is a crass version of our founding story. We slapped Mother Nature around and won,and we always win, because dominating nature is our destiny. But this is not the only fairytale we tell ourselves about nature. There’s another one, equally important, about how that very same Mother Natureis so nurturing and so resilient that we can never make a dent in her abundance. Let’s hear from Tony Hayward again. “The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of oil and dispersants that we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.” In other words, the ocean is big; she can take it. It is this underlying assumption of limitlessness that makes it possible to take the reckless risks that we do. Because this is our real master-narrative: however much we mess up, there will always be more —more water, more land, more untapped resources. A new bubble will replace the old one. A new technology will come along to fix the messes we made with the last one. In a way, that is the story of the settling of the Americas, the supposedly inexhaustible frontier to which Europeans escaped. And it’s also the story of modern capitalism, because it was the wealth from this land that gave birth to our economic system, one that cannot survive without perpetual growth and an unending supply of new frontiers. Now the problem is that the story was always a lie. The Earth always did have limits. They were just beyond our sights. And now we are hitting those limits on multiple fronts. I believe that we know this, yet we find ourselves trapped in a kind of narrative loop. Not only do we continue to tell and retell the same tired stories, but we are now doing so with a frenzy and a fury that, frankly, verges on camp. How else to explain the cultural space occupied by Sarah Palin? Now on the one hand, exhorting us to “drill, baby, drill,” because God put those resources into the ground in order for us to exploit them, and on the other, glorying in the wilderness of Alaska’s untouched beauty on her hit reality TV show. The twin message is as comforting as it is mad. Ignore those creeping fears that we have finally hit the wall. There are still no limits. There will always be another frontier. So stop worrying and keep shopping. Now, would that this were just about Sarah Palin and her reality TV show. In environmental circles, we often hear that, rather than shifting to renewables, we are continuing with business as usual. This assessment, unfortunately, is far too optimistic. The truth is that we have already exhausted so much of the easily accessible fossil fuels that we have already entered a far riskier business era, the era of extreme energy. So that means drilling for oil in the deepest water, including the icy Arctic seas, where a clean-up may simply be impossible. It means large-scale hydraulic fracking for gas and massive strip-mining operations for coal,the likes of which we haven’t yet seen. And most controversially, it means the tar sands. I’m always surprised by how little people outside of Canada know about the Alberta Tar Sands, which this year are projected to become the number one source of imported oil to the United States. It’s worth taking a moment to understand this practice, because I believe it speaks to recklessness and the path we’re onlike little else. So this is where the tar sands live, under one of the last magnificent Boreal forests. The oil is not liquid. You can’t just drill a hole and pump it out. Tar sand’s oil is solid, mixed in with the soil. So to get at it, you first have to get rid of the trees. Then, you rip off the topsoil and get at that oily sand. The process requires a huge amount of water, which is then pumped into massive toxic tailing ponds. That’s very bad news for local indigenous people living downstream who are reporting alarmingly high cancer rates. Now looking at these images, it’s difficult to grasp the scale of this operation, which can already be seen from space and could grow to an area the size of England. I find it helps actually to look at the dump trucks that move the earth, the largest ever built. That’s a person down there by the wheel. My point is that this is not oil drilling. It’s not even mining. It is terrestrial skinning. Vast, vivid landscapes are being gutted, left monochromatic gray. Now I should confess that as [far as] I’m concerned this would be an abomination if it emitted not one particle of carbon. But the truth is that, on average, turning that gunk into crude oil produces about three times more greenhouse gas pollution than it does to produce conventional oil in Canada. How else to describe this, but as a form of mass insanity? Just when we know we need to be learning to live on the surface of our planet, off the power of sun, wind and waves,we are frantically digging to get at the dirtiest, highest-emitting stuff imaginable. This is where our story of endless growth has taken us, to this black hole at the center of my country — a place of such planetary pain that, like the BP gusher, one can only stand to look at it for so long. As Jared Diamond and others have shown us, this is how civilizations commit suicide, by slamming their foot on the accelerator at the exact moment when they should be putting on the brakes. The problem is that our master-narrative has an answer for that too. At the very last minute, we are going to get saved just like in every Hollywood movie, just like in the Rapture. But, of course, our secular religion is technology. Now, you may have noticed more and more headlines like these. The idea behind this form of “geoengineering” as it’s called,is that, as the planet heats up, we may be able to shoot sulfates and aluminum particles into the stratosphere to reflect some of the sun’s rays back to space, thereby cooling the planet. The wackiest plan — and I’m not making this up — would put what is essentially a garden hose 18-and-a-half miles high into the sky, suspended by balloons, to spew sulfur dioxide. So, solving the problem of pollution with more pollution. Think of it as the ultimate junk shot. The serious scientists involved in this researchall stress that these techniques are entirely untested. They don’t know if they’ll work, and they have no idea what kind of terrifying side effects they could unleash. Nevertheless, the mere mention of geoengineering is being greeted in some circles, particularly media circles, with a relief tinged with euphoria. An escape hatch has been reached. A new frontier has been found. Most importantly, we don’t have to change our lifestyles after all. You see, for some people, their savior is a guy in a flowing robe.For other people, it’s a guy with a garden hose. We badly need some new stories. We need stories that have different kinds of heroes willing to take different kinds of risks — risks that confront recklessness head on, that put the precautionary principle into practice, even if that means through direct action — like hundreds of young people willing to get arrested, blocking dirty power plants or fighting mountaintop-removal coal mining. We need stories that replace that linear narrative of endless growth with circular narratives that remind us that what goes around comes around. That this is our only home. There is no escape hatch. Call it karma, call it physics, action and reaction, call it precaution — the principle that reminds us that life is too precious to be risked for any profit. Thank you.
Top climate scientist James Hansen tells the story of his involvement in the science of and debate over global climate change. In doing so he outlines the overwhelming evidence that change is happening and why that makes him deeply worried about the future.
What do I know that would cause me, a reticent, Midwestern scientist, to get myself arrested in front of the White House protesting? And what would you do if you knew what I know? Let’s start with how I got to this point. I was lucky to grow up at a time when it was not difficult for the child of a tenant farmer to make his way to the state university.
0:40And I was really lucky to go to the University of Iowa where I could study under Professor James Van Allen who built instruments for the first U.S. satellites. Professor Van Allen told me about observations of Venus, that there was intense microwave radiation. Did it mean that Venus had an ionosphere? Or was Venus extremely hot? The right answer, confirmed by the Soviet Venera spacecraft, was that Venus was very hot — 900 degrees Fahrenheit. And it was kept hot by a thick carbon dioxide atmosphere.
1:22I was fortunate to join NASA and successfully propose an experiment to fly to Venus. Our instrument took this image of the veil of Venus, which turned out to be a smog of sulfuric acid. But while our instrument was being built, I became involved in calculations of the greenhouse effect here on Earth, because we realized that our atmospheric composition was changing. Eventually, I resigned as principal investigatoron our Venus experiment because a planet changing before our eyes is more interesting and important.Its changes will affect all of humanity.
2:06The greenhouse effect had been well understood for more than a century. British physicist John Tyndall,in the 1850’s, made laboratory measurements of the infrared radiation, which is heat. And he showed that gasses such as CO2 absorb heat, thus acting like a blanket warming Earth’s surface.
2:28I worked with other scientists to analyze Earth climate observations. In 1981, we published an article in Science magazine concluding that observed warming of 0.4 degrees Celsius in the prior century was consistent with the greenhouse effect of increasing CO2. That Earth would likely warm in the 1980’s, and warming would exceed the noise level of random weather by the end of the century. We also said that the 21st century would see shifting climate zones, creation of drought-prone regions in North America and Asia, erosion of ice sheets, rising sea levels and opening of the fabled Northwest Passage. All of these impacts have since either happened or are now well under way.
3:19That paper was reported on the front page of the New York Times and led to me testifying to Congress in the 1980’s, testimony in which I emphasized that global warming increases both extremes of the Earth’s water cycle. Heatwaves and droughts on one hand, directly from the warming, but also, because a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor with its latent energy, rainfall will become in more extreme events. There will be stronger storms and greater flooding. Global warming hoopla became time-consuming and distracted me from doing science — partly because I had complained that the White House altered my testimony. So I decided to go back to strictly doing science and leave the communication to others.
4:13By 15 years later, evidence of global warming was much stronger. Most of the things mentioned in our 1981 paper were facts. I had the privilege to speak twice to the president’s climate task force. But energy policies continued to focus on finding more fossil fuels. By then we had two grandchildren, Sophie and Connor. I decided that I did not want them in the future to say, “Opa understood what was happening,but he didn’t make it clear.” So I decided to give a public talk criticizing the lack of an appropriate energy policy.
4:54I gave the talk at the University of Iowa in 2004 and at the 2005 meeting of the American Geophysical Union. This led to calls from the White House to NASA headquarters and I was told that I could not give any talks or speak with the media without prior explicit approval by NASA headquarters. After I informed the New York Times about these restrictions, NASA was forced to end the censorship. But there were consequences. I had been using the first line of the NASA mission statement, “To understand and protect the home planet,” to justify my talks. Soon the first line of the mission statement was deleted, never to appear again.
5:40Over the next few years I was drawn more and more into trying to communicate the urgency of a change in energy policies, while still researching the physics of climate change. Let me describe the most important conclusion from the physics — first, from Earth’s energy balance and, second, from Earth’s climate history.
6:03Adding CO2 to the air is like throwing another blanket on the bed. It reduces Earth’s heat radiation to space, so there’s a temporary energy imbalance. More energy is coming in than going out, until Earth warms up enough to again radiate to space as much energy as it absorbs from the Sun. So the key quantity is Earth’s energy imbalance. Is there more energy coming in than going out? If so, more warming is in the pipeline. It will occur without adding any more greenhouse gasses.
6:40Now finally, we can measure Earth’s energy imbalance precisely by measuring the heat content in Earth’s heat reservoirs. The biggest reservoir, the ocean, was the least well measured, until more than 3,000 Argo floats were distributed around the world’s ocean. These floats reveal that the upper half of the ocean is gaining heat at a substantial rate. The deep ocean is also gaining heat at a smaller rate, and energy is going into the net melting of ice all around the planet. And the land, to depths of tens of meters, is also warming.
7:20The total energy imbalance now is about six-tenths of a watt per square meter. That may not sound like much, but when added up over the whole world, it’s enormous. It’s about 20 times greater than the rate of energy use by all of humanity. It’s equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day365 days per year. That’s how much extra energy Earth is gaining each day. This imbalance, if we want to stabilize climate, means that we must reduce CO2 from 391 ppm, parts per million, back to 350 ppm.That is the change needed to restore energy balance and prevent further warming.
8:11Climate change deniers argue that the Sun is the main cause of climate change. But the measured energy imbalance occurred during the deepest solar minimum in the record, when the Sun’s energy reaching Earth was least. Yet, there was more energy coming in than going out. This shows that the effect of the Sun’s variations on climate is overwhelmed by the increasing greenhouse gasses, mainly from burning fossil fuels.
8:40Now consider Earth’s climate history. These curves for global temperature, atmospheric CO2 and sea level were derived from ocean cores and Antarctic ice cores, from ocean sediments and snowflakes that piled up year after year over 800,000 years forming a two-mile thick ice sheet. As you see, there’s a high correlation between temperature, CO2 and sea level. Careful examination shows that the temperature changes slightly lead the CO2 changes by a few centuries. Climate change deniers like to use this fact to confuse and trick the public by saying, “Look, the temperature causes CO2 to change, not vice versa.”But that lag is exactly what is expected.
9:31Small changes in Earth’s orbit that occur over tens to hundreds of thousands of years alter the distribution of sunlight on Earth. When there is more sunlight at high latitudes in summer, ice sheets melt.Shrinking ice sheets make the planet darker, so it absorbs more sunlight and becomes warmer. A warmer ocean releases CO2, just as a warm Coca-Cola does. And more CO2 causes more warming. So CO2, methane, and ice sheets were feedbacks that amplified global temperature change causing these ancient climate oscillations to be huge, even though the climate change was initiated by a very weak forcing.
10:18The important point is that these same amplifying feedbacks will occur today. The physics does not change. As Earth warms, now because of extra CO2 we put in the atmosphere, ice will melt, and CO2 and methane will be released by warming ocean and melting permafrost. While we can’t say exactly how fast these amplifying feedbacks will occur, it is certain they will occur, unless we stop the warming. There is evidence that feedbacks are already beginning. Precise measurements by GRACE, the gravity satellite,reveal that both Greenland and Antarctica are now losing mass, several hundred cubic kilometers per year. And the rate has accelerated since the measurements began nine years ago. Methane is also beginning to escape from the permafrost.
11:17What sea level rise can we look forward to? The last time CO2 was 390 ppm, today’s value, sea level was higher by at least 15 meters, 50 feet. Where you are sitting now would be under water. Most estimates are that, this century, we will get at least one meter. I think it will be more if we keep burning fossil fuels,perhaps even five meters, which is 18 feet, this century or shortly thereafter.
11:50The important point is that we will have started a process that is out of humanity’s control. Ice sheets would continue to disintegrate for centuries. There would be no stable shoreline. The economic consequences are almost unthinkable. Hundreds of New Orleans-like devastations around the world.What may be more reprehensible, if climate denial continues, is extermination of species. The monarch butterfly could be one of the 20 to 50 percent of all species that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates will be ticketed for extinction by the end of the century if we stay on business-as-usual fossil fuel use.
12:36Global warming is already affecting people. The Texas, Oklahoma, Mexico heatwave and drought last year, Moscow the year before and Europe in 2003, were all exceptional events, more than three standard deviations outside the norm. Fifty years ago, such anomalies covered only two- to three-tenths of one percent of the land area. In recent years, because of global warming, they now cover about 10 percent —an increase by a factor of 25 to 50. So we can say with a high degree of confidence that the severe Texas and Moscow heatwaves were not natural; they were caused by global warming. An important impact, if global warming continues, will be on the breadbasket of our nation and the world, the Midwest and Great Plains, which are expected to become prone to extreme droughts, worse than the Dust Bowl, within just a few decades, if we let global warming continue.
13:42How did I get dragged deeper and deeper into an attempt to communicate, giving talks in 10 countries, getting arrested, burning up the vacation time that I had accumulated over 30 years? More grandchildren helped me along. Jake is a super-positive, enthusiastic boy. Here at age two and a half years, he thinks he can protect his two and a half-day-old little sister. It would be immoral to leave these young peoplewith a climate system spiraling out of control.
14:19Now the tragedy about climate change is that we can solve it with a simple, honest approach of a gradually rising carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies and distributed 100 percent electronicallyevery month to all legal residents on a per capita basis, with the government not keeping one dime. Most people would get more in the monthly dividend than they’d pay in increased prices. This fee and dividendwould stimulate the economy and innovations, creating millions of jobs. It is the principal requirement for moving us rapidly to a clean energy future.
15:03Several top economists are coauthors on this proposition. Jim DiPeso of Republicans for Environmental Protection describes it thusly: “Transparent. Market-based. Does not enlarge government. Leaves energy decisions to individual choices. Sounds like a conservative climate plan.”
15:24But instead of placing a rising fee on carbon emissions to make fossil fuels pay their true cost to society,our governments are forcing the public to subsidize fossil fuels by 400 to 500 billion dollars per year worldwide, thus encouraging extraction of every fossil fuel — mountaintop removal, longwall mining, fracking, tar sands, tar shale, deep ocean Arctic drilling. This path, if continued, guarantees that we will pass tipping points leading to ice sheet disintegration that will accelerate out of control of future generations. A large fraction of species will be committed to extinction. And increasing intensity of droughts and floods will severely impact breadbaskets of the world, causing massive famines and economic decline. Imagine a giant asteroid on a direct collision course with Earth.
16:29That is the equivalent of what we face now. Yet, we dither, taking no action to divert the asteroid, even though the longer we wait, the more difficult and expensive it becomes. If we had started in 2005, it would have required emission reductions of three percent per year to restore planetary energy balanceand stabilize climate this century. If we start next year, it is six percent per year. If we wait 10 years, it is 15 percent per year — extremely difficult and expensive, perhaps impossible. But we aren’t even starting.
17:10So now you know what I know that is moving me to sound this alarm. Clearly, I haven’t gotten this message across. The science is clear. I need your help to communicate the gravity and the urgency of this situation and its solutions more effectively. We owe it to our children and grandchildren.
At TED2009, Al Gore presents updated slides from around the globe to make the case that worrying climate trends are even worse than scientists predicted, and to make clear his stance on “clean coal.”
Last year I showed these two slides so that demonstrate that the arctic ice cap, which for most of the last three million years has been the size of the lower 48 states, has shrunk by 40 percent. But this understates the seriousness of this particular problem because it doesn’t show the thickness of the ice.The arctic ice cap is, in a sense, the beating heart of the global climate system. It expands in winter and contracts in summer. The next slide I show you will be a rapid fast-forward of what’s happened over the last 25 years. The permanent ice is marked in red. As you see, it expands to the dark blue — that’s the annual ice in winter, and it contracts in summer. The so-called permanent ice, five years old or older, you can see is almost like blood, spilling out of the body here. In 25 years it’s gone from this, to this.
1:05This is a problem because the warming heats up the frozen ground around the Arctic Ocean, where there is a massive amount of frozen carbon which, when it thaws, is turned into methane by microbes.Compared to the total amount of global warming pollution in the atmosphere, that amount could double if we cross this tipping point. Already in some shallow lakes in Alaska, methane is actively bubbling up out of the water. Professor Katey Walter from the University of Alaska went out with another team to another shallow lake last winter. Video: Whoa! (Laughter) Al Gore: She’s okay. The question is whether we will be.
1:52And one reason is, this enormous heat sink heats up Greenland from the north. This is an annual melting river. But the volumes are much larger than ever. This is the Kangerlussuaq River in southwest Greenland. If you want to know how sea level rises from land-base ice melting this is where it reaches the sea. These flows are increasing very rapidly. At the other end of the planet, Antarctica the largest mass of ice on the planet. Last month scientists reported the entire continent is now in negative ice balance. And west Antarctica cropped up on top some under-sea islands, is particularly rapid in its melting. That’s equal to 20 feet of sea level, as is Greenland.
2:33In the Himalayas, the third largest mass of ice: at the top you see new lakes, which a few years ago were glaciers. 40 percent of all the people in the world get half of their drinking water from that melting flow. In the Andes, this glacier is the source of drinking water for this city. The flows have increased. But when they go away, so does much of the drinking water. In California there has been a 40 percent decline in the Sierra snowpack. This is hitting the reservoirs. And the predictions, as you’ve read, are serious.
3:01This drying around the world has lead to a dramatic increase in fires. And the disasters around the worldhave been increasing at an absolutely extraordinary and unprecedented rate. Four times as many in the last 30 years as in the previous 75. This is a completely unsustainable pattern. If you look at in the context of history you can see what this is doing.
3:28In the last five years we’ve added 70 million tons of CO2 every 24 hours — 25 million tons every day to the oceans. Look carefully at the area of the eastern Pacific, from the Americas, extending westward, and on either side of the Indian subcontinent, where there is a radical depletion of oxygen in the oceans. The biggest single cause of global warming, along with deforestation, which is 20 percent of it, is the burning of fossil fuels. Oil is a problem, and coal is the most serious problem. The United States is one of the twolargest emitters, along with China. And the proposal has been to build a lot more coal plants.
4:05But we’re beginning to see a sea change. Here are the ones that have been cancelled in the last few years with some green alternatives proposed. (Applause) However there is a political battle in our country. And the coal industries and the oil industries spent a quarter of a billion dollars in the last calendar year promoting clean coal, which is an oxymoron. That image reminded me of something.(Laughter) Around Christmas, in my home in Tennessee, a billion gallons of coal sludge was spilled. You probably saw it on the news. This, all over the country, is the second largest waste stream in America.This happened around Christmas. One of the coal industry’s ads around Christmas was this one.
4:48Video: ♪♫ Frosty the coal man is a jolly, happy soul. He’s abundant here in America, and he helps our economy grow. Frosty the coal man is getting cleaner everyday. He’s affordable and adorable, and workers keep their pay.
5:03Al Gore: This is the source of much of the coal in West Virginia. The largest mountaintop miner is the head of Massey Coal.
5:12Video: Don Blankenship: Let me be clear about it. Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, they don’t know what they’re talking about.
5:18Al Gore: So the Alliance for Climate Protection has launched two campaigns. This is one of them, part of one of them.
5:25Video: Actor: At COALergy we view climate change as a very serious threat to our business. That’s why we’ve made it our primary goal to spend a large sum of money on an advertising effort to help bring out and complicate the truth about coal. The fact is, coal isn’t dirty. We think it’s clean — smells good, too.So don’t worry about climate change. Leave that up to us. (Laughter)
5:50Video: Actor: Clean coal — you’ve heard a lot about it. So let’s take a tour of this state-of-the-art clean coal facility. Amazing! The machinery is kind of loud. But that’s the sound of clean coal technology. And while burning coal is one of the leading causes of global warming, the remarkable clean coal technology you see here changes everything. Take a good long look: this is today’s clean coal technology.
6:18Al Gore: Finally, the positive alternative meshes with our economic challenge and our national security challenge.
6:24Video: Narrator: America is in crisis — the economy, national security, the climate crisis. The thread that links them all: our addiction to carbon based fuels, like dirty coal and foreign oil. But now there is a bold new solution to get us out of this mess. Repower America with 100 percent clean electricity within 10 years. A plan to put America back to work, make us more secure, and help stop global warming. Finally, a solution that’s big enough to solve our problems. Repower America. Find out more.
6:53Al Gore: This is the last one.
7:02Video: Narrator: It’s about repowering America. One of the fastest ways to cut our dependence on old dirty fuels that are killing our planet. Man: Future’s over here. Wind, sun, a new energy grid. Man #2: New investments to create high-paying jobs. Narrator: Repower America. It’s time to get real.
7:25Al Gore: There is an old African proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We need to go far, quickly. Thank you very much.