Under the rubric “Ideas worth spreading,” each year, the TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) conference brings together a collection of the world’s most compelling, surprising, and original thinkers to connect and explore the themes, factors, and forces shaping our world today – and pointing to our world of tomorrow.
The theme of this year’s conference in Vancouver, British Columbia – which ran February 15—19 – was “Dream.” TED curators invited Climate Reality Chairman Al Gore to headline the “Nightmares” session. But instead of focusing exclusively on the terrifying aspects of climate change, former Vice President Gore turned the topic on its head, outlining why he’s optimistic and why – even in the face of rising seas and melting glaciers – we can dare to dream of a safe and sustainable future planet. Here are three ideas worth spreading from the talk.
1. Do we really have to change?
The challenge came first. Each day, manmade greenhouse gas pollution traps the same amount of heat energy as would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs. This trapped heat is warming the oceans and increasing the water vapor and energy in our atmosphere, leading to stronger storms, more extreme floods, increasingly long droughts, and other results he characterized as “a nature hike through the Book of Revelations.”
2. Can we change?
Fortunately, we’ve already started to change. Renewable energy is growing exponentially. In fact, its growth has significantly beaten expert projections time and time again. And the cost of solar energy has come down around 10 percent every year for the past 30 years. With all this expansion, the renewable energy transition could very well be the biggest business opportunity in the world right now.
3. Will we change?
This question is up to us – all of us – right now. In December 2015, 195 countries approved the Paris Agreement on climate change and agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It was truly a breakthrough after decades of failed attempts. And around the world, from China to India to the US, countries are adding more and more capacity in renewable energy (in fact, 69 percent of new electrical capacity added in the US last year came from renewables). The change is happening – what’s up to us right now is how long we take to get there.
“When any great moral challenge is resolved into choice between right and wrong, the outcome is preordained because of who we are. That is why we are going to win this."
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© 2016 TED Conference / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0