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TED2009

Al Gore: What comes after An Inconvenient Truth?

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Views 782,610

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."

- Climate advocate
Nobel Laureate Al Gore focused the world’s attention on the global climate crisis. Now he’s showing us how we’re moving towards real solutions. Full bio

Last year I showed these two slides so that
00:12
demonstrate that the arctic ice cap,
00:15
which for most of the last three million years
00:17
has been the size of the lower 48 states,
00:19
has shrunk by 40 percent.
00:21
But this understates the seriousness of this particular problem
00:23
because it doesn't show the thickness of the ice.
00:26
The arctic ice cap is, in a sense,
00:29
the beating heart of the global climate system.
00:31
It expands in winter and contracts in summer.
00:34
The next slide I show you will be
00:37
a rapid fast-forward of what's happened over the last 25 years.
00:40
The permanent ice is marked in red.
00:44
As you see, it expands to the dark blue --
00:46
that's the annual ice in winter,
00:49
and it contracts in summer.
00:51
The so-called permanent ice, five years old or older,
00:53
you can see is almost like blood,
00:55
spilling out of the body here.
00:58
In 25 years it's gone from this, to this.
01:02
This is a problem because the warming
01:06
heats up the frozen ground around the Arctic Ocean,
01:09
where there is a massive amount of frozen carbon
01:12
which, when it thaws, is turned into methane by microbes.
01:15
Compared to the total amount of global warming pollution in the atmosphere,
01:18
that amount could double if we cross this tipping point.
01:22
Already in some shallow lakes in Alaska,
01:26
methane is actively bubbling up out of the water.
01:29
Professor Katey Walter from the University of Alaska
01:31
went out with another team to another shallow lake last winter.
01:34
Video: Whoa! (Laughter)
01:48
Al Gore: She's okay. The question is whether we will be.
01:50
And one reason is, this enormous heat sink
01:53
heats up Greenland from the north.
01:55
This is an annual melting river.
01:58
But the volumes are much larger than ever.
02:01
This is the Kangerlussuaq River in southwest Greenland.
02:04
If you want to know how sea level rises
02:07
from land-base ice melting
02:09
this is where it reaches the sea.
02:11
These flows are increasing very rapidly.
02:13
At the other end of the planet, Antarctica
02:15
the largest mass of ice on the planet.
02:17
Last month scientists reported the entire continent
02:19
is now in negative ice balance.
02:21
And west Antarctica cropped up on top some under-sea islands,
02:23
is particularly rapid in its melting.
02:27
That's equal to 20 feet of sea level, as is Greenland.
02:30
In the Himalayas, the third largest mass of ice:
02:34
at the top you see new lakes, which a few years ago were glaciers.
02:36
40 percent of all the people in the world
02:40
get half of their drinking water from that melting flow.
02:42
In the Andes, this glacier is the
02:44
source of drinking water for this city.
02:46
The flows have increased.
02:48
But when they go away, so does much of the drinking water.
02:50
In California there has been a 40 percent
02:53
decline in the Sierra snowpack.
02:55
This is hitting the reservoirs.
02:57
And the predictions, as you've read, are serious.
02:59
This drying around the world has lead to
03:02
a dramatic increase in fires.
03:04
And the disasters around the world
03:06
have been increasing at an absolutely extraordinary
03:09
and unprecedented rate.
03:11
Four times as many in the last 30 years
03:13
as in the previous 75.
03:15
This is a completely unsustainable pattern.
03:17
If you look at in the context of history
03:21
you can see what this is doing.
03:24
In the last five years
03:29
we've added 70 million tons of CO2
03:31
every 24 hours --
03:33
25 million tons every day to the oceans.
03:35
Look carefully at the area of the eastern Pacific,
03:37
from the Americas, extending westward,
03:40
and on either side of the Indian subcontinent,
03:42
where there is a radical depletion of oxygen in the oceans.
03:45
The biggest single cause of global warming,
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along with deforestation, which is 20 percent of it, is the burning of fossil fuels.
03:51
Oil is a problem, and coal is the most serious problem.
03:55
The United States is one of the two
03:58
largest emitters, along with China.
04:00
And the proposal has been to build a lot more coal plants.
04:02
But we're beginning to see a sea change.
04:06
Here are the ones that have been cancelled in the last few years
04:08
with some green alternatives proposed.
04:11
(Applause)
04:13
However there is a political battle
04:14
in our country.
04:17
And the coal industries and the oil industries
04:19
spent a quarter of a billion dollars in the last calendar year
04:21
promoting clean coal,
04:24
which is an oxymoron.
04:26
That image reminded me of something.
04:28
(Laughter)
04:30
Around Christmas, in my home in Tennessee,
04:33
a billion gallons of coal sludge was spilled.
04:35
You probably saw it on the news.
04:38
This, all over the country, is the second largest waste stream in America.
04:40
This happened around Christmas.
04:44
One of the coal industry's ads around Christmas was this one.
04:46
Video: ♪♫ Frosty the coal man is a jolly, happy soul.
04:49
He's abundant here in America,
04:52
and he helps our economy grow.
04:54
Frosty the coal man is getting cleaner everyday.
04:56
He's affordable and adorable, and workers keep their pay.
05:00
Al Gore: This is the source of much of the coal in West Virginia.
05:04
The largest mountaintop miner is the head of Massey Coal.
05:08
Video: Don Blankenship: Let me be clear about it. Al Gore,
05:13
Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, they don't know what they're talking about.
05:15
Al Gore: So the Alliance for Climate Protection
05:19
has launched two campaigns.
05:21
This is one of them, part of one of them.
05:23
Video: Actor: At COALergy we view climate change as a very serious
05:26
threat to our business.
05:28
That's why we've made it our primary goal
05:30
to spend a large sum of money
05:32
on an advertising effort to help bring out and complicate
05:34
the truth about coal.
05:37
The fact is, coal isn't dirty.
05:39
We think it's clean --
05:41
smells good, too.
05:43
So don't worry about climate change.
05:45
Leave that up to us.
05:48
(Laughter)
05:50
Video: Actor: Clean coal -- you've heard a lot about it.
05:51
So let's take a tour of this state-of-the-art clean coal facility.
05:53
Amazing! The machinery is kind of loud.
05:59
But that's the sound of clean coal technology.
06:02
And while burning coal is one of the leading causes of global warming,
06:06
the remarkable clean coal technology you see here
06:09
changes everything.
06:12
Take a good long look: this is today's clean coal technology.
06:14
Al Gore: Finally, the positive alternative
06:19
meshes with our economic challenge
06:21
and our national security challenge.
06:23
Video: Narrator: America is in crisis -- the economy,
06:25
national security, the climate crisis.
06:27
The thread that links them all:
06:30
our addiction to carbon based fuels,
06:32
like dirty coal and foreign oil.
06:34
But now there is a bold new solution to get us out of this mess.
06:36
Repower America with 100 percent clean electricity
06:39
within 10 years.
06:42
A plan to put America back to work,
06:44
make us more secure, and help stop global warming.
06:46
Finally, a solution that's big enough to solve our problems.
06:49
Repower America. Find out more.
06:52
Al Gore: This is the last one.
06:54
Video: Narrator: It's about repowering America.
07:03
One of the fastest ways to cut our dependence
07:05
on old dirty fuels that are killing our planet.
07:07
Man: Future's over here. Wind, sun, a new energy grid.
07:12
Man #2: New investments to create high-paying jobs.
07:17
Narrator: Repower America. It's time to get real.
07:22
Al Gore: There is an old African proverb that says,
07:26
"If you want to go quickly, go alone.
07:29
If you want to go far, go together."
07:31
We need to go far, quickly.
07:34
Thank you very much.
07:36
(Applause)
07:38

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About the speaker:

Al Gore - Climate advocate
Nobel Laureate Al Gore focused the world’s attention on the global climate crisis. Now he’s showing us how we’re moving towards real solutions.

Why you should listen

Former Vice President Al Gore is co-founder and chairman of Generation Investment Management. While he’s is a senior partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and a member of Apple, Inc.’s board of directors, Gore spends the majority of his time as chair of The Climate Reality Project, a nonprofit devoted to solving the climate crisis.

He is the author of the bestsellers Earth in the Balance, An Inconvenient Truth, The Assault on Reason, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, and most recently, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change. He is the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth and is the co-recipient, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 for “informing the world of the dangers posed by climate change.”

Gore was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976, 1978, 1980 and 1982 and the U.S. Senate in 1984 and 1990. He was inaugurated as the 45th Vice President of the United States on January 20, 1993, and served eight years.

More profile about the speaker
Al Gore | Speaker | TED.com