Amazing Optimism from Al Gore

This TED talk is amazingly good. It’s a beacon of realistic optimism in the struggle to fix the climate crisis. Watch it on youtube, or watch it here:

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16 responses to “Amazing Optimism from Al Gore

  1. Mmm. Well, I’m not sure I agree. He said we can change but “change”, to Gore, appears to be just changing our energy infrastructure, not changing the way we live. So many of the problems of carbon pollution, that he listed, will go on because they are caused by our way of life (ecosystem destruction and species extinction, for example) and many others will go on because they are happening already and we are still emitting carbon (though many would go on without us emitting any more carbon). He also concentrated on electricity, which, if I understand correctly, is only about 20% of the energy we use and, even with those stupendous increases in renewable electricity, renewables are only about 9% of our energy use, with the vast majority of that being hydroelectric (which destroys ecosystems). Lastly, renewables are not zero carbon, so we’d continue emitting GHGs, even if all of our energy (not just 20%) was provided by renewables.

    That’s not to denigrate any of the switch to renewables but it’s not going to be a solution to our environmental problems, as Gore seems to think.

    [Response: It’s a start. And it’s a good one.]

    • It’s usually denier types who say “If we can’t do everything at once, then there is no reason to do anything.” Don’t fall into that sort of reasoning from the other direction. There are good things happening, but yes we are talking many decades. And the nice thing about renewables, in particular, is that given the life cycle of the various machines, change is very much a compound interest expansion.

      • But the problems we have are not amenable to a decades long transition to something else, and a transition to renewables, if it can be achieved, will not result in a zero carbon economy or society, which is what we need. So I worry that we are going full pelt (as seen by Al) for something which will not solve our problems, leaving us with the need to change again. Surely we should figure out what we really need to do to get to zero carbon and to avoid the environmental decline that we seem to be set on (even without climate change), such as biodiversity loss, extinctions and ecosystem perturbation.

  2. Al Gore may be the most mythologized public figure around, with a tremendous number of demonstrably false statements about him being continuously recycled. No, he didn’t make billions giving climate change slide shows. (That came mostly from his service on the Apple board, which was remunerated in stock options.) No, his California mansion isn’t on beach. (It’s well up the hillside, with a spectacular ocean view.) No, he’s not fat. (As this video demonstrates–and not as if that meant anything in particular, even if it were true.)

    But the most egregious falsehood is that he’s a fear-monger, out to scare us into compliance with some sort of draconian political agenda which will leave all of us (except him and his cronies, of course) radically impoverished. As this video shows, he’s the most optimistic guy on the scene–a fact that was evident even in An Inconvenient Truth, one of the big takeaways of which was the thesis that we have the tools we need to successfully mitigate our carbon problem.

  3. I’d say quite the opposite, Doc. My beef with Al at this point is not fear-mongering at all. It’s leading the charge to make the climate issue just another big corporate cash-in.

    • Dnem, that’s probably because you are not a denialist, purveyin those myths.

      It’s probably good in the short term to be ‘business-friendly,’ in that timely mitigation means investing a whole lot of money now, or better yet, yesterday. Long-term, can capitalism cohabitation with a sustainable civilization?

      Dunno, and I don’t think exploration of that particular problem space is very far along yet.

      • Chris O'Neill

        can capitalism cohabitation with a sustainable civilization?

        Humans always create capital in various forms (making tools or building a bark hut for example). There’s something missing with using just the word “capitalism”. On its own, it is not informative at all.

      • True, humans do create assets which may be termed ‘capital.’

        ‘Capitalism’, though, has a rather more specific meaning than that.

        http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/capitalism

      • Chris O'Neill

        Yes the word has been hijacked to a narrow meaning. No such narrowness applies to the word “capital” without the “ism”.

  4. Andy Lee Robinson

    This was a really uplifting performance – extremely well delivered, full of facts, inspiring and it deserves to go viral.
    I will certainly be using it as ammunition in reply to the ubiquitous deniers in every forum I contribute to.

  5. The relentless optimism which Gore communicated in the talk seemed to come straight out of the climate communication textbooks. I’m not sure to what extent he’s convinced himself of what he’s saying. Sure, there are grounds for cautious optimism at the moment. But the exploitative capitalist business model – with it’s bottom line imperatives for perpetual growth and maximum profits – got us into this mess and I can’t see how it can get us out of it.

    We need a collective shift along Riane Eisler’s Domination-Partnership Continuum, towards more cooperative business models which prioritise ecological sustainability and social capital over private profit. Without profound psychological change, combined with radical, if not revolutionary social change, it seems likely to me that our civilisation will follow the usual pattern of decline and eventual collapse.

  6. I think this might have a rather negative effect on all the “optimism”.

    http://science.sciencemag.org/content/344/6185/735

  7. Again, I challenge the idea that “capitalism” is to blame. Expantionist economic policies were very much a part of Communist ideology, and the USSR pretty much trashed its air, land, and water. Ditto the PRC, where people in Beijing wear masks against the air pollution.

    • The domination-partnership continuum gets beyond the old capitalism v communism/socialism chestnut. For the most part all we’ve actually experienced is varieties of state capitalism – including so-called “free market” capitalism which, as you’ll recall, needs the state to prop it up and bail it out in times of crisis…whilst continuing to wreak destruction on the biosphere.

      Stating the obvious, climate change is a political issue as well as a scientific issue, and whilst we have to figure out how to end CO2e emissions, we also have to figure out how we’re going to start living in harmony with this planet and our fellow species. For that to happen, we need to come up with a viable alternative to neoliberal capitalism. Here’s a few proposals:
      http://thenextsystem.org/new-systems-series-volume-1/

  8. I totally agree Paul. I can’t imagine he believes his “relentless optimism” one bit. He is positioning himself and his Generation Investment Management LLP to cash in on the way down. I hate to sound so cynical, but that’s how it looks to me.