TED Conversations

David Collin

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TED must put much more emphasis on speakers and actions related to climate change because the US government is not going to do anything.

April 6 Jeffrey Sachs, the Dir. of Columbia University's Earth Institute said in a lecture at Harvard: “Stop pretending that government will play a role, because it won’t...We need a massive intellectual effort led by the expert community worldwide.” http://hvrd.me/fXnLbt [...]
Sachs blamed the U.S. refusal to act on the power and influence of the oil and coal industries. Opponents have effectively stalled action by using lobbyists, political contributions, and an effective public relations campaign that questions climate change science. [...]
“No president since George H.W. Bush has honestly taken on this issue — not Clinton, not Bush Junior, not Obama, because they’re scared of the interests...It’s worse than we think,” Sachs said. “Climate change has started. It’s serious. It is impacting the world’s food supply, and it’s going to accelerate.”
To be fair, Sachs said, the problem is an extremely difficult one. Because it deals with the energy supply, remedying it requires painful changes at the heart of the economy of every country. It is also complex, centered on a global climate system not yet fully understood, including multiple interactions with other natural and manmade systems. The problem also requires international cooperation to solve it, something that has never been a strength of humankind. Sachs called for a worldwide effort by scientists, mainly at universities but some from companies as well. Their task, he said, will be to plot a path toward de-carbonizing the global economy, answering questions about climate change science, determining which technologies are viable, and ultimately coming up with a plan that takes the world toward an energy supply much less dependent on fossil fuels within 40 or 50 years.
I think Sachs is spot-on. It's a waste of effort to try for effective government action in the US. It ain't gonna happen.
It's up to the smart minds of people who follow TED to spur action.
What steps can we take?

Topics: climate
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    Apr 8 2011: I like this idea. I believe that many people don't understand the basic science, and/or don't fully trust the objectivity of the scientists. We need engineers to develop potential solutions in response to the science. We need economists to evaluate those solutions. TED is an excellent platform for all of those ideas.

    As for the politicians, we need them to listen to the scientists, engineers, and economists; to set aside their ideological commitments and make good decisions. On this, I'm perhaps not so optimistic.
  • Apr 8 2011: I think what would be excellent would be a series of debates between scientists who hold opposing views about the causes and possible reactions to climate change. If those who are "believers" (= believe the earth is warming, it is mostly anthropogenic, and we should do something to reverse it) and those who are "deniers" (= believe climate is changing but not warming particularly, man-made CO2 is only a minor contributor, and the benefits may outweigh the drawbacks) were to be given platforms to present their views, we might get a chance for some real education instead of the propagandized crap we are constantly fed both by those who rely on goverment grants and so tend to have a vested interest in some kind of "action", and those who have a vested interest in keeping the oil flowing and the cars running and so think nothing should be done.
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      Apr 8 2011: That sounds pretty reasonable: a fair and balanced debate. After all, TED is certainly a great forum for talk and more talk. But the reason I posted this issue is because I think Sachs' comments are refreshingly blunt in making a couple of assertions: 1) the US congress is politically paralyzed and will stay that way, 2) more debate is a victory for the "deniers" because it is a stalling tactic disguised as edification and the status quo is maintained. The report of Sachs' speech also says:

      Though Sachs said the solutions must come from the academic and expert community worldwide, he didn’t let climate scientists off the hook. The scientific community has been too sensitive to criticism by climate-change deniers, Sachs said, giving them credibility and wasting valuable time responding to attacks like those levied in “Climategate,” when leaked emails prompted charges of scientific fraud, since refuted.
      “They know we will engage our time and energy for a year for every accusation they make while they watch us run around in circles,” Sachs said.

      I agree with Sachs. IMHO it's time to stop debating angels dancing on the head of pins and move to action. I suspect you don't agree, but I would like to see TED convene more problem solvers and consider actions that can be taken without responsible government decision making.
      • Apr 8 2011: David: I neither agree nor disagree. On the subject of climate change, I'm a "don't know". The only part I hold particular opinions on is my belief that whenever governments decide to launch Big Projects -- such as reducing CO2 -- there are ALWAYS unforseen consequences, often after spending billions or even trillions of dollars. So I advocate caution, whatever we do!

        But the more I read, the more I am tending toward the "skeptic" camp. Very informative report in today's paper of a speech by David Evans, an Australian scientist who is as credientialed as anybody in this business. He was a major 'alarmist' (his word) who has crossed over to the dark side. His address is here: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/2695195/posts
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          Apr 9 2011: Evans was once an "alarmist"? I didn't see any signs of it that presentation. But that's the way it goes...round and round.
          This reminds me of something. For years I worked in the cancer field. I saw people get a diagnosis of cancer from one doctor. Then they'd go to another doctor and get advice about what to do that didn't necessarily agree with the first. Maybe then a third opinion. Sometimes they'd get paralyzed. But that didn't stop the cancer; it's relentless. Doing nothing and delaying is not an option; it just makes things worse. The climate is changing, and it's not going go stop while we dither.
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    Apr 8 2011: we could sit around a cross our fingers because in the end we will still begin a new ice age