Christiana Figueres and Chris Anderson
1,813,305 views • 1h 5m

[Citizens of the world]

[We face a global crisis of unprecedented scale]

[Please stand by for a message from ... ]

[the Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres]

The climate emergency is the defining crisis of our time. We are in a race against time, and we are losing. There is a growing tide of impatience, especially among young people, with global inaction. We need more ambition from all: governments, cities, businesses, investors and people everywhere. So I'm pleased you are launching TED Countdown. Your influence and ideas can help accelerate momentum for a carbon-neutral world by 2050. That is the only way to avert the worst impacts of global heating. We have the tools, the science and the resources. Let us now get into this race with political will and energy. To do anything less will be a betrayal of our entire human family and generations to come. Thank you.

Announcer: And now, please welcome one of the architects of the Paris Climate Agreement Christiana Figueres and the head of TED, Chris Anderson.

(Applause)

Chris Anderson: Welcome, welcome. Something remarkable is going to happen in the next hour. The world's single most alarming challenge, which looks something like this ... is about to go head-to-head with some of the world's most amazing minds and courageous hearts, which look something like you. The extraordinary audience we have here in New York and around the world. Christiana, it's quite the crowd we get to hang out with this morning.

Christiana Figueres: It sure is, no kidding. It's a good thing that everyone is here together, because actually, this initiative that we're just about to launch needs everyone to participate. And here it is. Countdown.

CA: Countdown is a global initiative to cut greenhouse gas emissions. It's seeking bold solutions in five big areas, imagining what could be achieved if different groups broke out of their silos and acted together. Starting today, you can go to countdown.ted.com and sign up to join the Countdown. Early in 2020, we'll be sharing plans on how you can connect with others in your company, your city or your school to engage in this issue. It's all leading up to global gatherings on 10.10.2020. Everyone in the world is invited to participate.

CF: And so that's why, although I've been part of many initiatives along the years, I'm really excited about this one. Because Countdown is an invitation to everyone, everyone, to play their part in saving our planet and creating an exciting future. Politicians and citizens, CEOs and their customers, their employees, their investors, old and young, north and south.

CA: (Laughs) I see what you did there.

(Laughter)

But look, our goal is not to plunge in with something new that is competitive with the amazing initiatives already out there. No. It's to identify the best solutions that have already been worked on, to cross-fertilize them, to amplify them and then activate them by bringing together these different groups.

CF: And if that happens, we believe there is a way out of the climate crisis. That's what we want to facilitate. But now, Chris, question: Why are you and TED interested in participating and actually activating the climate agenda, when I thought you were all about spreading ideas?

CA: Well, indeed, that has been our focused mission for the last 15 years, Ideas Worth Spreading. But last summer, we concluded that the urgency of some issues, and especially climate, demanded that we try to do more than just spread ideas, that we actually try to activate them. Now, we're just a relatively small nonprofit — that would not amount to anything if we fail to bring other people on board. But the amazing thing is that that has happened. Everyone we've spoken to about this has got excited about participating. And one of the key moments, frankly, was when you came on board, Christiana. I mean, you were key to the Paris Agreement. And the world was stunned at the consensus that emerged there. What was the key to creating that consensus?

CF: I would say it was to really challenge and change people's assumption about what is possible if we set a shared intention and then collectively pursue it and achieve it. So our mantra then, and continues to be: "Impossible is not a fact, it's an attitude." In fact, only an attitude, and that is something we can change.

CA: Well, that mantra, certainly, we're going to have to hold onto in the months ahead, because the scientific consensus is actually worsening. For a quick report from the front lines, here's the head of the thousands of scientists who make up the IPCC, Dr. Hoesung Lee.

(Video) Hoesung Lee: We recently released three special reports that show the damage and risks of past and future climate change. They also show that stabilizing climate would imply a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the near term. Society will have to go through unprecedented changes to meet this goal. Even limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will bring more extreme weather, rising sea levels and water shortages in some regions, and threats to food security and biodiversity. Higher temperature will bring more of these damages, threatening lives and livelihoods of millions of people all around the world.

CA: We're lucky to have with us another world-leading scientist, Johan Rockström here. He was responsible for creating the Planetary Boundaries framework. Johan, how serious is our situation?

(Video) Johan Rockström: Last week, we released in "Nature" the 10-year update of the risk of crossing tipping points, irreversible tipping points, in the Earth system. We know 15 such tipping points, including the Greenland and West Antarctic ice shelf, and the permafrost in the Siberian tundra, for example, and we today have observational evidence, I mean, empirical evidence, that nine of the 15 have woken up and are on the move. We haven't crossed the tipping point yet, the window is still open, but they are warning us that now is the time to truly move, because the moment we cross them, like, for example, approaching a tipping point in the Amazon rain forest, we would risk losing the battle, because the planet will be taking over its self-reinforced warming. So that is why this initiative is so incredibly important. Let's go.

CA: Well said.

(Applause)

So, both are very clear there that this agenda of cutting emissions is absolutely crucial. How has that been going?

CF: Not very well, because despite what we know, despite everything that science has told us, despite everything that we have done, including adopting the Paris Agreement, we've actually been increasing greenhouse gases consistently over the past few decades, to the point where we're now at 55 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent that we are collectively, as humanity, emitting every year. And as we have heard, we have one path, there is one path that we have to follow, and that is: Start now to decrease emissions, instead of going up, go down — reverse the trend, bend the curve. Reduce emissions, starting in 2020, to the point where we will be at one half the current level of emissions by 2030, and then continue decreasing them, until we are at net zero by 2050. It's the only path that we can accept.

CA: How do you even begin to start tackling a goal as daunting as that?

CF: Well, we could starting by breaking the simple, yet daunting, challenge into its constituent pieces, five main areas.

CA: And so these five together are actually all huge, and if we can find compelling solutions in each of them, they would actually add up to an action plan that matches the scale of the problem. Well, here are the five.

CF: Power. How rapidly can we move to 100 percent clean energy?

CA: The built environment. How can we re-engineer the stuff that surrounds us?

CF: Transport. How do we transform the ways we move — ourselves and goods?

CA: Food. How can we spark a worldwide shift to healthier food systems?

CF: And certainly, nature. How extensively can we re-green the earth? Now, it's worth noting that the answers to these questions and the measures that we would undertake don't just reduce net emissions — they do that, certainly, together, to zero — but they also point the way to a future that is much better and genuinely exciting. So, think about cool new forms of transport, clean air, healthier food, beautiful forests and oceans bursting with life. So, you know, solving the climate crisis isn't about sacrificing and settling for a mediocre future, it's about the exact opposite. It's about co-creating a much better future for all of us.

CA: So how do we tackle these questions?

(Laughter)

CA: Let's take this question here and think about this. How extensively can we re-green the earth? I mean, there are obviously many responses to this question, many proposals. It's fundamentally about, "How do we increase the amount of sustainable photosynthesis on planet Earth." Photosynthesis sequesters carbon. There could be proposals around giant kelp forests or seagrass, or about forms of plants that have deeper roots and can sequester across the planet. But suppose a major proposal that came out was about reforestation. A massive, global reforestation campaign. I mean, a single organization, no matter how big, cannot take that on. The key is for everyone to join forces, for governments (with zoning), businesses to invest, investors to do that investing, environmental groups and philanthropists who support them, and just a massive movement among citizens everywhere, transforming their lawns, their cities, their neighborhoods, going on trips together. That is where, suddenly, you can dream about something really big.

CF: So can we test that theory? Because we are fortunate to have with us today someone who grew up inside a tree-planting movement, probably the most well-recognized tree-planting movement. And she is the daughter of the Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, and she heads up the Wangari Maathai Foundation today. So can we invite our very dear friend Wanjira Mathai?

(Applause)

(Video) Wanjira Mathai: Thank you very much, Christiana and Chris, for doing this. Trees have been, indeed, a part of my life for as long as I can remember, but we also know that for centuries, trees and forests have cushioned us against the harsh impacts of climate variation for very many years. In my lifetime, my mother, through the Green Belt Movement, as you mentioned, inspired the planting of 50 million trees and counting through the work of the Green Belt Movement, one organization. But the world now needs us to plant 100 times more trees than we did then. And the only way to do that is for all of us to come together — cities, citizens, governments, companies, environmental organizations — and we must believe, therefore, in the capacity for each of us to be potent agents of change. And that together, we are a force. And I hope you will all join us.

(Applause)

CF: So together we are a force. I think Wanjira really hits it right there on the head, because it's all about collaborating across a pretty broad spectrum of people. And happily, there are representatives from all of those groups here today. And we will be inviting you toward further engagement. But we wanted today to introduce you to a couple of those people, speaking from their own perspective.

So we would like to start with the voice of a politician. We are incredibly honored to have with us today the former prime minister of Bhutan, and I will have you know that Bhutan is the only country in the world that actually absorbs more carbon than what it emits. Our good friend, Tshering Tobgay.

(Applause)

Tshering Tobgay: My country is typical of the global south, in that we have not caused this climate-change crisis. Indeed, we are blessed with lush forests and many bountiful rivers that have enabled my country, Bhutan, to remain carbon-negative. And yet, climate change threatens to destroy our forests. And to turn those very rivers into terrible dangers for our people, as the Himalayan glaciers melt and threaten both near-term flooding and the longer-term loss of our natural water reserves. So, I'm proud to join this Countdown initiative and work with all of you and with you, and with you,

(Laughter)

constructively, to find solutions that are both powerful and just.

Thank you.

(Applause)

CA: Thank you.

(Applause)

CA: Business, of course, has a crucial role to play, and so do those who control the world's vast pools of investment capital. I was pleased to make the acquaintance recently of the chief investment officer of Japan's 1.6-trillion-dollar government pension fund. It's actually the world's largest pension fund. He's willing and interested to come with us on this journey and to bring others with him. So, somewhere is, I believe, Hiro. Hiro Mizuno. And you're live. Welcome, Hiro.

(Video) Hiro Mizuno: Great. Thanks, Chris and Christiana, and the staff of TED, for making this possible. As a person in charge of the largest pension fund in the world and responsible for securing pension benefits for multiple generations, it is a hugely important issue, how to manage climate risk. We recently analyzed our global portfolio, how it's aligned with the Paris Agreement. It was diagnosed, our portfolio is on the path for more than three degrees. Far away from the Paris Agreement goals. Our portfolio is not only sizable but also one of the most globally diversified portfolios. So that means, the world is on that path. I'm tired of hearing the same comment repeatedly from our portfolio companies and, obviously, investment professionals: "We are realistic." Sorry, but being "realistic" is no longer an option. We are fully aware of our responsibility as the world's largest asset owner to inspire changes in the capital market. We will be actively engaging with all actors in the capital market to move the needle. I look forward to participating in this crucial dialogue with you all. Thank you.

(Applause)

CF: I'm sure all of you know that throughout the past 12 to 18 months, what has really been new and powerful and exciting is the amazing voices of so many young people, millions of young people who are out there on the streets, with anger, with outrage, with despair, and also, asking us to do our thing. And they have been inspired by Greta Thunberg but by so many other fantastic young people in almost every country of the world. And today, we are delighted to have four young activists come join us today.

(Applause)

(Cheers)

(Applause)

Alexandria Villaseñor: This Friday, I'll have been on climate strike for 52 weeks. That's an entire year. During that time, I found that many people don't know about climate change or how serious the climate crisis is. So I founded Earth Uprising International to teach young people about climate change, because when they know the science and the impacts, they want to take action. Being an activist means making change happen.

Jamie Margolin: I became a climate activist because my life depends on it. I'm applying to colleges right now, trying to plan for my future. There will be nothing to look forward to if we don't take urgent action to stop the climate crisis now. I started the youth climate justice movement called Zero Hour back in 2017, because this is zero hour to act on climate change. We have no more time. It became clear to me that our leaders were not going to take real action unless the people stood up and demanded it, so that's exactly what we did.

Natalie Sweet: I became a climate-justice activist because if I don't fight for the rights of the people today, and for the people in the future, who will?

Xiye Bastida: I became a climate justice activist when I realized that the climate crisis impacts marginalized communities the most, including my town in Mexico. I strike with Fridays for Future every Friday, because our movement is not about gaining momentum but about igniting cultural change. But the fact that thousands of students strike for climate means that we are already implementing climate justice into every aspect of our lives, which is already redefining the world.

JM: Over the course of our lifetimes, we've seen the Earth deteriorate at a rapid speed and groups of people traumatized and displaced by an ever-increasing number of natural disasters. In 2030, I'll be 28 years old.

AV: I'll be 24 years old.

XB: I will be 27.

NS: I'll be 26. We want to be able to hand the planet over to our children and our children's children, just like many of you have been able to do.

AV: So unless everyone — governments, companies, schools, scientists and citizens — make a united commitment to reversing the damage that we've caused, it will be too late.

XB: We are not only asking you to take care of our future, we are also asking you to take care of our past. Indigenous people have been taking care of the Earth for thousands of years, which is why indigenous philosophy is crucial when implementing climate action.

JM: This climate crisis can feel like an impossible thing to fix. But it's not. And it can't be, because failure is simply not an option. Failure means losing everything we love and everything that matters. So many of us are already working to save the future of our world, but it can't just be on the next generation to fix. This is too much of a burden to just put on young people's shoulders. It is time for you to go all hands on deck and do everything within your power to save everything before it's too late. Are you with us? Audience: Yes.

(Applause and cheers)

(Applause)

CA: Thank you. Thank you, thank you. And then, of course, there's a crucial role to be played by the world's storytellers, and those with influence on social media platforms. Each of the following has expressed excitement to be part of this project. They've lent us their names and support. We have some of them here today. Thank you so much for being here. And let's hear from one of them, actually.

Jimmy Kimmel: Hi, I'm Jimmy Kimmel, and I was asked to explain why I'm passionate about climate change. And the reason I'm passionate about climate change is the same reason people who are drowning are passionate about lifeguards. I care about this planet, because I live on it. I don't want to move to Mars, Mars seems terrible. I want my kids and their kids to be able to live on Earth, with air they can breathe and water they can drink. That's why I care about climate change. And also, I have a crush on Leonardo DiCaprio.

(Applause)

CF: So with all these people coming together, we have an opportunity to explore a new space of possibility for solutions based on working together, challenging each other and inspiring one another. So in October next year, we will be inviting more or less 1,000 people from different constituencies to meet in Bergen, Norway to align on specific answers to our five big questions.

CA: It will certainly be an epic event. But even more significant than what happens in Norway is what happens elsewhere in the world. Because on the final day of that conference, we're planning a major activation of our global TEDx community. TEDx allows initiatives to organize local events, and there are now 4,000 such events annually. Here's what they look like. They take place in more than 200 different countries, generate more than a billion views annually on YouTube. We're expecting to see events in hundreds of cities. We'll be connecting our TEDx organizers with city mayors committed to a clean future for their cities. This is the key to this. It's this connection between the powerful, who usually own the conversation, and millions of people around the world. Because of the zeitgeist shift that's happened in the last year or two, suddenly, ignition can happen here, because there's enough critical groundswell. If we can give people visibility of each other, connection to each other, let's dream a little here, and give each other permission to dream.

CF: So our goal here is to build connections with and among all of the other organizations that are working on climate. For example, the Solutions Project is a wonderful initiative founded by Mark Ruffalo and Don Cheadle. And let's hear from some of the leaders that they have supported.

CA: Welcome, you're live.

(Laughter)

(Video) Wahleah Johns: Hi, my name is Wahleah Johns, I'm with Native Renewables, and we are working to provide solar power for tribes throughout the world. We have over 15,000 Native American families that don't have access to electricity, and we are working to provide solar plus battery storage for these families in the United States that don't have access to electricity. And they are located on my reservation, the Navajo Nation.

Anna Lappé: Hi, everyone, I am Anna Lappé with Real Food Media, and we work to uplift the stories of farmers and ranchers as a key solution to the climate crisis. The global food system right now is a huge contributor to this crisis, but it doesn't have to be. Farmers and ranchers we really see as on the front lines of being part of solving the crisis. So we try to share the stories of the millions of farmers from Andhra Pradesh, India to the highlands of Oaxaca that are using regenerative agriculture to build healthy, carbon-rich soil, grow good food and foster the kind of resilient communities that we need.

Rahwa Ghirmatzion: Hello from PUSH Buffalo — my name is Rahwa — where every day, residents are visioning, planning and designing an equitable, holistic and sacred neighborhood, like where I'm phoning in from, School 77, a renovated vacant school building that has the first 100 percent affordable community solar array in New York state installed by local residents. It's also serving 30 affordable senior apartments and a mix of intergenerational spaces that serves as a community hub, where we're practicing new economy strategies towards a livable planet.

CF: Thank you.

CA: Bravo.

(Applause)

CA: It's so great.

(Applause)

CF: So you see, this is about everyone. It's about cities, it's about grassroots organizations, but it's also, of course, about business. And so we're inviting all companies — underlined "all" — to join this initiative, to engage with your employees on how you can best protect the planet and your future, at the same time. So early next year, we'll be sharing a toolkit that can guide companies toward moving quickly towards science-based targets, which gets them then to net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.

CA: So think about this, because as an individual, many individuals feel powerless on this issue. But if you were to team up with others in your company, you might be amazed at how much power you actually have. Almost all emissions come from a company somewhere on the planet. And the thing is, many CEOs today are actually eager to help solve the problem. We just heard this morning from Anand Mahindra, who heads India's biggest business group, that he is personally committed on this issue and wants to be part of this journey with us — he's a supporter of Countdown. CEOs will be able to move much faster if there's a group of employees there to brainstorm with, to support them, to keep that sort of sense of urgency on the topic. Our website will help you connect with others in your company and give you guidance on smart questions to ask, initiatives to suggest, because if companies can be persuaded to do the right thing, suddenly, this problem seems to become solvable.

CF: So all of these efforts are building toward one fantastic day: Saturday, October 10, 2020 — that is, "10.10.2020." — easy to remember — when this fantastic gathering will take place around the world. And we hope to have, by then, thrilling news of the report of the very specific solutions that nations, cities, companies, citizens are actually already collaborating on by then. It's a day when every citizen of the planet is invited to participate. Your one ticket of entrance is you are a citizen of the planet.

CA: Key to the success of the event is for this to happen at scale. We want to make it easy for anyone and everyone to find out about the initiative and to play an active part in it. But how do you do that? You know, the world's a noisy place. I mean, the TED platform can help a bit, maybe, but there's a much bigger content platform out there. It's called YouTube. And we're delighted to be working with them on this endeavor. We'll be inviting many of their top creators to be part of Countdown. Collectively, they could reach an audience in the many millions. In fact, let's meet one of them, Dr. Joe Hanson of "Hot Mess," a new web series about the impact of climate change on all of us.

(Video) My name's Joe Hanson, and I am a YouTube educator. And you can count me in. I work with tomorrow's scientists, inventors and leaders, and they deserve to know the truth of what the science says, so that they can help us invent a better future for everyone.

CA: Imagine that multiplied by many others — it's very, very exciting, honestly.

CF: And of course, when it comes to spreading the word, every one of you in this room can actually play your part. So if you have any way of reaching anyone who is concerned about building a better future — and that should be every single one of us — please, invite them to join Countdown.

CA: There's one more card up our sleeve. We're excited to unveil a global media campaign. This is a campaign with a difference. Just as TEDx exploded by being allowed to grow as a grassroots phenomenon, this campaign is designed to be co-opted everywhere on the planet. If you happen to own a billboard company, or a TV station, or a radio station, or a website, or a social media account, we invite all of you to take the images you're about to see and to just spread them far and wide. Our website will make this easy. We actually plan to translate them into many languages, courtesy of our volunteer army of more than 20,000 translators worldwide. Some of them are with us here. If you're a TED translator, would you wave, please?

CF: There we go.

(Applause)

CA: Your work carries powerful ideas to every corner of the earth. We're so proud of you, so grateful to you. So this campaign's designed to grab attention and to communicate, yes, urgency but also a little smidgen of hope. We think it might be that combination is what is needed to really drive action. We'd love you to let us know what you think of these.

CF: Right now.

[Choose your future.]

(Applause)

[Turn fear into action Join the countdown.]

(Applause)

[Action inspires action Join the countdown. The Earth will thank you.]

(Applause)

[10.10.2020 Climate's Day of Destiny. You're invited.]

CF: Remember the date.

[Mass destruction. No biggie. (If we prevent it.)]

(Applause)

[Giant asteroid heading our way The common enemy that can unite us.]

(Applause)

[We love natural disasters anyway — said no one ever. So why are we causing them?]

(Applause)

[Relax, there's nothing you can do about the climate Unless you work for a company. Or live in a city. Or own a phone. Or a brain.]

[Cause of death: Apathy. But there's an antidote.]

(Applause)

[Stop f*cking everything up Inaction on climate is obscene. We can fix this.]

CA: Too much?

CF: No, not too much, yay, go for it.

(Applause)

[Have you gotten any action lately? Here's your chance. Help turn the tide on climate.]

(Laughter)

CA: I didn't like this one, but my team, you know —

CF: Apparently, there are many who do like it.

(Laughter)

[We give up. Sincerely, TED. Spreading ideas isn't enough. It's time to act. Join us?]

CA: This is, unfortunately, truer than you know.

[Some things matter more than partisan politics Come fight the enemy that can unite us.]

(Applause)

[Stop burnout Your company can help save the earth.]

[Give the planet more than you take from it Join the countdown.]

[Despair, meet hope We can avoid climate catastrophe if we take urgent action now.]

CA: That's it.

(Applause and cheers)

CF: To bring this full circle, we would like to bring someone very special in.

(Video) Hi, I'm Claire O'Neill. I am the COP president-designate for next year's Conference of the Parties, the annual UN climate change talks, which will be in the UK, and we're looking forward to welcoming you there. But right now, I'm in Spain, in Madrid, at COP25, this annual event where we send negotiators and activists from all over the world to see what we can do to reduce CO2 emissions. But the problem is this: emissions are going up, not down. And what I'm feeling is that 2020 is the year of action, the year where we have to stop talking and we have to start acting. And not just here, in these conference centers, but everybody. And so the value of the TED process, the value of what we're all doing together is that we're spreading out the conversations and the solutions from inside this space out to everybody. And I'm really looking forward to working with the TED group over the next year. 2020, for me, will be the most important year for climate action, and we're all going to deliver this together.

(Applause)

CF: OK, friends, so we're nearly there but just a few more very special snippets. First, a word from one of the many great minds who will be accompanying us on this journey. A message from the great author, historian and futurist Yuval Harari.

Yuval Harari: Climate change is about inequality. Inequality between the rich, who are mainly responsible for it, and the poor, who will suffer the most. Inequality between us, Homo sapiens, who control this planet, and the other animals, who are our helpless victims. Inequality between the scientists, who painstakingly search for the truth, and the professional deceivers, who spread falsehoods at the click of a button. Climate change is about making a choice. What kind of planet do we want to inhabit, and what kind of humans do we want to be? A choice between greed and compassion, between carelessness and responsibility, between closing our eyes to the truth and opening our hearts to the world. Climate change is a crisis, but for humans, a crisis is always also an opportunity. If we make the right choices in the coming years, we cannot only save the ecosystem, but we can also create a more just world and make ourselves better people.

(Applause)

CF: So isn't that a powerful framing of what we have ahead of us, and honestly, I think it is tragic that the power of transformation that we have ahead of us is so severely diminished by those who would want to politicize the issue and separate it into partisan politics. It cannot be a partisan issue, it cannot be a politicized issue. Happily, there are some who are working against that. Today, we have one of those people, a fantastically courageous climate scientist, who is a committed Christian, and who has been working on this issue with conservatives and with the religious and spiritual communities for years, with incredible courage. Katharine Hayhoe.

(Applause)

Katherine Hayhoe: When someone says climate change, we often think, "Oh, that's just an environmental issue. People who are tree huggers or scientists care about it, or maybe people who are on the left hand-side of the political spectrum." But the reality is, whether we know it or not, we already care about climate change, no matter who we are. Why? Because climate change affects everything we already care about today. It affects our health, it affects the food we eat, the water we drink, the air that we breathe. Climate change affects the economy and national security. I care about a changing climate because it is, as the military calls it, a threat multiplier. It takes issues like poverty and hunger, disease, lack of access to clean water, even political instability, and exacerbates or amplifies them. That's why, to care about a changing climate, we don't have to be a certain type of person. A thermometer isn't blue or red, liberal or conservative — it gives us the same number no matter how we vote. And we are all affected by the impacts of a changing climate. So to care about a changing climate, all we have to be is one thing: a human, living on planet Earth. And we're all that.

(Applause)

CF: And finally, the man who brought this issue so powerfully to everyone's attention years ago and has continued tirelessly to work on that issue ever since. The one and very only, Al Gore.

(Applause)

(Video) Al Gore: Thank you.

(Applause)

Thank you so much, Christiana, and thank you for your outstanding leadership, and thank you, Chris Anderson and the entire TED community, YouTube and all of the others who are joining in this fantastic initiative. I have just three messages. Number one, this crisis is incredibly urgent. Just yesterday, the scientists gave us the report that emissions are still going up. Every single day, we're putting 150 million tons of man-made global warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet. The accumulated amount now traps as much extra energy every day as would be released by 500,000 first-generation atomic bombs exploding every single day. And the consequences are increasingly clear — all that mother nature is telling us, the fires, and the sea-level rise, and the floods, and the mud slides, and the loss of living species. But the second message that I have is the hope is very real. We actually do have the solutions available to us. It is unfortunately true at this moment, that the crisis is getting worse faster than we are mobilizing these solutions. But renewable energy and electric vehicles and batteries and regenerative agriculture, circular manufacturing, and all of these other solutions are gaining momentum. The late economist Rudi Dornbusch, in articulating what's known as Dornbusch's law, said, "Things take longer to happen than you think they will. But then, they happen much faster than you thought they could." We can pick up the pace. We are gaining momentum and soon, we will be gaining on the crisis. But it is essential that everyone join — of every political persuasion, every ideological persuasion, every nationality, every division has to be obliterated, so that we, humanity, can join together. And in closing, I would just say that for anyone who doubts that we as human beings have the ability to rise to this occasion, when everything is on the line, just remember that political will is itself a renewable resource.

(Laughter)

(Applause)

CA: Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Al, for your leadership on this issue for so many years. None of this would be possible without an extraordinary and fast-growing list of partners. I'd like to acknowledge them.

(Applause)

If you're watching this, you believe your organization should be part of this, you can help in some way, join us, email me, chris@ted.com. This is going to take everyone.

OK, before the Q and A, I just want to ask you a question personally, Christiana. Like, what do you really think?

(Laughter)

No, you've been in so many of these. Does this initiative have a chance?

CF: Well, first of all, we are at the point where everything plays. Everything plays. And I'm really excited about this, because it has been very painful to me to see how over the past 12 to 18 months because of the tragically insufficient response that we have had to climate change, how that zeitgeist has been changing from where we were in Paris, which was pretty positive and optimistic, to, now, despair, helplessness, anger. That's what is out there, roaming on the streets. And I don't blame them, and I have the same feelings. But the point is, we have to be able to transform that into making the difference. And I think this is what this initiative is actually potentially ready to do, which is to give every single person who feels helpless — give them a tool to do something. Some will contribute small efforts, some will contribute large efforts — depends on what your influence area is. And to those who feel angry and despairing, well, give them also an opportunity to channel that energy — which is very powerful energy — into solutions. And finally, what is very exciting about this is the scale, Chris, right? I mean, just look at those partners that are going to be there. We have attempted many, many things to bring to scale. But this, I think, is the most promising initiative that I have seen, to be able to bring people to scale, to bring efforts and solutions to scale. And speed. Because if there's one thing that we cannot, cannot fail on, is addressing climate change, but not only that, to do so in a timely way.

CA: Thank you, that is eloquent. And thank you. That's it.

(Applause)

OK, we have many members of the world's leading media here. We're going to have a Q and A, they should probably have priority on questions. If it all goes deathly silent, someone else can ask a question. If you're a member of the media here, please feel free to put your hand up — we'll throw a mic to you, and we'll do the best we can.

Rachel Crane: Hi, Rachel Crane from CNN. My question for you is about more specific action that will come out of Countdown. We heard a lot today about how this is mobilizing the globe on this issue, breaking people out of their silos, companies out of their silos, but I'm curious to know, paint a picture for us, of what the action that will come out of this initiative could potentially look like. I'm sure it's all in early phases, we won't hold you specifically to this.

CA: There's an intense process going on between now and October, where we're trying to engage all of the world's best thinking on climate around those five big areas. What we're hoping to have there is multiple proposals in there that collectively take a huge bite out of those issues. Some of them, there may be one big one that dominates. You know, so transport, for example. Could we accelerate the end of the internal combustion engine, somehow? What would that take? That would be a classic problem made for this approach, because what governments decide right now depends on what they see happening elsewhere. Would the decisions of auto executives be shifted if they saw millions of people on social media saying, "I will never buy a combustion engine"? Would they be shifted by the market signal of a few hundred mayors, saying, "We are creating a carbon-zero zone in our city, and we're going to expand it, and we're doing that soon"? Would they be shifted by a visionary auto CEO taking the risk and coming forward and saying, "You know when we said we were going to continue this till 2050? No. We can see the writing on the wall, we want to be on the right side of history, we're doing this in 2030." We think there might be a pathway to that. So on some of these issues, it's going to depend on a massive amount of discussion, bringing people together, showing — this is what you're so masterful at — is showing that other people don't have the attitudes that you think they have. They're actually shifting, you better shift. And so it's mutually raising everyone's ambition level. And that is a cycle that happens, and we've already seen it happening. And so, on each of these issues, that's what we're looking for. The biggest, boldest things. Dream bigger than we normally do, because there are more people at the table than there normally are, i.e. millions of citizens engaged in this. That's the process, and while that is happening, there'll be multiple other engagements in companies and cities around the world. We hope that it all comes together in a thrilling manner in October and we have something to celebrate.

Dominique Drakeford: My name is Dominique Drakeford with MelaninASS, or social media as a form of media. In understanding the inherent correlation between the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere and the cumulative exploitation and extraction, extractivism economy, which creates sacrifice zones for black and indigenous communities, how do we plan to, or how do you guys plan to mitigate those systems of oppression as part of your strategies within those five various components, so that we can really begin to reduce emissions?

CF: If the transformation in our economy and our society does not include inequality closing and social justice issues, then we're doing nothing. Because all of those things will come back to bite us. So we have to put our arms around the entire package. That is not easy, but it is entirely possible. And that's one of the things that I am so excited about climate change, because it is at the front of this transformation, but it will bring many of the other issues that have been relegated to nonattention. It will bring those issues to the fore as well. So the transformation has to be an integrative transformation.

Ellen Maloney: Hi, Chris, hi, Christina. My question is, are individual efforts, like ditching plastic straws or going vegan, making a difference or are they just tokenistic drops in the ocean?

CF: Good question.

CA: It's a good question.

CF: They are totally important. Absolutely important. Because it's not just about the one straw that I use. It's about me not using that straw, going to a restaurant and telling the waitress, "Excuse me, I don't want a plastic straw, because —" and giving her a little lesson, then she goes up to the manager, the manager comes to the table and says, "Excuse me, could you explain that to me?" Then you go through the lesson. And sooner than you think, you have that restaurant, plus the other ones. Actually, information is contagious. And wanting to do the right thing is also contagious. So don't look at it as just simply, you know, "What is a straw? Am I using the straw or am I not using plastic bags, I have my plant-based bags to go shopping," etc., etc. All of that counts. It counts for you, first of all, because it is a personal reminder of who you are and what you stand for, but it is also a very important tool to educate everyone around you.

CA: Right, and I think the core of our initiative is, all that stuff matters — what you eat, how you transport yourself, etc., it matters a lot. But there is another piece of power that individuals have that they don't think about as much, perhaps, and that we think that they should, we invite them to, which is what they can do as an employee and what they can do as a member of a city. There's a coming together here, where by getting organized, by connecting with others, we think there is a direct route to changing decisions that will have an even bigger impact on the problem. So it's yes, all of that, but more as well.

(Laughter)

CF: There is an online [question], from a classroom of children.

CA: From a classroom of children?

CF: "What can students do?" Yay, I love that question, totally love that question. So first of all, Fridays, 11 o'clock, go strike. I mean, honestly, right?

(Applause)

Let's go, let's go. And that pressure has to be maintained. I'm totally delighted that there's some people here who've been here doing it for 52 weeks. The problem with this is, folks, this is not a sprint, it's a marathon. So you better get ready for many more 52 weeks, right? And get more people involved, because this is not easy. If it were easy, we would have done it. This is going to be a long-term effort. But fantastic to be out there in the streets, you are getting so much more attention from the media, from us stupid adults who have not done our job — it is fantastic. So, you know, get your voices out there.

Also, in school, you can definitely go and improve — The question that you just asked to TED, that's the question every student should be asking their school: "Where's my energy coming from?" Let's get with it, right? Students in colleges — how is it possible that we still have colleges and universities that are not 100 percent clean energy and that haven't shifted their capital and their endowment over to low carbon? I mean, it's just incredible.

(Applause)

And finally, the most important thing that young people can do is ask your parents, "What the hell are you doing about my future?" Because here is an amazing thing. I have spoken in — I was thinking how many — I've spoken to at least three if not four CEOs from the oil and gas industry. I've spoken to three or four major investors, heads of their investment firms, who come up to me, usually in private, and say, "Christiana, the reason why I'm changing what I do in my business is because my daughter, or my son, asks me at night, 'What the hell are you doing about my future?' " That is a very powerful question, and only young people can ask that question. Use that tool — ask your parents what are they doing about your future. Sorry about the h-word.

(Applause)

Jo Confino: Hi, I'm Jo Confino, the HuffPost. Christiana, a question for you, which is one of the things that didn't come out so much and this is about the spiritual traditions and the role they play, because what we're seeing is that, actually, old wisdom is coming out in terms of interdependence and nothing is separate from anything else. What is the spiritual tradition we can bring to this that will make, also, a difference?

CF: What I think is very powerful about understanding, whether you happen to be a spiritual person that pursues meditation and mindfulness or whether you're a religious person or not, what I think is very powerful about the spiritual understanding of the human presence on this earth, is to understand that we are not separate. It's not like, "Over there is planet Earth, and then humans are over here." And we are totally interconnected with all other species and with all other living beings, and doing the responsible thing by them, does the responsible thing by us. And vice versa. And so that interconnectedness is one that comes from the spiritual traditions, but you don't have to be religious or spiritual to understand that. You know, the fact is, every single drop of water that we drink comes from nature. Every single morsel of food that we eat comes from nature. And we've got to heal that connection.

CA: We would welcome engagement.

(Applause)

Kaley Roshitsh: Hi, Kaley Roshitsh from Women's Wear Daily. Obviously, the fashion industry is responsible for a lot of the carbon output, so I wondered what is your perspective on conscious consumption?

CA: The key goal here is to align, at the same time, to change opinion on what companies do, what employees do, what consumers do. It's the shifts all happening at the same time that can make change. Right now, someone else is always the problem. "Our investors wouldn't allow us to do that." "There is no market for this better, more sustainable product." And so, all the pieces need to happen at the same time. That's our hope. And so the lead on this is not us, it's employees and CEOs and leadership teams working in that industry. Get together, make something happen. And ride the tide of the zeitgeist shift that is happening — it's going to work out from the business point of view as well.

CF: Can I jump on that as well? Because for years, for centuries, we have been on a consumer extract-and-consume mentality. They way we go about our life and the way that businesses are created is extract, use, discard, extract, use, discard. That's a simplification, but honestly, it's about as simple as that. And to understand that that linear extraction to discard can no longer be the case, that it needs to be circular now, we have to go into a circular economy that uses every single resource that we extract — because we will continue to extract — that uses it not once but two, three, four, five, 10 times, around and around in circles. That's a circular economy. And we have to get to that point, because frankly, we're running out of resources to continue to extract.

Jodi Xu Klein: Hi, my name is Jodi Xu Klein. I'm with the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong publication here in the US. So, we've been reporting on trade war for more than a year, and we're actually living in a world where countries are decoupling from each other. How do you overcome that trend and bring everyone together?

CA: We don't know, these are really challenging issues. What we do know is that we have to bring everyone to the table and have the discussion. There are so many people in China, including, on many occasions, the Chinese government has made bold steps to tackle this issue. There's a lot that the West can learn from what's happening in China.

CF: I would say, in a world in which we're seeing a wave of nationalism and populism, the way we go at this is actually to expand the breadth of engagement, so not to let the responsibility of engaging on climate be in national government hands only. Yes, they have an important role, but we can bring it down as well to a different level of engagement which is every single human being. And once we understand that we're all human beings and that we all have a common future, there's no such thing as all of us being in a boat and only the one closest to the hole in the boat are going to sink. No. Either we all sink or we all float together.

Justine Calma: My name is Justine Calma, I'm with The Verge, thanks so much for this. My question is about TED and YouTube's own carbon footprint. Streaming video eats up a huge amount of energy, and I'm curious what TED and YouTube might be doing to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions connected to that.

CA: I can't speak for YouTube, obviously. I will say that, to quote a line from George Monbiot, all of us are hypocrites in this movement. If you've ever bought something or you're wearing clothes, or you're eating food, you're a hypocrite, you're creating emissions. It's part of life. And I think perfection is — There's a risk that perfection, that an overpursuit and focus on that and the judging that comes with it can slow everyone down. We want this to be a coalition of the willing who accept that they're not perfect but are willing to act. Now, this whole process has sparked a huge conversation in TED about how we act more responsibly, and that will continue. We're certainly not going to stop streaming videos. At some point you have to do math, it's like that — give to the planet more than you take from it, I think is the golden rule that I personally really believe in. And so if an idea, powered by a little bit of electricity, can ignite in someone's brain, I would bet on the idea over saving the electricity. But there's no perfection in this. And we definitely have a lot that we need to improve on. Let's go here and then back.

Lane Florsheim: Hi, I'm Lane Florsheim from the Wall Street Journal Magazine and Chris, I really liked what you were saying about the fashion industry and what they can do to change and how it requires employees and CEOs to meet together because who understands an industry better than the people in it and their processes and infrastructure, but I'm wondering, what about companies with huge footprints, and two that come to mind first are Amazon and Zara, where, by all accounts, the workers, the employees there don't have very much power and the CEOs don't have very much incentive to change right now. What would you say about those kinds of companies?

CA: So this is going to be such an important conversation going forward, because we're in the ironic position where the people who can do the most to solve this problem are the people who are currently the worst offenders. So what do we do? Do we make them part of the conversation or not? I say we make them part of the conversation, so long as we see serious engagement. So take Amazon. Jeff Bezos has actually listened to what many of his employees have said — they've been very vigorous, the employee base there, about carbon footprint — has listened, has engaged with you and with others. And they have announced, I think it's correct to say announced —

CF: Yes, they have.

CA: ... an acceleration of their own commitment to go to, basically, a net zero track by 2040, if I have it right. It's the companies with the thousands, the tens of thousands of trucks and the packaging and all the rest of it. That is how this problem will get solved. So I say we invite these CEOs to be part of this, and urge them to take it seriously and to go fast and maybe even faster than they're completely comfortable doing. But that's, I think, what we have to do. Not to defame, denounce, before we've at least had a serious conversation about, "It's time, your employees want to do this, your customers want to do this, your investors increasingly want to do this, let's do this." That's our hope.

CF: And the wonderful thing about companies the size of Amazon, or Walmart when they did it, is that they have a huge trickle-up effect. Because when Jeff Bezos came out and said, "I'm going to make Amazon climate-neutral by 2040 — " Paris Agreement says 2050, of course he wants to do everything better than that, so 2040 is for Amazon. Well good, we're going to keep him to it. Now, the amazing thing about that is that in order for Amazon to be climate-neutral by 2040, they have to work with all their supply chain going up. They have to work with all of those companies that deliver services and goods to them for them to also be climate neutral ASAP. Because otherwise, they can't meet their own commitment. So large companies are actually very, very key and instrumental to this, because it's not just about their footprint, it's about the embedded footprint that they inherit in their supply chain. And the transformation of that is really huge.

CA: Last question.

Jackie Padilla: My name is Jackie with NowThis News, and every day, I work with young climate activists like the ones we've heard today, but when we do stories on them, you know, including Greta Thunberg, I see fierce criticism that they face and largely, it's because of a generational gap. I don't know if you're familiar with the phrase "OK Boomer," but it seems like there's a lot of guilt or accountability that some are looking for, and on the other end, we're looking at a lack of education or just ignorance on the issue. So what is your advice to young people to respond to that criticism to foster constructive conversations?

CF: We should probably ask them.

XB: Hi, thank you for your question.

CA: Come here.

(Applause)

XB: It is true that we increasingly face criticism, and it's not only when we speak to people, with climate deniers or things like that, but also on social media. It is as much a tool to spread information and organize our strikes and get the information out there, but it's also a tool for people who want to undermine us, to personally attack us. And the way in which we stay resilient is when we build community with each other, when we organize, we mimic the world we want to see. There is no hierarchy in our organizing, we are all working towards the same goal constructively, choosing our passions towards making the strike the best it can be. We got 300,000 people striking in New York, we put together a whole concert, people called it "Climchella," it was great.

(Laughter)

But the point is that it's not going to stop us. The criticism is not going to stop us. And even though we know that we are kids, and we are not here to tell you all the solutions that already are out there. We are going to do it, because every kid who cares about the climate crisis is going to grow up to study through an environmental lens and to change the world through that. So we are here to tell you, personally, climate activists that I know don't use "OK Boomer," because we strive for intergenerational cooperation. And I think that blaming and dividing each other is not going to get us anywhere, which is why we don't use it, and I don't think it should be used, and I actually want to thank everybody who is doing something, because action inspires action. And you inspire us, and we're glad that we inspire you as well.

(Cheers and applause)

(Applause)

CA: Wow.

(Applause)

CF: There you have it.

(Applause and cheers)

(Applause)

CA: There is no better note on which to end this.

Thank you.

(Applause)