Transcript: Climate Solutions 101 - Unit 1: Setting the Stage

Project Drawdown: Climate Solutions 101
Unit 1: Setting the Stage
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Transcript

 
Welcome to Climate Solutions 101. 
 
We're going to get started to think about how we're going to address climate change, and how we're going to solve one of the world's biggest problems. 
 
We want to set the stage and understand how this moment in human history, this moment of climate change and climate solutions, got started in the first place.
 
When we think about human history, we have to go back a long, long time. 
 
It turns out our ancient ancestors started walking this planet about 6 million years ago. 
 
And during all that time, early humans and our ancestors started to affect the environment. 
 
But they did it very locally, just right around where they lived. 
 
But something really changed in the last century, especially the last 50 years or so. 
 
We began to change the entire planet, all at once, in several different ways. 
 
Well, one of the things that happened, of course, is there are a lot more people on the planet. 
 
We are now over seven-and-a-half billion people walking the Earth today and climbing. 
 
We also for the first time in history became an urban species. 
 
Over half the people on Earth now live in a city. 
 
That’s never happened before. 
 
We also formed a global economy that is powered by technology and international trade, and it's been growing faster than ever.
 
In fact, if you look at the last 50 years, we see about a doubling of global population. 
 
The economy, globally, grew between five and six-fold. 
 
So, think about that. 
 
Twice as many people doing almost six times more stuff. 
 
We then use about three times more food, twice as much water, and three times more fossil fuels than we did back in 1970.
 
In the last 50 years, we have changed more than the previous 6 million years. 
 
In a way it's kind of an inflection point. 
 
It's when everything’s changing – even the way we're changing is changing right now. 
 
And unfortunately, this change in us is also changing the planet in ways that are incredibly disruptive. 
 
Some of these changes you can see by just looking out the window. 
 
They’re obvious. 
 
They’re really right in front of you. 
 
For example, when we cut down a forest, we go in with chainsaws and bulldozers and set things on fire. 
 
You obviously can see that. 
 
And we're doing a lot of it. 
 
If we look at the Earth from outer space, we can see forests with a satellite.
 
Here's a picture of a pretty remote part of the Amazon, in Bolivia, in the 1970s. 
 
And if you look carefully, there's a little dirt road running right through the middle of that forest, the very first clearings just starting in 1975. 
 
But if we go back here, about 25 years later, the whole area has been radically transformed into soybean fields. 
 
And those soybeans are being shipped all the way to China to be used as animal feed.
 
So, a global economy connecting the Amazon to Chinese pigs is clearing rainforest in a remote part of the world. 
 
And this is happening everywhere. 
 
In fact, we're seeing so far about 30% of all the tropical forest on Earth have been lost. 
 
And a lot of that in the last few decades.
 
We also see how agriculture, just farming, is changing the world. 
 
We usually think of farming in a small scale, like an individual farmer's field. 
 
We can walk through it, we can pull up a carrot, we can look at the cows, and all this kind of thing. 
 
But agriculture is now a global force. 
 
Again, if we look at it from satellite, the Earth is covered in agriculture.
 
This map shows in green the areas where we grow our crops. 
 
That includes the plants we eat, of course, but also the plants we feed animals, and some we feed to cars in the form of biofuels. 
 
The brown areas are where we actually raise the remaining animals, our pastures and rangelands. 
 
And if you put it all together, agriculture now covers over a third, between 35 and 40%, of all the land on the planet.
 
It is now the largest ecosystem on Earth. 
 
And that's incredible. 
 
So, we've changed forests, we've changed the world through agriculture, and we're also changing the nature of water across the planet. 
 
We are a pretty thirsty species. 
 
We use a lot of water on this planet for our homes, to drink. 
 
And we use water in industry. 
 
And we use most of our water, though, in agriculture. 
 
About 70% of the water we take out of nature is used for just one thing, irrigation. 
 
Let me show you how that can affect the world, though. 
 
Here's a picture of the Aral Sea from the late 1960s. 
 
This is a satellite picture showing one of the world's largest inland bodies of water, in
the middle of Central Asia, in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
 
But the Soviet Union in the ’60s and ’70s, diverted the rivers that would feed the Aral Sea. 
 
Instead, they sent that water over into the deserts of Kazakhstan to grow cotton in the middle of the desert. 
 
And this is what happened. 
 
It shut off the water supply of one of the world's great inland seas, and it disappeared.
 
And this is not just unique to Central Asia. 
 
This kind of overuse of water resources is happening in California.
 
It's happening in the Midwest and the Great Plains in the Ogallala Aquifer. 
 
It happens in North Africa. 
 
It happens in Australia. 
 
It happens in China and everywhere. 
 
In fact, our thirst for water has massively disrupted water resources and ecosystems across the globe. 
 
So, these changes we've seen in like forest and land and water, they're just plain as day. 
 
We can see them, we can photograph them, they are right in front of us. 
 
But some other changes happening to the planet were initially a little bit more subtle, especially changes to our atmosphere and to the climate of our planet. 
 
This story actually begins more or less in the 1800s. 
 
Starting back then, we began activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels, and the explosion of agriculture, that started to change the nature of our atmosphere.
 
For example, we saw that CO2 levels, one of the major so-called greenhouse gases, started to increase
from the 1800s ’til about now. 
 
And it's so far increased by about 50%. 
 
And today, greenhouse gas levels are higher than they've been for 3 to 5 million years. We've never seen
something like this in any time in human existence.
 
And later I'll talk about this, how greenhouse gases going up, causes the temperature of the planet to go up. 
 
And while the greenhouse gases like CO2 have risen, so have the temperatures of our planet. 
 
In fact, the temperature of our planet has warmed by about 1 degree Celsius already.
 
Initially, that was a little subtle. 
 
Maybe it was a half of a degree or six-tenths of a degree and so on, and we could argue whether this was happening or not. 
 
But today, it is plain as day that we have changed the temperature of our planet, and it’s getting warmer, faster, all the time.
 
We're seeing the effects of a warmer planet almost everywhere we look. 
 
One of the early signs was looking at our glaciers.
 
Here in Alaska, we have the Muir Glacier which now has to be relabeled Muir Lake. 
 
We also see in South America, on the other side of the world, how glaciers in Patagonia and South America are melting, forming large lakes as well.
 
Perhaps most disturbingly, though, is changes to an entire ocean. 
 
We're seeing how the Arctic Ocean, which is usually covered in sea ice year-round, has been melting year by year by year. 
 
Here in the 1980s we see when sea ice is at its kind of minimum in late summer and early fall. 
 
But by the early 2010s, we see a massive reduction of sea ice which continues to this day.
 
And soon, maybe within a decade or so, we'll have the first ice-free Arctic months in all of recent geologic time.
 
And we're seeing a planet radically transformed by our actions. 
 
And again, this all became possible in the last 50 years or so. 
 
Scientists often call this period of time the Great Acceleration, when everything started to take off. 
 
We see population change, urbanization, globalization. And then we started clearing ecosystems like forests, and we built up more and more farms around the world. We started building huge dams and using more and more water than ever before. 
 
We also use more fertilizers and more chemicals, especially in agriculture and industry, and those change the nature of water, even at the scale of our oceans.
 
And then, of course, we're farming the oceans. 
 
We’re harvesting more fish than ever and doing what we call aquaculture, or fish farms, on a scale unlike anything we've ever seen. But the really scary, big thing that's happening, of course, is climate change.
 
Our use of energy, our clearing of land, and a few other things have changed the nature of the entire atmosphere, forever. 
 
And those changes are going to make the planet warmer. 
 
And if we keep going, it's going to be a massive disruption to everything on the planet. 
 
Not just the thermometers, not just the polar bears,
but us. 
 
In fact, climate change has the potential to hurt the most vulnerable people among us, people living right on
the edge of poverty or food security or having fresh water or good safe places to live.
 
Climate change is going to put a huge burden on future generations, people who didn't emit anything. 
 
They're not even born yet.
 
And yet, we could be leaving a giant mess on their doorstep that could last for centuries or thousands of years. 
 
Now, I wouldn't blame you one bit if you took all this information in and said, "This looks really grim, and maybe it's even hopeless."
 
I'm going to stop you right there, because it's not true.
 
It is not hopeless at all. 
 
In fact, there are a lot of things that are getting better at the same time that the environmental situation is getting worse. 
 
Let me remind you of a few of these.
 
During the last 50 years, for example, humans have gotten healthier. 
 
We used to live to be about 55 years, on average, on this planet, just back in the 1970s. 
 
Today, the average person on Earth can be expecting to live to be over 70,71.
 
That's amazing. 
 
We also see that women have many fewer children. 
 
Fifty years ago, the average woman on Earth had over five children, on average. 
 
Today, it's 2.4 and falling faster than anybody ever predicted. 
 
And those children are healthier, with stronger families, and women have more opportunities than they've had before. 
 
We also see the world is far more literate than it's ever been. 
 
Today, 86% of the world's population can read and write. 
 
Back in 1970, that was only 50%. 
 
And back in 1900, it was only 15%. 
 
And at that point, it was the highest in all of history. 
 
We are healthier, we have more rights, and we’re more educated and literate than anybody who has ever lived before. 
 
We're also more urban, we're more mobile, we're more connected and less violent than any people who have ever walked before us. 
 
So, this is an interesting paradox, isn't it? 
 
Some things are getting better, some things are really getting worse. 
 
A lot of people come up to me and ask, like, "Well, so what's the future going to be? 
 
Is it going to be a total disaster? 
 
Kind of like a Mad Max movie, some dystopian science fiction disaster film? 
 
Or is it going to be awesome? 
 
Is it going to be like a Star Trek movie where we pull ourselves out of this mess and build an incredible future and seize this amazing opportunity, we have to become better? 
 
Which one is it going to be?" 
 
Well, the answer is, it's up to you. It's up to us.
 
It's up to everybody. 
 
We get to build the future we want. 
 
It hasn't happened yet. 
 
We don't know what tomorrow is going to be because we haven't built tomorrow yet. 
 
The future is ours to choose. 
 
So, we have to choose a good one.
 
 
And we can choose a world, if we want to, if we really put our minds to it, we still have the ability to build a future where people and nature can thrive, today and tomorrow. 
 
But to get there, we're going to have to do the hardest thing of all. 
 
We’re going to have to step back as a people and make our choice, to make the choice of a generation, of this moment in history. 
 
We have to choose between the people we are, or the people we can be. 
 
The people like some of our ancestors who gave everything so that we could live better lives. 
 
We are capable of so much, and yet we've realized so little. 
 
What do we choose? 
 
And we could choose the world that is, that’s a giant mess right now in a lot of ways. 
 
Or we could choose the world that could be, an incredible world full of potential when we seize all of our creativity and energy to build the world that we want. 
 
So, which one are you going to choose? 
 
Which one are we all going to choose? 
 
The future of the world and everyone who will live after us will depend on that decision.
 


 

Transcript with Timestamps

 
00:08
Welcome to Climate Solutions 101. We're going to get started to think about how we're going to address climate
 
00:13
change, and how we're going to solve one of the world's biggest problems. We want to set the stage and understand
 
00:19
how this moment in human history, this moment of climate change and climate solutions, got started in the first place.
 
00:26
When we think about human history, we have to go back a long, long time. It turns out our ancient ancestors started
 
00:32
walking this planet about 6 million years ago. And during all that time, early humans and our ancestors started to
 
00:40
affect the environment. But they did it very locally, just right around where they lived. But something really changed
 
00:47
in the last century, especially the last 50 years or so. We began to change the entire planet, all at once, in several
 
00:54
different ways. Well, one of the things that happened, of course, is there are a lot more people on the planet. We are
 
00:59
now over seven-and-a-half billion people walking the Earth today and climbing. We also for the first time in history
 
01:06
became an urban species. Over half the people on Earth now live in a city. That’s never happened before. We also formed
 
01:13
a global economy that is powered by technology and international trade, and it's been growing faster than ever.
 
01:22
In fact, if you look at the last 50 years, we see about a doubling
 
01:25
of global population. The economy, globally, grew
 
01:28
between five and six fold. So think about that. Twice as many people doing almost six times more stuff. We 
then use about
 
01:36
three times more food, twice as much water, and
 
01:40
three times more fossil fuels than we did back in 1970.
 
01:43
In the last 50 years, we have changed more than the previous
 
01:47
6 million years. In a way it's kind of an inflection point. It's when
 
01:52
everything’s changing – even the way we're changing is changing right now. And unfortunately, this change in us is
 
01:59
also changing the planet in ways that are incredibly disruptive. Some of these changes you can see by just
 
02:05
looking out the window. They’re obvious. They’re really right in front of you. For example, when we cut down a
 
02:11
forest, we go in with chainsaws and bulldozers and set things on fire. You obviously can see that. And we're doing
 
02:19
a lot of it. If we look at the Earth from outer space, we can see forests with a satellite.
 
02:26
Here's a picture of a pretty remote part of the Amazon, in Bolivia, in the 1970s.
 
02:31
And if you look carefully, there's a little dirt road
 
02:33
running right through the middle of that forest, the very first clearings just starting in 1975. But if we go back
 
02:40
here, about 25 years later, the whole area has been radically transformed into soybean fields. And those soybeans
 
02:47
are being shipped all the way to China to be used as animal feed.
 
02:51
So a global economy connecting the Amazon to Chinese pigs
 
02:55
is clearing rainforest in a remote part of the world. And this is happening everywhere. In fact, we're seeing so
 
03:00
far about 30% of all the tropical forest on Earth have been lost. And a lot of that in the last few decades.
 
03:09
We also see how agriculture, just farming, is changing the world. We usually think of farming in a small scale, like an
 
03:16
individual farmer's field. We can walk through it, we can pull up a carrot, we can look at the cows, and all this kind
 
03:22
of thing. But agriculture is now a global force. Again, if we look at it from satellite, the Earth is covered in agriculture.
 
03:30
This map shows in green the areas where we grow our crops. That includes the plants we eat, of course, but
03:36
also the plants we feed animals, and some we feed to cars in the form of biofuels. The brown areas are where we
 
03:43
actually raise the remaining animals, our pastures and rangelands. And if you put it all together, agriculture now
 
03:50
covers over a third, between 35 and 40%, of all the land on the planet.
 
03:56
It is now the largest ecosystem on Earth. And that's incredible.
 
04:01
So we've changed forests, we've changed the world through agriculture, and we're also changing the nature of water
 
04:06
across the planet. We are a pretty thirsty species. We use a lot of water on this planet for our homes, to drink. And we
 
04:13
use water in industry. And we use most of our water, though, in agriculture. About 70% of the water we take out of nature
 
04:21
is used for just one thing, irrigation. Let me show you how that can affect the world, though. Here's a picture of the
 
04:28
Aral Sea from the late 1960s. This is a satellite picture showing one of the world's largest inland bodies of water, in
 
04:35
the middle of Central Asia, in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. But the Soviet Union in the ’60s and ’70s, diverted the rivers
 
04:43
that would feed the Aral Sea. Instead, they sent that water over into the deserts of Kazakhstan to grow cotton in the middle
 
04:50
of the desert. And this is what happened. It shut off the water supply of one of the world's great inland seas, and it disappeared.
 
04:58
And this is not just unique to Central Asia. This kind of overuse of water resources is happening in
 
05:04
California. It's happening in the Midwest and the Great Plains in the Ogallala Aquifer. It happens in
 
05:09
North Africa. It happens in Australia. It happens in China and everywhere. In fact, our thirst for water has massively
 
05:18
disrupted water resources and ecosystems across the globe. So these changes we've seen in like forest and land and
 
05:27
water, they're just plain as day. We can see them, we can photograph them, they are right in front of us. But some other
 
05:33
changes happening to the planet were initially a little bit more subtle, especially changes to our atmosphere and to
 
05:41
the climate of our planet. This story actually begins more or less in the 1800s. Starting back then, we began
 
05:49
activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels,
 
05:52
and the explosion of agriculture, that started to change the nature of our atmosphere.
 
05:58
For example, we saw that CO2 levels, one of the major so-called
 
06:02
greenhouse gases, started to increase
 
06:05
from the 1800s ’til about now. And it's so far increased by
 
06:09
about 50%. And today, greenhouse gas levels are higher than
 
06:14
they've been for 3 to 5 million years. We've never seen
 
06:19
something like this in any time in human existence.
 
06:22
And later I'll talk about this, how greenhouse gases going up, causes the temperature of the planet to go up. And while the
 
06:28
greenhouse gases like CO2 have risen, so have the
 
06:32
temperatures of our planet. In fact, the temperature of our
 
06:35
planet has warmed by about 1 degree Celsius already.
 
06:39
Initially, that was a little subtle. Maybe it was a half of a
 
06:41
degree or six-tenths of a degree and so on, and we could
 
06:44
argue whether this was happening or not. But today, it is
 
06:47
plain as day that we have changed the temperature of our planet, and it’s getting warmer, faster, all the time.
 
06:54
We're seeing the effects of a warmer planet almost everywhere we look. One of the early signs was looking at our glaciers.
 
07:01
Here in Alaska, we have the Muir Glacier which now has to be relabeled Muir Lake. We also see in South America, on
 
07:08
the other side of the world, how glaciers in Patagonia and South America are melting, forming large lakes as well.
 
07:15
Perhaps most disturbingly, though, is changes to an entire ocean. We're seeing how the Arctic Ocean, which is usually covered
 
07:22
in sea ice year round, has been melting year by year by year. Here in the 1980s we see when sea ice is at its kind of
 
07:30
minimum in late summer and early fall. But by the early 2010s, we see a massive reduction of sea ice which continues to this day.
 
07:41
And soon, maybe within a decade or so, we'll have the first ice-free Arctic months in all of recent geologic time.
 
07:51
And we're seeing a planet radically transformed by our actions. And again, this all became possible in the last 50
 
07:59
years or so. Scientists often call this period of time the Great Acceleration, when everything started to take off. We
 
08:06
see population change, urbanization, globalization. And then we started clearing ecosystems like forests, and we built up
 
08:13
more and more farms around the world. We started building huge dams and using more and more water than ever before. We
 
08:21
also use more fertilizers and more chemicals, especially in agriculture and industry, and those change the nature of
 
08:27
water, even at the scale of our oceans.
 
08:32
And then, of course, we're farming the oceans. We’re harvesting more fish than ever and doing what we call
 
08:37
aquaculture, or fish farms, on a scale unlike anything we've ever seen. But the really scary, big thing that's happening,
 
08:45
of course, is climate change. Our use of energy, our clearing of land, and a few other things have changed the
 
08:52
nature of the entire atmosphere, forever. And those changes are going to make the planet warmer. And if we keep going,
 
08:59
it's going to be a massive disruption to everything on the planet. Not just the thermometers, not just the polar bears,
 
09:05
but us. In fact, climate change has the potential to hurt the most vulnerable people among us, people living right on
 
09:12
the edge of poverty or food security or having fresh water or good safe places to live.
 
09:18
Climate change is going to put a huge burden on future generations,
 
09:22
people who didn't emit anything. They're not even born yet.
 
09:26
And yet, we could be leaving a giant mess on their doorstep
 
09:30
that could last for centuries or thousands of years. Now, I wouldn't blame you one
 
09:34
bit if you took all this information in and said, "This looks really grim, and maybe it's even hopeless."
 
09:41
I'm going to stop you right there, because it's not true. It is not hopeless at all. In fact, there are a lot of things that
 
09:48
are getting better at the same time that the environmental situation is getting worse. Let me remind you of a few of these.
 
09:56
During the last 50 years, for example, humans have gotten
 
09:59
healthier. We used to live to be about 55 years, on average,
 
10:03
on this planet, just back in the 1970s. Today, the average
 
10:07
person on Earth can be expecting to live to be over 70,71.
 
10:11
That's amazing. We also see that women have many fewer
 
10:15
children. Fifty years ago, the average woman on Earth had over
 
10:19
five children, on average. Today, it's 2.4 and falling
 
10:24
faster than anybody ever predicted. And those children are
 
10:27
healthier, with stronger families, and women have more opportunities than they've had before. We also see the world
 
10:33
is far more literate than it's ever been. Today, 86% of the
 
10:38
world's population can read and write. Back in 1970, that was
 
10:41
only 50%. And back in 1900, it was only 15%. And at that
 
10:46
point, it was the highest in all of history. We are healthier, we
 
10:50
have more rights, and we’re more educated and literate than anybody who has ever lived before. We're also more urban,
 
10:56
we're more mobile, we're more connected and less violent than any people who have ever walked before us. So this is an
 
11:02
interesting paradox, isn't it? Some things are getting better, some things are really getting worse. A lot of
 
11:08
people come up to me and ask, like, "Well, so what's the future going to be? Is it going to be a total disaster? Kind
 
11:13
of like a Mad Max movie, some dystopian science fiction disaster film? Or is it going to be awesome? Is it going to be
 
11:20
like a Star Trek movie where we pull ourselves out of this
 
11:23
mess and build an incredible future and seize this amazing
 
11:27
opportunity we have to become better. Which one is it going to be?" Well, the answer is, it's up to you. It's up to us.
 
11:35
It's up to everybody. We get to build the future we want. It hasn't happened yet. We don't know what tomorrow is going to
 
11:41
be because we haven't built tomorrow yet. The future is ours to choose. So we have to choose a good one.
 
11:50
And we can choose a world, if we want to, if we really put our minds to it, we still have the ability to build a future where people
 
11:57
and nature can thrive, today and tomorrow. But to get there, we're going to have to do the hardest thing of all. We’re going to
 
12:05
have to step back as a people and make our choice, to make the choice of a generation, of this moment in history. We
 
12:13
have to choose between the people we are, or the people we can be. The people like some of our ancestors who gave
 
12:22
everything so that we could live better lives. We are capable of so much, And yet we've realized so little. What do we
 
12:30
choose? And we could choose the world that is, that’s a giant mess right now in a lot of ways. Or we could choose the
 
12:37
world that could be, an incredible world full of potential when we seize all of our creativity and energy to build the
 
12:44
world that we want. So which one are you going to choose? Which one are we all going to choose? The future of the world
 
12:51
and everyone who will live after us will depend on that decision.