2021 TED Countdown Talks and Discussion Notes - November 7, 2021

Scott Henson
Scott Henson
Last updated 
Countdown is a global initiative, powered by TED and Future Stewards, to accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. The goal: to build a better future by cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 towards reaching net zero by 2050.

Last year we started a multi-week discussion series focused on the content of these talks and this year we pick it back up for a lively discussion on Sunday, November 7, 2021.

You can find all of the TED Countdown video series here:

and all of the resources from TED Countdown here:

Here are some (from the 25 posted) we are currently thinking about discussing during our event:
  • The Fossil Fuel Treaty [Bad Math for the Fossil Fuel Industry] (Tzeporah Berman).  We currently have enough fossil fuels to progressively transition off of them, says climate campaigner Tzeporah Berman, but the industry continues to expand oil, gas and coal production and exploration. With searing passion and unflinching nerve, Berman reveals the delusions keeping true progress from being made -- and offers a realistic path forward: the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. Learn more about the global initiative for transparency and accountability in phasing out fossil fuels forever, supported by the Dalai Lama, Nobel Prize laureates and many more. (timing: 13:24)
  • The untapped energy source that could power the planet (Jamie Beard). Deep beneath your feet is a molten ball of energy the same temperature as the surface of the sun -- an immense clean energy source that could power the world thousands of times over, says technologist and climate activist Jamie C. Beard. How do we tap it? She lays out a surprising solution, and an unlikely alliance, to harvest geothermal energy from the Earth's core and get it to anywhere in the world. (timing: 12:25)
  • How much clean electricity do we need (Solomon Goldstein-Rose)?.  To fight climate change, we need to clean up the global electricity system by replacing fossil fuel power plants with clean generation -- right? Climate author Solomon Goldstein-Rose thinks we need to do much more than that. Replacement isn't enough, he explains in this compelling talk: we need to rapidly develop a new global system capable of producing 12 times the amount of clean electricity we generate today. He shares four reasons why we need that expansion -- first, to electrify everything in all parts of the world (not just the wealthy ones) -- as well as some intriguing ideas for how we can get there. (timing: 9:37)
  • Remembering climate change...a message from the year 2071 (Kim Stanley Robinson).  Coming to us from 50 years in the future, legendary sci-fi writer Kim Stanley Robinson tells the "history" of how humanity ended the climate crisis and restored the damage done to Earth's biosphere. A rousing vision of how we might unite to overcome the greatest challenge of our time.  (timing: 9:59) 
  • The Fastest Way to Slow Climate Change Now (Ilissa Ocko). "Cutting methane is the single fastest, most effective opportunity to reduce climate change risks in the near term," says atmospheric scientist Ilissa Ocko. That's because, unlike carbon dioxide, methane's warming power doesn't come from a gradual buildup over time but is almost entirely from recent emissions. Ocko identifies three main sources of methane pollution which, if addressed, could dramatically slow down the rate of global warming within years -- not decades. "This is the methane moment," Ocko says. (timing: 9:58)
  • What To Do When Climate Change Feels Unstoppable (Clover Hogan) Today's youth have inherited a big, unprecedented climate problem to solve -- and the eco-anxiety to go with it. Gen-Zer and activist Clover Hogan knows the struggle firsthand, but she also understands the path to climate action starts with the one thing you can control: your mindset. She explains why challenging the stories that keep you feeling powerless can help you take the first step to protecting the planet for generations to come. (timing: 12:20)
  • How to Make Radical Climate Change the New Normal (Al Gore).  A net-zero future is possible, but first we need to flip a mental switch to truly understand that we can stop the climate crisis if we try, says Nobel laureate Al Gore. In this inspiring and essential talk, Gore shares examples of extreme climate events (think: fires, floods and atmospheric tsunamis), identifies the man-made systems holding us back from progress and invites us all to join the movement for climate justice: "the biggest emergent social movement in all of history," as he puts it. An unmissable tour de force on the current state of the crisis -- and the transformations that will make it possible to find a way out of it. (timing: 15:42)
  • 3 Rules For A Zero Carbon World (Nigel Topping) Every human and natural system -- from oil extraction to the flight of a flock of starlings -- can be seen as a set of repeating patterns. These patterns can be disrupted for good or for bad, says Nigel Topping, the High Level Climate Action Champion for COP26, the UN's climate change conference set to take place in November 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. He shares three rules of radical collaboration that could positively disrupt the patterns of the global economy and help humanity tackle the world's greatest threat: climate change. (timing: 12:23)
  • The state of the climate crisis in 2021 (updated June 2021) 2021 is a critical year for climate change. According to the Paris Climate Agreement, governments must decide now on how to reduce the amount of carbon they pump into the atmosphere in order to avoid the most devastating consequences of global warming. So, are we on track to limit global warming to only 1.5 degrees Celsius? The Climate Action Tracker explains the good news and the bad news for the planet. (timing: 5:37)
  • The 55 Gigaton Challenge.  This is the climate challenge we face: we need to go from putting 55 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases into the air each year to zero. And it all needs to happen by 2050 at the latest. How can we get there? This quick animated video explains. (timing: 5:45)
  • What is COP26? What is COP26? Here's what you need to know about the crucial UN climate conference set to take place in Glasgow, Scotland from October 31-November 12, 2021. Featuring climate advocate Al Gore; Paris Climate Agreement architect Christiana Figueres; minister and activist Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr.; UN High Level Climate Action Champion for COP25 Gonzalo Muñoz; and climate activist Xiye Bastida. (timing: 3:02)

Related resources shared during our discussion:
  • Why oil giants like Chevron and BP are investing in geothermal energy. Miles below the Earth’s surface, there’s a source of renewable energy that could sustain all of humanity for the foreseeable future. Just 0.1% of Earth’s total heat content could meet our energy needs for 2 million years, according to ARPA-E, the government agency that funds R&D efforts for advanced energy technologies.
  • Rainn Wilson's "An Idiot's Guide to Climate Change". Rainn Wilson is on a mission to learn more about climate change and the effects it's having on our planet. In this episode, Rainn travels to Iceland to meet with astronomer and climate change activist Sævar Helgi Bragason to learn the basics of climate change. Then Rainn visits the Toyota factory in Iceland to hear about their efforts to reduce co2 emissions.  NOTE:  This link was inspired from Rainn's "Is There Anything Funny About Climate Change?" question he asked to fellow comedians during the global live stream (here) which you can find the start of at about minute 35, then it continues at 1:32 and then at 2:22.  Is there anything funny about climate change?  Hmmm...
  • TED Countdown at COP26.  The United Nations climate change conference COP26 is gathering from Oct 31-Nov 12 in Glasgow, Scotland, and TED’s own climate initiative, Countdown, is going to be part of it. You can participate, too! From November 4-6, Countdown@COP26 will host a series of three events from the COP26 Climate Action Hub in Glasgow. The live-streamed events will feature bold ideas to tackle the climate crisis, in the form of talks and interviews.  As a a small example of the kinds of speakers that were at COP26, here are two Zen Buddhist monks (followers of Thích Nhất Hạnh) discussing their work to help the attendees of COP26 to slow down, be fully present and regenerate while in the midst of the craziness of the conference.
  • Climate Action Tracker: Global Update: Climate Summit Momentum.  Climate action announcements at US President Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate, together with those announced since September last year, have improved the Climate Action Tracker’s warming estimate by 0.2°C. End of century warming from these Paris Agreement pledges and targets is now estimated to be 2.4°C.
  • COP26 Infographic.  What COP26 is, who attends and why it matters — in infographic form.
  • Decoupled Water Splitting for Green Hydrogen Production at Scale (IEEE Seattle).  Shared by Don Parda during our discussion, this session from the local IEEE group will discuss the merits of "Green Hydrogen" on November 24th.  Green hydrogen produced by splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable sources is expected to play a major role in the transition to carbon neutral economy, serving as an energy carrier that can facilitate the penetration of an higher share of intermittent renewable energy, the decarburization of hard-to-abate industrial sectors (e.g. industrial processes which require high-grade heating or rely on hydrogen as a feedstock) and the cross-sectorial coupling (linking power, gas and other energy vectors or energy intensive commodities and replacing them in their respective usages). 


15:07:03 From Scott Henson (Drawdown Seattle) to Everyone:

15:08:45 From Jae Geller to Everyone:
Anchal was my buddy when we did Climate Reality training and she is looking for new career possibilities in sustainability. I will connect her on BaseCamp with those of you who are on there. Welcome Anchal!

15:10:20 From Jain, Anchal (Benchmark | Gensuite) to Everyone:
Thanks Jae for the Note!! I am excited to join the group!

15:19:01 From Jae Geller to Everyone:
Scott: Thank you so much for doing all of this! I was busy and this is a fantastic way of getting in without feeling overwhelmed!

15:34:31 From Suellen Mele to Everyone:
Fabulous talk, very inspirational! Thanks for starting out with this video!

15:46:13 From Audrey Richards to Everyone:
if all the "spigots" point to electricity, we will still have to use the fossil fuels to make the electricity UNTIL there is a worldwide initiative to push for infrastructure that is supporting green electricity.

15:50:39 From JimL to Everyone:
Another video that supplements this talk:

15:50:42 From JimL to Everyone:

15:51:45 From Don Parda to Everyone:
Unless we take on the challenge of getting the consumers to reduce demand, we are not going to get the general public (and politicians - who need to get elected by the general public) to support actions such as a non-proliferation treaty. Look at the uproar as the current supply chain problems have produced shortages and raising prices of products responsible for GHG emissions.

15:57:14 From Suellen Mele to Everyone:
I need to leave early today to be on another zoom event. Thanks for creating and facilitating these TED talk discussions, Scott! See you all next time.

15:57:49 From Scott Henson (Drawdown Seattle) to Everyone:
Thank you Suellen - great to “see you” today. :)

16:03:56 From Jae Geller to Everyone:
Wow, super exciting and very encouraging!

16:04:13 From Jae Geller to Everyone:
This would be a huge game changer!

16:06:41 From Audrey Richards to Everyone:
So do you plug the heat into the current grid?

16:07:08 From Audrey Richards to Everyone:
drilling everywhere and fracking is a scary propostion

16:09:36 From Jeff Berner to Everyone:
Good point Greg. The North Sea has transitioned from off shore oil to off shore wind.

16:09:43 From Don Parda to Everyone:
I think the video said that there are processes that don't utilize fracking.

16:09:46 From Jae Geller to Everyone:
Great point, Joe! Thank you so much for joining us today.

16:11:13 From Jae Geller to Everyone:
I keep thinking of the improv "yes and" philosophy. Yes, we need all of this and we need to have all hands on deck and on the drill and in the fields and in the sun.

16:12:28 From Audrey Richards to Everyone:
Yes, I heard that they didn't have to use the fracking but we have seen that the industry doesn't always do things in the least impactful way and have not been transparent.  How to hold this same industry accountable without regulation.

16:20:33 From JimL to Everyone:
Yes, they do discuss closed loop systems that do not require fracking.

16:23:26 From Audrey Richards to Everyone:
Love how you have this all organized!  Thank you so much!

16:24:30 From Joe Anderson to Everyone:
a great set of thought provking videos, thanks!

16:25:19 From sheilalynch to Everyone:
Agreed, thanks Scott!  A lot to chew on in those videos.

16:25:32 From TAWNY BATES to Everyone:
Great videos and meeting, thanks for pulling this together!

16:25:54 From Jae Geller to Everyone:
Thank you for curating these videos. I am really eager to watch the one by Clover Hogan. Having this list in a great order really inspires me to watch them.

16:26:21 From Jim Hall to Everyone:
we need government subsidies for geothermal to get the oil companies doing more

16:26:31 From laurazeffer to Everyone:
I keep picturing that WW2 idea too. Why isn’t the whole world jumping in together as if it mattered? We need wide range education and to market the plans/solutions. People don’t want to think about that their own child might suffer greatly  and perhaps they hope that others are going to take care of it as they live their lives as normally as they can. Great thoughts, ideas, videos. My take away… we are on board.. how to get others on board?????

16:26:48 From Kathy Dawson to Everyone:
Scott, please save and share the chat—since I’m on my phone I can’t do it for myself.

16:27:32 From Jae Geller to Everyone:
That sounds really useful, Don. Thanks for the link!

16:27:36 From Sarah Horrigan to Everyone:
Thanks, Scott.  This was great.

16:27:45 From IeRM P. Schmidt-Pathmann to Everyone:
More and more WTE facilities are producing hydrogen from waste for example in Frankfurt Germany to power buys fleet

16:29:41 From IeRM P. Schmidt-Pathmann to Everyone:
Great one Scott!

16:30:37 From Audrey Richards to Everyone:
thank you!