How Your Phone Will Stop Climate Change (& Save The World) | Ian Monroe | TEDxHonolulu

What’s the most important thing that you do with your phone? Calls? Email? Facebook? Getting a higher score on Candy Crush? You know who you are. What if you could do something even more important? Like solve some of the world’s biggest problems. And if you could solve any of the world’s biggest problems, what would it be? For me, the problem that I’d solve is climate change. Why? Well, for starters, I’m a scientist at Stanford University and I’m compelled by the overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that says our current fossil fuel use is endangering every ecosystem and the existence of human civilization as we know it. But the deeper reason that I care about climate change is actually much more personal. I grew up on a small farm in California and I’ve seen the seasons become unpredictable first-hand. Record floods and record droughts have become the new normal. My family had seen summer heat so intense that it split ancient oak trees.

And we’ve seen our neighbors devastated by hundreds of wildfires. We’ve also lived through our own home burning to the ground, taking the lives of two fantastic dogs, a wonderful cat, and five generations of history with it. So I care about climate change because I love my family and I want to protect my home. And I care about climate change because there are literally billions of other homes and lives in danger. I’ve had the extraordinary opportunity to work around the world for 15 years, and I’ve made many great friends along the way. Friends, whose homes, lives, and livelihoods, are often in even greater danger than most of us here, because of the interconnections between climate, poverty, hunger, disease, crime, and violence. So how can we solve climate change? Well, for starters, for the rest of the world to live and thrive, the fossil fuel industry must die. And we also need to stop unsustainable manufacturing in food production.

These are monumental challenges to be sure, but the good news is we already have all the clean energy technologies and sustainability technologies we need to solve the problem. What’s missing is public engagement that’s sufficient to put these solutions in actions fast enough to avoid disaster. So the biggest missing piece of our climate puzzle is really you. And by you, I mean all of us, myself included. We like to blame corporations and governments on climate inaction. But their decisions all trace back to our votes, our lifestyle choices, and how we spend and invest our money. So the climate problem is really our problem. Most of us already know that climate change is a huge problem, but the big challenge is bridging the gap between how much we say we care about climate change and actually what we do on an everyday basis.

To do this, we need tools that put information and incentives in the right places to change our everyday actions. Fortunately, you guys already have an amazing device that can do this. Which brings me back to where I began. That’s right. You call this a phone, but it’s really a hyper-connected super computer that it can inform all your decisions and send advice to you to change, and connect you to pretty much anyone else anywhere in the world. I’m now working with an extraordinary team of scientists and engineers to launch a service that connects the power of this amazing device as a tool to solve climate change. We’ve launched a service called OROECO that makes it fun, easy, and rewarding for everyone to be part of a collective climate solution. We started with the goal to create the world’s most powerful carbon footprint calculator. Then we’ve added personalized tips for what you can do to improve your climate footprint while saving money at the same time.

And to encourage us all to move from saying we care about climate to actually doing something about it, we’ve added in points, prizes, and real-world rewards to swing the deal. OROECO’s climate number crunching has led us to some surprising conclusions. For one, we found that many people who really say they care about climate change, actually have a personal carbon footprint that’s substantially worse than average. This is definitely true for myself. And the reason for this is that a lot of us who care about climate change also tend to fly. We want be multicultural, and go around the world, and connect with our families, too. And just one cross-country flight could easily outweigh everything else we’re doing to be more sustainable.

Another surprise from many OROECO users is how big the carbon footprint is from our dietary choices – what we eat. And that is actually matters a whole lot more for climate change to eat less red meat than it matters to eat everything local or everything organic. Because it’s not just how we spend our money but also how we invest our money that makes a difference. We’ve started to use OROECO’s data to create low carbon investment products. And here we found an even bigger, and quite frankly, much better surprise. Investment funds that are fully divested from fossil fuels and only invested in climate leaders and other industries actually perform better. They make more money than conventional investment funds. We’re now working to launch this strategy into the market, which we think can mainstream low carbon investing, and really dispel this myth that we have that dirty energy companies are necessary for a healthy investment portfolio.

And of course, there are many of other great services out there, beyond OROECO that help us align our personal values with our everyday actions. There’s GoodGuide which makes it easy to see the sustainability footprint of virtually everything we can buy at the supermarket. There’s Buycott and BuyPartisan, which show us how our spending decisions connect to money and politics. There’s Slavery Footprint which shows us sobering information about how our lifestyle choices are connected to forced labor, modern day slavery. And of course, there is Fitbit and MyFitnessPal apps that are encouraging us all to lead healthier, happier lives. What these apps all have in common is they’re taking previously invisible information about our impacts, and making it both visible and actionable. And it’s not just about information. It’s about motivation. Our phones can be a tireless coach that’s always with us, giving us just the right information and incentives, and the motivation to act and change your everyday actions.

Also, when apps like OROECO connect up to services that connect us socially so we can compare with our friends and family in our social networks, they tap into something much more fundamental. We, as humans, one of the most powerful motivating forces we have is to earn respect from people we care about. And we all like to see that we’re doing at least as well as average. But of course, this is never actually possible for all of us to always be better than average. But that’s actually a good thing. Because when an app shows us we’re not actually better than average, it encourage us to improve. And when enough of us consistently try to be better than average, then the average improves creating a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement that benefits everyone. Last, but certainly not least, our phones can inspire us through the power of storytelling which is really what TED is all about. And we’ve already been talking about this today.

This is Chai Jing. She’s a Chinese journalist who just release a low-budget documentary on how air pollution is affecting her daughter’s health. Her story, thanks to the power of social networks and mobile apps, received over 200 million views in just 48 hours. That’s about one-third of China’s urban population in a weekend. Stories that are both inspirational and important can now race around the world at the pace of Twitter and Facebook, which is to say, at the speed of ‘like’. I care about climate change because of how it connects to my own story and my own loss. And I care about climate change because of how it connects to the stories of people and places I love around the world. I’m sure you all have your own climate stories to share stories that can inspire you and many others into action. And action is exactly what we need because climate change is a massive collective action problem that requires a collective action solution.

We now have the tool we need to act together. With this, we are empowered to reinvent our future and align it with our values. With this magic wand, we have the power to change our own lives, then spread that change to everyone around us; even changing companies and governments in the process. With this, we are no longer drops in a bucket but a connected ocean of potential. So how will you change the world? The power to shape the world that you want is now literally, in the palm of your hands. Use it with love, use it with passion, use it for a little bit more than Candy Crush. (Applause).

5 Bad Reasons to Ditch the Paris Climate Agreement

Yesterday the President of the United States Donald J Trump decided to remove the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, something that was agreed to by basically every country on earth except for Syria and Nicaragua Syria in war and Nicaragua because they didn't think it went far enough. Now this just baffles me, I'm trying to understand the reasons for why you would do this, why withdraw from this agreement but none of the stated reasons make any sense to me so in this video I'm going to break down the top five bad reasons I've heard for why the US is withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement. Okay, number one is because it is bad for the US economy. The U.S. set a target of reducing their emissions from 2005 levels by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, and they've already reduced the emissions by around 12 to 14 percent.

So maybe it's fair enough to say if you wanted to implement some really strict policies and really curb emissions there might be a way to do harm to the economy in the process but here's the thing, the Paris agreement is completely non-binding. So if the president didn't want to implement any policies to curb emissions that would be fine and he's not going to be president in 2025 anyway so I mean what does it matter there's a non-binding agreement there are no repercussions no one has to do anything it's mainly just a goal it's a target that target in itself is not going to harm the US economy and all of this ignores the fact that the world is moving towards cleaner, greener tech innovation there's going to be a lot of investment in that area, estimates of multiple trillions of dollars being invested in this so if you're a country that doesn't embrace reductions in emissions then actually you might miss out on investment opportunities new innovations and you might lose the opportunity to be a world leader and that might actually hurt the GDP and if you look at the Canadian province of British Columbia for example they implemented a carbon tax and reduced per capita fossil fuel use by about 20 percent compared to the rest of Canada meanwhile their GDP grew at the same rate as the rest of the country so there isn't a lot of evidence to suggest that reducing emissions, directly causes a downturn in the economy.

Which brings us to number two, well the free market should decide what technologies take off, what innovations happen the money, the smart money should go where the good investment opportunities are the government shouldn't be deciding who should win and who should lose and that we should change to a cleaner greener economy, that is a very American viewpoint on the world and I like it, I like this idea that markets are smart and they'll put money where it pays returns the problem is this market has never been fair and the reason why is because co2 has not been considered really a pollutant up until now and to be fair co2 doesn't really seem like a pollutant and if you're just emitting a little bit of it there's no problem the problem comes when we totally change the amount of co2 in the atmosphere and only then because co2 has this effect of trapping infrared radiation, something scientists figured out you know more than 100 years ago. So here's the problem, people have been emitting co2 which in small amounts is really not a big deal but in large amounts can cause some damage, damage in the form of more intense storms and droughts and people have to pay for that so there is a cost actually associated with emitting co2 except right now that cost is not being borne by the emitters of co2, it's being borne by the whole world and that makes the markets not on a level playing field.

I mean the analogy for this would be let's say there's one company that disposes of its pollution appropriately and that cost some money and so paying this company is more expensive than paying another company which just dumps its pollution in a river and you know leaves the rest of the communities downstream to deal with it. in that market it's not fair because people will go to the cheaper option and they're only cheaper because they're polluting for free, so in order for free markets to decide and make a fair decision all I'm saying is we need to factor in the cost of the pollution. This makes cleaner technology way more competitive and so yeah let's go for a free market solution but let's make sure the market is truly fair first. Number three, China and India don't have to reduce their emissions so why should the United States? Ok well the truth about this is that China and India are setting targets under the Paris agreement to reduce their emissions but that is per unit of GDP.

With the idea that these countries are still developing they're still going to grow a lot and so it seems pretty unfair to curb their emissions so strictly right now, whereas the US is the biggest historic emitter of carbon dioxide they've emitted about 30% of the total excess carbon dioxide that is now in the atmosphere Europe's also emitted about 30% and that has made those countries very rich and very capable of changing their economies into less polluting economies so the idea here is that what seems most fair is for the countries that contributed most of the problem to start to take action first and also because their economies can deal with it they're rich enough and also the economies of the US and Europe don't depend very much on just a lot of energy I mean a lot of the sectors like you know financial and technology and innovation they don't require tons of energy to to get going, not like building the infrastructure in in India and China are going to require in order to lift all of those populations out of poverty so I think it seems pretty fair for the US and Europe to go first I don't think this is a part where you point to a country that hasn't really contributed much the problem say well why aren't they changing first before we do it.

If you created the problem you need to be one of the first to try to fix it. Number four, the Paris agreement wouldn't do anything to help climate change anyway, now while it's true that under the current emissions targets that have been set we're not guaranteed to limit warming to under two degrees Celsius which is what most experts think is kind of a safe level but it is an important starting point it is all the countries of the world virtually coming together to agree to do something and I think once people start taking action to try to achieve these goals we're going to find that it just gets easier to try to lower our emissions so I think the Paris agreement is really a floor not a ceiling on what we can do in terms of reducing our emissions and it's really an important first step and I don't see how anything is gained by leaving it. Number five; he had to withdraw from the Paris agreement because it's politically unpopular here in the U.S. That is actually just not true depending on what poll you look at roughly seven out of ten Americans think that we should still be in the agreement and 60% of swing voters think that it's good to be part of the deal and even half of Republicans wanted to stay in so what really is gained here I think there's certainly a portion of Trumps base that wanted to see him withdraw from this agreement it's something he can point to is a campaign pledge that's been fulfilled and it'll definitely energize that base but beyond that it's hard to see how this is going to raise his approval ratings much which currently sit around 39% and that brings me to bonus reason number six which perhaps is the real reason that he did this and it was to piss off the opposition.

He wanted a whole bunch of environmentalists whipped into a frenzy so that he could point at them and say look how crazy these people are and how much they prefer the trees and birds and stuff like that over jobs and the economy and things that people really should care about. The problem is I mean that relies on people believing that you know these sorts of agreements would be bad for the economy which I think you can demonstrate from the evidence that they're not, so I think the best response to this decision is not to get angry or inflamed or you know go nuts about it because I think that's kind of maybe why he did it in the first place I think the best reaction is one that we're already seeing, that people around the U.S. cities, states, leaders business leaders are all agreeing to work with each other to make sure that the U.

S. meets its responsibilities under the Paris climate agreement whether the federal government actually, you know signs it, ratifies it or not and I think that might be the best outcome here if Trump becomes marginalized and people no longer look to his leadership that might just make him feel small which is probably the thing he would hate the most..

Trump pulls U S out of non binding Paris Climate Accord — Here’s why he was right to do it

Trump pulls U.S. out of non-binding Paris Climate Accord � Here�s why he was right to do it by: JD Heyes Far-Left Democrats and so-called �environmentalists� who still believe the global warming hoax are furious at President Donald J. Trump for keeping his campaign pledge to withdraw the United States from the �non-binding� Paris Climate Accords signed onto by the Obama administration. But perhaps after they calm down and allow their blood pressure to return to normal, they can take a rational, reasoned look at why the president made his decision; if they afford him that courtesy, there is no way they can conclude that his decision was wrong. In making the announcement from the White House Rose Garden Thursday afternoon, Trump stated that he felt obligated to withdraw from the agreement � which should have been sent to the U.

S. Senate by Obama to be ratified as a treaty, because that�s what it was, in both style and substance � because it is �a bad deal� for American workers, taxpayers and companies. (RELATED: The Paris Climate Accord is GENOCIDE against plants, forests and all life on our planet) Trump also knocked the cost of the agreement � which will rise to some $450 billion a year, much of which would have to come from the U.S. � while major polluters who are also signatories to the deal do not have to comply with the accords� emissions limitations for more than a decade. Meanwhile, the U.S. has to comply immediately. The president also lashed out at his critics who said pulling out of the deal would be a disaster for the country, noting that remaining in the agreement would cost American families and businesses billions per year. Also, he said, the agreement prohibited the U.S. from �conducting its own domestic economic affairs� by preventing the development of our own natural resources, like clean coal and natural gas, both of which create far fewer emissions than other forms of energy.

�I was elected to represent the people of Pittsburg, not Paris,� Trump said. �It�s time to pursue a new deal that protects� the environment, as well as the American people. Trump, according to various experts and analyses, was right to withdraw from the current agreement as written. �Through a litany of regulations stemming from the agreement, Obama has essentially offered up the U.S. economy as a sacrificial lamb to further his own legacy,� Americans for Tax Reform noted Wednesday in a post on its website. �Sadly, the agreement will not just hurt the country�s growth as a whole, but will trickle down to low-and-middle income Americans. As a result of the agreement, energy costs will skyrocket, in turn raising the cost of utility bills for families and increasing the costs of consumer goods.

� (RELATED: UN official actually ADMITS that �global warming� is a scam designed to �change world�s economic model�) A study of the agreement by the Heritage Foundation, released in April 2016, found that the agreement would have resulted in the adoption of government policies that dramatically increased electricity costs for a family of four between 13 and 20 percent annually. In addition, the analysis found that American families would lose out on some $20,000 in income by 2035, regressive (not progressive) economic policies that no doubt would hit the nation�s poorest the hardest. [Meanwhile, we�re sure that Obama won�t have any trouble paying his electric bill, no matter what it costs] Other analysts, as Trump noted in his speech, noted that the loss of U.S. annual gross domestic product would be close to $3 trillion by 2035, while reducing employment in the U.S.

by about 400,000 jobs, half of which would be in manufacturing. But perhaps most galling of all is the fact that even the far Left admitted that the agreement would accomplish virtually nothing � and certainly was not the global carbon emissions destroyer its principle advocates made it out to be. Politico Europe reported: In fact, emissions reductions are barely on the table at all. Instead, the talks are rigged to ensure an agreement is reached regardless of how little action countries plan to take. The developing world, projected to account for four-fifths of all carbon-dioxide emissions this century, will earn applause for what amounts to a promise to stay on their pre-existing trajectory of emissions-intensive growth. As Trump said, �The agreement is a massive redistribution of wealth from the U.S. to other countries.� There is no good reason to remain in it, just as there was no good reason for Obama to have signed it..

 

Climate change is simple: David Roberts at TEDxTheEvergreenStateCollege

Hi, this talk started out of a Twitter conversation. I haven’t decided whether to be embarrassed about that or not. But I was on Twitter one day and a relatively prominent left of centre pundit, piped up and said “You know, climate change seems like a really big deal, why are so few people talking about it? Why have so few thought leaders made it their signature issue?” And another reasonably prominent left of centre pundit piped up and said “Well, for my part, the reason I don’t talk about it is it seems really complicated, I don’t feel like I have a good grasp on all the science and so I just don’t feel qualified to go out and assert things publicly about it.” You know, anybody who has ever so much as mentioned climate change on television or on the internet will understand why this person thinks the way they do.

Any time you mention it, the hordes descend, bearing complicated stories about the medieval ice age, or sunspots, or water vapour, and, you know, there is a lot of myths about climate change borne by these climate sceptics but to debunk those myths you have to know, you know, you have to go online, and research, and read, and be able to respond to them in detail, and a lot of people just find that prospect dreary, and so they don’t bother. And this, of course, drives me crazy, so I piped up on Twitter and said “You know, climate change is not actually that complicated. What you need to know to be able to speak out publicly about it, just about the basic structure of the problem, is really not that complicated, I could explain it to you in 15 minutes” so, let this be a lesson to you: don’t go talk smack on Twitter, unless you are willing to back it up. So, one thing led to another, and here I am with 15 minutes to explain climate change to you.

So, let’s get started. Why is the Earth not a cold dead rock floating in space? The reason is that it is enveloped by this tiny, tiny thin layer of gases and chemicals that we call our atmosphere. So, the Sun’s energy, rather than just coming down and bouncing right back off, it comes down and is held close to the surface of the Earth for a while and then bounces off, and then this simple process is why we have evaporation, and precipitation, and photosynthesis, and life on our planet. So, scientists discovered, well over a hundred years ago, that the atmosphere and the systems on Earth are in this dynamic relationship and you can change the chemical composition of the atmosphere and hold more of the Sun’s energy for longer. The energy still has to escape, of course, but in the meantime it will cause changes in these biophysical systems of the Earth. And, you know, you often hear people say, “The Earth has always changed, the climate has always changed”, and that’s true, it has. This relationship between the atmosphere and the systems, they go through cycles, but these cycles have typically taken hundreds of thousand of years, millions of years.

The key thing to know first is that for the last 10,000 years on Earth, the climate has been relatively stable, unusually stable, and by stable I mean temperature has varied, it’s gone up and down, but it’s stayed on a fairly narrow band of about plus or minus 1 degree Celsius, and all of advanced human civilisation has taken place during these 10,000 years, the development of agriculture, the written word, the wheel, the iPhone, everything we know, everything we have built, we have done in this period of relative climate stability. So, what we have been doing for the last couple of hundred years is digging up carbon out of the earth, and throwing it up into the atmosphere, and changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere, like has happened in the past except for extremely faster. In geological time, the blink of an eye, we are substantially changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere and all of climate science has been about, “What’s going to happen? What is the Earth going to do in response to this?” And so, we’ve already seen that the process is underway, we have measured, we have witnessed, observed with our eyes and our thermometers about a 0.

8ºC rise in global average temperature since before the industrial age, since before we started digging all this carbon up. And this may not seem like a lot — less than 1ºC — but the thing to know about it is these greenhouse gases we throw up stay in the atmosphere for a very long time, there are very long time lags involved here so this 0.8º temperature rise is a response to what we were doing 50-100 years ago, and what we see in the first half of this century will be a response to what we’ve done in the last 50 years and what we’ll see in the latter half of this century will be a response to decisions we make today. So the question is, “Temperature’s rising, how high does it have to rise before we need to worry, before we’re in danger, before bad things start happening?” The typical answer to this question has been “2ºC.” Anyone who has followed climate change discussions knows that this 2º number has taken on a kind of iconic quality.

Typically, climate scientists who model impacts of what’s going to happen, model 2ºC rise, typically economists who try to model what it would cost to do something about climate change or what it’s worth or what various policies would cost, model 2º centigrade. So obviously, what counts as not dangerous vs dangerous, is not a hard scientific question, it’s a political question, and this was a political decision to take this 2C number, mainly made by European climate negotiators well over 10 years ago, and it’s just sort of stuck since then. All the countries involved in climate negotiations have basically signed on saying “Yes, this is what we want to avoid, 2ºC temperature rise.” The bad news on this 2C number is twofold: first of all, all the latest science done in the last 10-15 years has pointed to the conclusion that those impacts we thought were going to happen around 2ºC are in fact going to happen much earlier than that, the climate is more sensitive to these added greenhouse gases than we thought. So, if those were the impacts we were worried about, then the real threshold of safety ought to be something like 1.

5ºC. James Hansen is the climate scientist most famously known for raising these warnings, but it’s a growing scientific consensus that 2º is, in fact, dangerously high, which is bad, because we are almost certainly going to blow past 2ºC. There’s some reason to believe a recent study said that even if we stopped our carbon emissions tomorrow, we’re still going to get more than 3º this century just from momentum from the previous emissions. But stopping at 2º now would take a level of global coordination and ambition that is nowhere in evidence. So, a lot of climate scientists don’t really want to tell you this because they don’t want to depress you, but I am just a blogger, so I am happy to depress you: 2ºC is probably off the table. So, then the question becomes “Well, what would it look like if temperature goes higher than that? What would, say, 4ºC look like?” Oddly, there hadn’t really been a lot of concerted scientific attention to that question because climate scientists honestly thought we wouldn’t do that to ourselves, but we are doing it to ourselves.

So, in 2009, several climate change research groups in England drew together a group of scientists, commissioned some papers and had them really take a hard look for the first time. What would 4ºC look like? There are a lot of papers, a lot of equations, a lot of talk and complexity I have hopefully paraphrased here for you, to make it easier to grasp. 4ºC temperature rise would look ugly. Among other things, that would be the hottest the Earth has been in 30 million years. Sea-levels would rise at least 3-6 feet, and this excludes some really tail end possibilities, but 3-6 feet at least. And persistent drought would cover about 40% of the currently occupied land on Earth, which would wreak havoc on agriculture in East Asia, Africa, South America, Western US. Well this combined will produce hundreds of millions of people who have been driven from their homes either by their cities being swamped by sea-level rise or by hunger or by all the attended ills that come along with those things.

And, to boot, probably somewhere around half of the known species on Earth would go extinct. This question of pinning down the exact number of species is very difficult, this is very much an approximation, but some substantial chunk of life on Earth would be wiped out. The final bit of bad news… that’s not true, there’s more bad news to come, a middle bit of bad news is that, according to a recent paper by the International Energy Agency, we are currently on track — if we keep doing what we are now doing, if we go on with business as usual, as it’s called — we are now on track for 6ºC temperature rise this century; something, 5-7, these are obviously estimations. So, if 4º is hell on Earth, I’ll let your imaginations filling the blanks on 6º but, one danger that comes up when we contemplate going this high with our temperature is the possibility that climate change will become irreversable.

I think when people typically think about climate change, they think, “Oh, temperature is going to rise X amount, circumstances will change, some places will get warmer, some places will get wetter, we’ll adjust, we’ll move our farms around, people will migrate from one city to another, we’ll get resettled and we’ll go on with life. The really dangerous possibility is that what are called — the Earth has several of what are called positive feedback systems, so, for instance, in Siberia there is this permanent ice, the permafrost and it contains a bunch of methane in it. As it melts, it releases that methane, the methane causes more warming, which melts more ice, which releases more methane, it’s a self-sustaining process; or sea ice melts, ice is white, it reflects energy, when it melts becomes dark blue and absorbs more energy, which heats the oceans, which melts more ice, which creates more dark surfaces.

You see, there’s a number of these systems that are self-perpetuating, and the danger, the great danger of climate change, that towers above all these other more specific dangers, is that these positive feedback systems will take on a momentum of their own that becomes unstoppable, and human beings will lose any ability to control it at all, even if we’d stop all our climate emissions on a dime. Will that happen at 2º? Probably not though there is a real chance of it and there is a lot of debate about that; will it happen at 4º? Well, it looks a lot more likely at 4º. Will it happen at 6º? Almost certainly. So, if we continue on our present course, climate change will probably take on a life of its own, spiral out of control and, according to a recent paper, by 2300, we could see temperature rise of up to 12ºC.

Now if that happened, something like half the Earth’s currently inhabited land would become too hot to survive on; and when I say too hot to survive on I don’t mean it’s difficult to grow beans or air conditioning bills are inconveniently high, I mean if you go outside you die of hotness. I mean, places that were an average of 80ºF would be now an average of 170-180ºF, literally too hot for human beings to go outside and survive. So, will there still be human civilization under those circumstances? Who knows, I mean, maybe we’ll live in underground climate controlled caves, maybe we’ll grow food in test tubes, but that wouldn’t look anything like Earth as we now know it, it would look a lot more like Newt Gingrich’s moon colony, assuming any human beings, or at least enough to make a civilization survived in those circumstances. So, when I say “Climate change is simple.” — I know this has been bugging you, you are not used to thinking in Celsius, those strange European metric temperatures, so here is good American Fahrenheit, it’s just as ugly. So this is what I mean by climate change being simple: There are many complicated and fascinating discussions to be had about what to do about it, or about what effect our actions might have on the climate and when, or which policies are best based on cost benefit analyses.

There is complexity, plenty of complexity, for those of you who like complexity, but we now know to a fair degree of certainty that if we keep doing what we are now doing, we will face unthinkable catastrophe; that’s the bumper sticker, that’s the take home message, and that, you know, saying “I don’t want to talk about that because I don’t know the ins and outs” is like saying, “I don’t want to raise alarms about Hitler’s army being a hundred miles out, because I don’t know the thread count of their uniforms, or, I don’t know the average calorie intake of a German soldier.” You don’t need to know those things to be scared that the army’s on the march and to raise alarms about it.

Similarly, if we keep doing what we are now doing, we are screwed, this we know now. To stabilize temperature, and I don’t mean stabilize temperature at 2º, or 4º, or 6º, I mean to ever have a hope of ever again having a stable temperature, of any kind, global climate change emissions need to peak, stop growing, peak and start falling rapidly in the next 5-10 years. Every year we do not get started on this, we add, according to the International Energy Agency, an extra 500 billion, with a B, dollars to the price tag of what it is going to cost us to do this, eventually, every year we wait. That’s $500 billion down the drain. Now, you and I look around at current politics, particularly US politics, and massive coordinated intelligent ambitious action does not strike us as particularly plausible. In fact, it might strike us as impossible, but that is where we are, stuck between the impossible and the unthinkable.

So, your job, anyone who hears this, for the rest of your life, your job is to make the impossible possible. Thank you! (Applause).

How Powerful Is The G7?

In June, seven of the world’s most influential government leaders met in Germany for the 2015 G7 summit. The group discussed major geopolitical issues including terrorism and sanctions against Russia. So how powerful is the G7? First, its origins: the “Group of Seven”, started out as the “Group of Six”, back in 1975, but it’s not considered a formal institution, and has no formal charter. In the beginning, the G6 included: the US, the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, which were some of the wealthiest countries at the time. They called their first meeting to discuss the looming global oil crisis, but its membership and discussions have fluctuated over time. Canada was added in 1976, The European Commission has been continuously present since 1981. And Russia was added in 1998, then suspended for invading Ukraine in 2014 – so membership can be lost or gained. Nothing guarantees it. What has remained consistent, is the group’s influence: G7 members collectively represent nearly half of the world’s total GDP.

This powerhouse meets for two days every year in a series of private meetings and public media briefings. Most recently, the G7 was criticized after its “Think ahead, act together” 2015 summit, for ending with mere “COMMITMENTS” to progress, rather than any tangible solutions. Although, to be fair, the G7 leaders are not required to make concrete plans. Still, they agreed to extend sanctions against Russia, phase out fossil fuels by the end of the century, and end extreme poverty and terrorism. However, critics note that the success of these commitments hinge on whether the G7 leaders can implement them on a global scale. The other major point of criticism of the G7 is its seeming reluctance to include other major countries in the talks – particularly China and Russia. This has caused many to question their overall effectiveness or relevance. Because member countries represent only 10.

5% of the world’s population, some view G7 politicians as an elite minority governing an underrepresented majority. Nations like India and Brazil have even surpassed some G7 members in GDP, yet still have not been able to join. And the opposition has become quite vocal – including Brazil’s former president who in 2008 remarked that “the G8 doesn’t have any more reason to exist”. So how powerful is the G7? Well, despite their superpower roster, their effectiveness as an organization remains unclear. Their use of vague “commitments” and the lack of representation makes it questionable whether the organization can effect any real change. But they have been able to support democracy throughout the world through financial aid and the use of sanctions. One could argue that the G7s true power lies in the super power’s potential for effecting significant global progress, should they choose to exercise it.

The UN may be a huge organization with just about every country on the planet as a member, but are they really that powerful? Check out our video here to learn all about it. OH, and we’re almost at 500,000 subscribers, so please help us out and subscribe now! Thanks for watching..

Turning down the heat on controversial topics like Climate Change | Waleed Abdalati | TEDxMileHigh

Thank you. I want to talk today about something that is very important to me, it's about communicating controversial topics. My research is related to climate change. I've served as a chief scientist at NASA, I'm the director of a large environmental research organization, and in that capacity, I tend to talk to people of all sorts about climate. What I'm going to talk to you about today is climate, but more generally speaking, communicating controversial topics. And I've talked about climate matters to the general public, to fellow scientists, to legislators, to the members of the White House, in both the Bush and the Obama administration; you can imagine those conversations were probably quite different. And I'm going to talk to you about some of the things I've learned, the things I carry forward in those conversations that I hope you'll carry forward in yours as well.

Communicating controversial topics. Sometimes this reminds me of my experiences in Washington D.C., but I'll let you to interpret that however you want. The tools of communication: words, attitude, and your clarity of purpose, and I'll get to each of those in a minute. But I want to start with a clipping from the Washington Post at the end of last year about the healthcare.gov website. When it was having problems and overcoming those problems, this article came out in the Washington Post. 800,000 visits a day, 50,000 people at one time being able to apply, but I want to call your attention to this: "Democrats optimistic, GOP skeptical." The same data interpreted very differently depending on who's doing the interpretation. What this means, what this says to me in many cases: "It is often less about the data than the narrative." We all have our perceptions of the world, how it works, and we look at the data through those perceptions, and this shapes our interpretation. This is a fundamental thing to understand as you communicate with friends, colleagues, others about controversial topics such as climate change.

I mentioned words. Words matter. Words set the tone, words convey your opinion of something, they put the audience, the person you're speaking to in a certain posture to receive your message or to resist your message. I'm going to give you just a few examples. Estate tax. A tax on the wealth you leave behind after you die, that is one way of describing it. Others choose to describe this as the death tax, the final kick in the pants by the U.S. government as you head to your grave. Words matter. Stand-your-ground law. To some this is the right to not have to retreat when you feel threatened and actually fight back with deadly force, even if you could retreat. To others, this is a license to kill. Why not retreat when you can? Why stay and kill someone? Words matter. The same situations, but cast very, very differently. Here are just a few other examples: job-killing taxes versus revenue for national needs; affordable health care, Obama care; government intervention, the common good. Different ways of describing the same phenomena, but the words say something about how you feel, and depending on which of these words you use when you talk to someone, you'll elicit a certain kind of posture, a certain kind of response.

Attitude matters. I love this. Would you want to build a sandcastle with this kid? (Laughter) Actually, I would, why not? Attitude matters, OK? People, much more than what you say, remember how you make them feel. This is what your attitude does, it sets the mood of a conversation. It will either put people in a resistive posture, if you're forth-coming, if you're strong, you're coming at them with both barrels, or, perhaps, a more receptive posture, if you're a little more open, if you're a little more receiving. The third is purpose, clarity of purpose. You need to be clear on your goals. What is the purpose of your conversation? To some people it's just about convincing, it's just about winning. When I talk to people, my interest is not so much about getting a certain outcome, I'm not a lobbyist; my interest is getting them to think differently than, perhaps, they have.

And getting myself to think differently than, perhaps, I have. It's a two-way–, it's engagement, it's not talking at someone, it's engaging someone, to move people, to move the conversation forward. So my sort of rules of engagement, I have four. The first is understand the context. I like to say your adversaries are not as dumb as you want them to be. Think about that! How many times have we all done it: "Oh, it's just so stupid! Why are you so stupid? If you could just see things the way I see them. If you knew what I knew, you'd see things my way." People feel the way they feel because of the values. It's usually not just that they're dumb, it's just that they view things differently than you do. Once you do that, you can frame your ideas in ways that resonate, in ways that connect with people, meet them where they are. Don't tell people what to think. Understand that beliefs are rooted in values, so when you tell people what to think, you're directly challenging their values.

And the third – if you take one thing away from this talk, please, let it be this – don't expect your values to change other people's beliefs. If you're going into a conversation thinking that because I value this, I can convince this person of the same thing I think, you're not going to have a constructive conversation. So understand the context, frame ideas in ways that resonate, don't tell people what to think, and don't expect your values to change other people's beliefs. When I put this into practice, when I have a conversation with a person about climate change, to get at that, I like to do two things. The first is I like to speak in simple, logical, intuitive statements. So I'll use something that we can both agree on as a starting point. In the area of climate change, it's this: "If we put heat-trapping gas into the atmosphere, it will trap heat." You don't have to be a genius to understand this statement. Most people, you know, I can get that far in the conversation. I'm not thinking about the outcomes, let's start at the beginning.

You can argue about how much heat and what's too much, what's not, – well, never not enough – but what's too much, what is tolerable. But the basic principle: heat-trapping gas will trap heat. The other is we all share some common core principles. We all want to be safe. We all value freedom. We all want opportunities to prosper. These are the common principles, whether I'm talking to a Republican congressman, a Democratic congressman, Tea Party, independent, whatever. Those are things we all value. Some of us are willing to give up more of one to gain another, others the opposite, but when we start in that place, we can have a meaningful conversation, no matter how far apart we may seem to be. This is a graph of the Dow Jones Industrial for the last 110 years, the stock market, the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It may not have much on its face to do with climate in the way you look at it, but, in fact, it does.

If you look at his curve, – it's on a logarithmic scale, so it's a bit compressed – but if you look at this curve, you see that it goes up, it goes down; in general, it goes up over the long period, over the full period of the cycle, and over the last decade or two, it has actually leveled off quite a bit. If you look at the climate curve, the temperature curve, for the last 150 years, it goes up, it goes down, on balance, goes up quite a bit, it has leveled off some over the last decade. I use this analogy because, you know, everybody wants stocks to go up, everybody can look at the graph of the stock and get a sense of what it's doing. When we do this in the context of temperature, I'll bring it back to stocks. You would never look at one stock, you'd never look at one short period of time to understand the trend.

If you took a five-year snapshot of anywhere on here, you might see rapid raises, rapid declines, you'd never say this is what is telling us what the markets are doing in the long term; no, you'll look at a longer data set. The same is true with temperature. Similarly, the leveling off at the top, the basic principles of economics and investment, the odds are the market is going to continue to go up. You can't look at that leveling and say: "The graph has stopped, the market is coming down, it's going to go back to what it was in 1902." You'd never do that. The other thing is you'd never look at one stock or a handful of stocks – they're climbing, increasing, whatever, – and say: "This is what the market is doing." You want an index, a representative index, you want SND 500, you want 500 stocks, you want to collect enough data to make meaningful contributions. Yet, people do this with temperature all the time.

People will grab a small snapshot. This last summer, Tyler, Texas, and Lubbock, Texas had a record-low high temperature in July. So it was the lowest high temperature in July, I think it was 77 degrees, and people took that and said: "Wow, it's done! There is your climate warming, it's done." You can't do that. Nor can take an extremely hot year and say: "Oh, we're cooking. This is what it's going to be like from here on now." You don't pick narrow time frames, and you don't pick one place. There are places on the Earth that are cooling, many places on the Earth that are cooling. That does not tell us what the Earth is doing as a whole, a collection of the data tell us that. One more analogy to the stock market. This is a reconstruction of temperature histories for the last 1,000 years, the famous Hockey Stick, it's called. If these were stocks, – these are different reconstructions, this is what different people find – if these were stocks, or a stock history of a company, you'd look at about 1850, 1900 and say: "Wow, something happened there.

What did they do? Did they change the management? Did they introduce a new product? Did they realize some efficiencies?" You'd want to know, you'd dig into it, but you'd say there was a change there. If this were money, you would say there was a change there, or [if this were] value of a stock. The same is true with temperature. There was a change there, something happened in the period of the Industrial Revolution. By drawing the analogy to the stock, I'm sort of taking it out of the controversial realm and saying: "Let's just look at data, forget our ideologies. What do the data say?" When looking at it in that context, you look at it differently. You look at it and ask different kinds of questions.

So these are climate model predictions for the future. What you see in gray is the past, what our models say happened before, so you get a sense of how good or bad they are by the uncertainty, the width of that gray band. In the future, we see different scenarios. One, a leveling off of temperature, that is if we drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions; the other, the red at the top, is 'business as usual' as we call it, if we don't make any changes and just continue with our activities unabated. There is a range of futures out there. This is what the basic physics tell us. Now, we can have a conversation about our differing values and how we should address this, but the basic physics, the basic principles tell us this. So I come back to the Earth. I was a chief scientist at NASA, I spent a lot of time looking at the Earth this way. A lot of you look at it up close and personally, that is great too, but I come back to the Earth. I'm not going to sit here and say: "You will experience drought. You will experience flooding. Where you live is going to go up 2 degrees, where you live is going to go up 4 degrees." I can't really say that, and I don't think that's the right conversation to have.

I think the right conversation to have is we are stressing the planet, we are putting heat-trapping gas into the atmosphere. it is trapping heat, that causes temperatures to rise, and that puts us in a different kind of risk posture for the future, a higher risk posture. How do we address that? Is the cost of not doing anything greater than the cost of doing things? That is the kind of conversation you got to have, and if I come at you with: "The world is getting warmer, it's going to be anarchy," many people will shut down. The people that won't, are those that already believe it, and I don't need to have that conversation. We're stressing the planet. And that puts our future in a very uncertain state. This doesn't have to be a story though about bad news, about repression, or suppression. If we look at the challenge of climate change, I think it can actually be a different kind of story.

A story about national security, a story about energy independence, a story about prosperity, a story about giving to our future generations. And when cast in that context, sure, these challenges are current structures, but these are the kinds of things that people value, these are the kinds of topics we can have conversations around. And I encourage you, as you talk about anything controversial, think of your narrative, think of the other person's narrative, think about how you can frame the discussion in ways that resonate with people, in ways that connect with people. Finally, I want to leave you with this last thought. One person's sunset is another person's sunrise. It's really a matter of your perspective, how you view things, where you sit when you look at the phenomena. So, as you go out and as you communicate, I encourage you all avoid the sunset and seek the sunrise. Thank you. (Applause).

Re-Envisioning Climate Change Through Art by Marcus Moench

You know, there needs to be passion. There needs to be art. If we can’t tell the stories that will change the world, we can’t change it. So, this is one of my newest tools for climate communications. For talking about resilience, for changing the nature of dialogue, what we think about, how we connect with people. Who am I?

My background is as a scientist. I was introduced as a scientist. I formed an international organization. We’ve worked across Asia, Southeast Asia, India, Nepal, Vietnam, Thailand, areas like that. We also work here, and we’re looking at what people are doing to help themselves, to respond to disasters, to adapt to climate change, to adapt to the things that affect people in their daily life. That’s who I am. My brother, who I’m collaborating with, a potter. But I think there’s something a little deeper there. We both came from a family that believes that it doesn’t matter what you do. You can do anything as long as you change the world and that’s a passion for me. The idea that we can create different forms of dialogue, connect people so that they can understand what resilience means, what the ability to adapt to something big like climate change is.

“A gas pipeline was backed into by a backhoe, it cracked open, gas poured into the creek, caught fire”

That is something that is a passion for me. We started to pull together a collaboration to say, “How can we tell this?” He’s a potter, but it’s something deeper than that. He tells stories with his wheels, he tells narratives, and the idea was to pull this together to tell the narrative of the threat, but also something about the solution, something that is artistic and playful, but that is also real, grounded in things people do, things they can do to create change. This was the first wheel my brother made. It was following a pipeline disaster in Bellingham, Washington. A gas pipeline was backed into by a backhoe, it cracked open, gas poured into the creek, caught fire. The two or three kids fishing in the creek, an 18-year-old, a friend of his neighbor, were burned to death. He thought there needed to be a way to tell this, so his art has evolved, as you can see on the screen. This is the first one he did, but it was telling the story of the pipeline disaster, and since then, he’s made another wheel to tell the story of the creek’s recovery.

In a nutshell, that’s what we’re trying to do using this. What’s the world I live in? The world I live in is full of reports and papers. I have contributed on things to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Those reports are read by another emu. There are five or ten people who read the details of all of it. It doesn’t communicate to everybody and it doesn’t give that tangible sense of what we can really do. But the ideas that we’ve put into these, these actually are grounded. They’re grounded in beauty and ceramics, which is static, but is mobile as a story, but also grounded in real change, what people actually can do in response to things that are often very daunting. I don’t know how you feel, but when I look at climate, I often feel tremendously disempowered.

What am I supposed to do? These governmental, the global processes, are distant, intangible, very difficult to connect with. The meanings generate political divisions. But on the other hand, there are many things that I see from my work where people are doing things. When I look at the grand narrative, emissions and climate, there’s very little I can do. But when I begin to look at the details, when I begin to say, “if I have a fear of falling, the way many people often do in the world, what else can be done?” This is the kind of narrative that has to be changed. So, as I look at it, I go through the elements of the threat. I see things like groundwater overdraft. I’ve lead the groundwater review for India at one stage in my life. There’s tremendous over-pumping. It’s the same in California. You get in the image, art can tell a picture in a way that a picture can’t. This is a well in Southern India, ten by ten meters square, a hundred meters deep, eighty more wells in the bottom: totally dry.

“About 90% of the people there have raised their houses by one to three meters”

What can you do about that? This is the type of thing that we hear fear of regularly: flooding, disaster. That narrative is one that is often locationally grounded in specifics. If I showed this picture everybody would think, “It’s India, that happens all the time,” but on the other hand, I was standing on my porch in Boulder a few years ago, and it felt the same: tremendously disempowering. But in India, Northern India, where I’ve worked in the Gangetic basin, about 90% of the people there have raised their houses by one to three meters. It’s not rocket science, and they’re actually able so that they’re not losing every asset every year. That’s a huge change, it’s incremental, and it’s been made by people who are individuals doing it, acting in the space that they have.

They can control their houses, even if they can’t control the global narrative. We look at fire. There were the Australian fires a few years ago, there are the California fires now. It’s a global thing. And yet, the response is real. There are things we can do, and many of them are. If you look in Colorado at the rebuilding, there are changes in the housing design. It’s being driven by individuals, and this is a huge solution space. It’s not solving all of the problems, but it is solving an element, and if we can get individual solutions to emerge, and can recognize them and change our narrative, we can actually create large solution spaces. It’s not going to solve everything, but then we can be open to innovation on those problems that we don’t have solutions for. It’s growing those. The drought issues, you take a picture like this that communicates across Asia. You take a reality like this, it’s California. You take the growth of cities and the tremendous pollution, but there are other ways of envisioning cities.

“If we can monitor, then we can correct what other people are doing”

And here, this is where we get our fear often. This is the idea that we live based on systems, that everything is flowing up from the roots of the tree, and that that’s under tremendous threat. So the idea is to see the problem, but also find the solution, and find that through play, find that through other things. Part of it is being a little reverent about the world we live in. Part of it is playing, being out there experiencing it. Part of it is study, in a playful manner. Being able to understand the migration patterns, the other beings that live in this world with us. Part of it is monitoring and if anything, that’s a dull topic, but it’s an important one. You look at a monitoring station like this, which happens to be Rawalpindi in Pakistan on floods. It seems distant, but that is what empowers us and kids, monitoring things to change. If we can monitor, then we can correct what other people are doing. We can stop people who are filling in the wetlands, stop people who are damming the rivers in places, or address the questions of pollution.

We’ve just heard things about VW, for example. We can also innovate, changing water, looking at energy approaches, community engagement, lots of things like that. This is where we can re-envision our cities. We’ve worked globally on re-envisioning cities and it’s been a collaborative process of many people looking at how you can build resilience in cities. It’s often through those tousand 1% solutions. It’s through people changing design, learning to live with water, telling that story. It’s also through those simple solutions. I talked about people in North India raising houses. Well, it’s happening here as well. If you look up in Lyons where the flooding was, if you look in New Orleans, it’s not rocket science. It’s raising a house, designing it to live with water. This is happening in Boulder.

It’s just a local move; it’s probably not a big solution, but it’s going to keep this apartment building from flooding the next time, perhaps. So it’s innovating. In South Asia, it’s often harvesting water from the rooftops. That’s the same in Australia. It’s recharging the ground water. All of these are part of a mosaic of solutions, and to me, it’s experiencing it, getting out there and being in contact, and it’s telling that story in a way that you can see it, so it’s not this distant cloud of climate change, it’s today’s activities on the ground, things that people can do themselves adding up that can make a huge difference, and then pair down the global problems to a place where they’re much more tractable. So it’s that re-envisioning the systems, remembering that everything we depend on, the food, the energy, the water, it’s not as though we’re going to get rid of old systems. Many of those are needed, they’re essential. But it’s also the slight shift in balance and telling that story.

“Somebody in Germany took a power station and changed it into a playground, and shifted the energy balance”

How instead of talking individually, we can talk as groups. How we can choose to have local agriculture, how we can choose to have local water management, how we can build those pieces that add resilience to society. That’s to me the story that needs to be told because it’s one which empowers people, it’s one which tells people that it’s actually the solution that’s within their grasp not someone else’s. This is something where working with artists has been a delight. It’s not just my brother who I’ve worked with, it’s others as well. This is another; somebody in Germany took a power station and changed it into a playground, and shifted the energy balance. It’s reusing, all of that aggregating upwards. We’d like anyone who’s interested to put in their ideas, because I think the power of art is inspiring. It helps people put in their ideas of what can be done at different levels, and that’s how you build real solutions. So for me, art is a passion, but it’s also a mechanism for getting real change.

If we can’t envision a different future, if we can’t believe in it as hopeful, how can we create it? To me, that is part of the solution. This is a water wheel that my brother also made. He’s at a reception right now for an environmental award in Bellingham based on some of his work around this. The idea of communicating, getting change going, getting people passionate through something that’s tangible. The world is electronic now, and yet, I’m carrying the original word processor, or at least one of them. You know? And my wife would kill me for having the pen in my pocket. It is that tangibility, and with clay, you can touch it, you can feel it, you can move it, and you can take your ideas, put them inside, as the Tibetans do with prayer wheels, and have them accumulate. Those can go out electronically, but you’ve done something physical.

Choosing a Life Without Trash | Sam McMullen | TEDxUofM

Eight months ago I decided to become "that guy". (Laughter) My sister Liddy and I committed to live trash-free for a year. Of course, no one can live completely trash-free, but we are pretty close. This is my trash and recycling for the past eight months. We did this initially because we wanted to feel like we were doing something about climate change. An issue that Lydia had spent her entire college career, a Fulbright Fellowship and all her time in the Natural Resources Defense Council working on. And I had spent countless minutes watching YouTube videos about. (Laughter) At first we were awful at it, we were so bad. Our first trash-free dinner sauce, eating out of a serving dish with chopsticks that I'd run back to the apartment to get because this is how our plates were given to us, wrapped in plastic.

We also had to improvise a take home container. See those stickers? That means I care about the environment. (Laughter) On the eighteen hour plane ride back from China, I didn't drink any water because they make me dump out my water bottle before boarding. And when I did get back the first thing I did, was create trash. I was out with a friend and before I knew it there was a drink in front of me with this napkin under it and this straw in it. Over the next few months my mistakes ranged from having to buy a packaged sandwich in an emergency room in York, Pennsylvania to literally forgetting that I was doing the whole waste-free thing and buying a brand-new chain tool to repair a bike. A lot of good that did me low because the bike is still in my basement – broken. So all of this led to me being introduced to you as an environmental activist. Now I thought that was kind of funny when I first read it, because I don't think of myself as much of an activist. What I started to realize was that by living without trash I had to enlist the help of everyone around me.

My professors had to agree to let me send them homework via email. My wait staff had to remember not to put the straw in the water. And at first I thought this would make me come off as total snob. But what I quickly realized was that if you just check your ego and understand and acknowledge that what you're asking for is a little bit ridiculous, it quickly becomes a team effort rather than an imposition of my values on someone else's life. The beautiful thing about this whole thing is that when once people have been an accomplice to an act of trashlessness they start to think about their own impact. Or you get texts weeks after having a meal with someone of someone is saying, "Hey, Sam, what do you do about toilet paper?" Or I'll get a snapshot of a napkin that someone didn't use. And by the way we still use toilet paper. Don't worry! (Laughter) This aspect of going zero waste that forces conversations about it is, I guess, a kind of activism. But why would we go zero waste and does it even make a difference? I'm sure we've all seen this graph of CO2 emissions. We've all had this picture come up on your timelines; we've all watched this video.

We all live in a world where these things are true, but we're not there, we're here and here is fine. We're confronted with this massive issue where cause and effect are completely separated. If you live in the developed world, like I do, you're probably never going to see the whole impact that your lifestyle actually has. That's probably because we are really good at exporting all the bad stuff and importing the finished product. 95% of a product's environmental impact happens before you even open the package. 95 percent – that's why we've included recycling in our trash because even though the product might be recycable, that 95% still applies. You just don't see it. If we're being honest with ourselves we know what the problem is, right? We know that we just use too much new stuff and use too many resources but the solution is scary. Not getting new stuff is really hard. It's the worst. Keeping that shirt for next year isn't that sexy, getting your phone off Craigslist rather than buying the newest model isn't that chic.

It doesn't feel quite right to turn down that piece of gum. But real action? The kind that addresses our biggest challenges is going to be just that: challenging. Cutting your dependency on trash is a little hard but hard is good in this case. In fact, hard is great. It forces us to notice what's happening and do something about it. Like saying, "Hey, any chance to get that coffee in a ceramic mug rather than in a paper cup?" So what we need is not the next easy fix, we need something manageably hard that has a real impact. That's where trash comes in super handy because for every piece of trash we throw away like this pizza box, it's a sort of representation of the upstream impacts like the transportation costs, the resources used to make it or the wrapping at the store or the extraction of those resources and the energy used to do all those things. For every pound of trash we create, seven pounds are created upstream. Now all of this is a real downer, I'm sorry, but it represents a choice, right? That's the flip side. With every wrapper, every bag, every new item we buy, we have a direct influence on all those systems and we can opt out. The fight against climate change is won and lost billions of times every single day in each of our choices.

This realization was crucial for my sister and me because even though we felt great about the fact that we're doing a zero waste year, in reality we weren't having that much of an impact, right? Because the two of us doing it for a year is about 20,000 pounds of waste which is great, but nowhere near enough. So over Christmas break at about 4 a.m. I shake Lydia awake and we have an idea that you can probably only have in the middle of the night. What if instead of some "now-jean-carrying", "same pair-of-jeans- since-August-of-07-having" or "shower-when-I'm-dead-environmentalist" doing this for months and years, what if everyone or a group of people from around the world did this for a day? Tried it. And then if they wanted to extend it for a week or a month, we'd be there to help them. So we got serious and started an organization called "Live Zero Waste".

With the goal of giving people resources and a community who are trying to live trash-free. Now what got us so excited about this idea was that even just trying for a day would at least give people a chance to audit their lives and realize that trash is a choice and maybe demonstrate to them that they can have a concrete and measurable impact on climate change. Yes, they could see what they were doing. They could see, yes, I can change something because what is so powerful about this way of life isn't necessarily the trash you avoid, it's the idea that the majority of our trash could be avoided by a simple increase in awareness and a little creativity. The average American wastes 4.4 pounds of trash per day, but going zero waste for a day is more than that 4.4 pounds; it's that and the thirty-plus pounds for the upstream impact. It's having a tangible representation of your environmental footprint. And it's the awareness that imparts on every single person you meet during your trash-free day or week or month or heck on a year. At this point I should sort of admit that going waste-free has been a little bit of a sacrifice in certain ways, but hugely rewarding in others.

Without even noticing it, it shifts your focus from stuff to relationships, from money spent on things to time spent on experiences. Going "Zero Waste" is an opportunity to take problems big, important, international problems and address them in our daily lives with our daily choices. So instead of asking, what will our government do to fix this? Or, why isn't this NGO doing more?, the questions become, can each of us separate individuals come together and make the choices we know we need to make to combat climate change? Can we be the bold ones to cut into what we thought of as necessities? Who's going to step up and be the exception that in time will define a whole new set of rules? And I think it's you. Now I'm just some college student but that's exactly the point. We're all just some college student or just some barista or just some CEO, but together we're incredible.

We now more than ever have the power to shape the environment we live in. We're the first generation to know beyond a shadow of a doubt what we've done to this planet but also what we can do to fix it. So I'll leave you with a promise and a request. My promise is to do everything I can to make living waste-free as accessible as possible and to build a community of people committed to taking concrete action against climate change. And my request, that each of you tomorrow whether you're in this auditorium or watching online give living zero waste a shot for one day. One of my best friends called me up the other day and she said, "I just can't imagine how I would do this, I don't know where to start how do you do it?" And if I thought this were some Herculean task, I'd feel the need to give you detailed instructions. But honestly what it comes down to is waking up tomorrow morning making a choice and sticking to it as best you can.

And if you mess up, put it in a bag or a pizza box. I think you'll be surprised by how much waste you can avoid, how many interesting conversations you'll have and how many of your own habits you can change by simply noticing, the napkin and the straw. Thank you. (Applause).