Al Gore: Should We Feel Optimistic ... About Climate Change? Vice President Al Gore says that — despite the dismal news on climate change — he's optimistic.
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Should We Feel Optimistic ... About Climate Change?

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Should We Feel Optimistic ... About Climate Change?

Should We Feel Optimistic ... About Climate Change?

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

It's the TED Radio Hour from NPR. I'm Guy Raz. And on today's show, The Case For Optimism, which, let's be honest, isn't such an easy case to MAKE.

(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)

AL GORE: We're spewing 110 million tons of heating-trapping global warming pollution every 24 hours. And there are many...

RAZ: This is former Vice President Al Gore speaking at TED. And over the years, his message about the future of our planet has been anything but optimistic.

(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)

GORE: And the accumulated amount of man-made global warming pollution that is up in the atmosphere now traps as much extra heat energy as would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs exploding every 24 hours, 365 days a year.

RAZ: And that extra heat is just the beginning of many bad things to come.

(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)

GORE: We're having record-breaking temperatures. Fourteen of the 15 hottest years ever measured with instruments have been in this young century, and the hottest of all...

And it creates these massive record-breaking downpours...

The ocean-based storms get stronger...

Causes these deeper, longer, more pervasive, droughts and...

Microbial diseases from the tropics spread...

We're in danger of losing 50 percent of all the living species on Earth by the end of this century, and already...

Fifty degrees fahrenheit warmer than normal, causing the thawing of the North Pole in the middle of the long, dark winter night.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: Can I - can I just interrupt for a second, Vice President Gore?

GORE: Sure.

RAZ: So you have just laid out, like, this horrific scenario of the world right now. And just so you know, this is a show about optimism.

GORE: (Laughter).

RAZ: So I have to ask, is there any hope? Are you at all optimistic about our future and where we're headed?

GORE: Yeah, I really am. And, it is hard to hear the kinds of consequences that are now unfolding. But the basic tools we need to solve this crisis are now available to us. For example, here's a fact that I bet will surprise you - maybe not, but if you look at all of the new electricity generation installed worldwide last year, what percentage of it would you guess came from solar and wind?

RAZ: I would say, like, I don't know, 5 percent maybe?

GORE: Yeah, the answer is 90 percent.

RAZ: Wow.

GORE: Yeah, that's surprising to people. So it's not as if nothing bad has happened or will happen. But the most extreme forms of damage that can threaten the end of our civilization as we know it can be controlled and can be dealt with.

RAZ: So OK, if Al Gore can make a case for optimism about climate change...

GORE: Sure.

RAZ: Maybe there's something to this idea that there are reasons to be optimistic, even about things that seem hopeless. So today on the show, ideas about optimism, why it may be the only choice we have and the science behind the theory that optimism might be hard-wired into our very nature.

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