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fb liz from nashville studio way celebrating offers literature and ideas for more than three decades this is word on words with johnson on guns in the once again welcome to world burns i guess today is thought the us in both in this one hour where he was the recipient of the nobel peace prize for two thousand and seven his work on global warming in that same year of his film an inconvenient truth was in the academy award for best documentary he began his career as a writer while serving in vietnam continued as a colleague of mine at the
tennessean and it's a great to have him here again we're going to the colleague you were my teacher and mentor and fierce remember what i wrote that intro as it was so that you would say thanks for being here to talk about this new book our shorts plan to solve the climate crisis i have to begin by asking you how green is this book ole allah unleaded us that guard the rodeos a publisher aaron melcher media that the book production and it is as green as a book and get ten am on recycled paper and there are gradations of that and they're at the top of the scale on that they've taken great care and night in every aspect of this production to make it very thin in fact liane that the printing of facility in new england winters a new special
procedures to make an even greener so on i have little to do with the fact that they knew that i wanted that both a publisher really work out the details of that you begin this book with a quotation from i'm offering you a choice of life or death you can choose to the blessing for persons why what well i think that the first and most those serious challenge posed to human civilization by this climate crisis is a challenge to our moral imagination to grasp the scale and the gravity of the choice we have to make and as i write in the book it's almost absurd to imagine that we as a species could make choice that news conference the thing that the words from that scripture contain
the appropriate gravity at certain turning points in human history we as a civilization we as a species have had to make great moral choices not so often but every once in a while a very faithfully and this a crisis has the potential to him human souls ocean as we know and that this has never happened before never been confronted with something like that so we have a tendency to confuse the new year are unprecedented with the improbable and that's often a safe rule with the exceptions can kill you and this crisis is the exception we really have to make a choice about a conscious choice about managing the relationship between humanity and the earth itself we've seen a quadrupling of human soul of human population in less than a hundred years we've that we've seen that knowledge is in common use magnified in power a million fold and the cumulative
impact of those six point eight billion people on the way to more than nine billion people within the next few decades work when it will stabilize they think all the culmination of that many people using such powerful technologies not taking into account the unintended consequences of it and it gets really quiet when it's incredibly serious animals vulnerable part of the earth's the ecological system is a very very thin shell of the atmosphere surrounding the planet we're putting ninety million times every day of global warming pollution into that thin atmosphere as if it's an open sewer and as predicted for many decades that is now trapped in more heat melting all the i's beginning the process of sea level rise which would become catastrophic if greenland and west antarctica now alpert a and there may be other consequences tropical diseases moving northward much
stronger storms coming off the oceans and deeper droughts and bigger floods because they're bigger downpours giant fires as we've seen on every continent just in the last decade increasing infrequency and size and all of these consequences add up to a very grave warning of what some much worse of what would come that would be so much worse if we do not take action to stabilize and then reduce the emissions of seo to and removed the global warming pollution from the atmosphere through the means that outlined in this book you move from iran in the sonata form from of all people kurt vonnegut and we probably could have said themselves that we were too damn lazy to try very hard and too damn it so speaks for itself but you selected because it does make a
point that i'm going to quote from deuteronomy vonnegut the north we have to do would never do it quickly now yesterday the others an old african proverb that our so called the book that says if you want to go quickly go along if you want to go far go together we have to go far quickly and that means making up our minds quickly and making this choice for life i'd like to give our viewers a sense of what this book is in terms of illustrations because the tax is yours and makes the point with passion and power as you always do and as you just haven't done and he will continue to work but you selected these photographs and maps and diagrams to document your points but i just like to let our heroes take a look at these finally a few of these four writers selected a very few of the large number of the government sent southerners of that appear on the screen maybe just
briefly touch on why that occurred to you and that's a photograph that has a point to be made yeah that's an interesting photograph it it and very few people ever seen as the photograph it was taken by a party at the lunar orbiter a robotic spacecraft that was the predecessor to the apollo missions which resulted in neil armstrong and buzz aldrin landing on the moon just before that moon landing apollo eight took that famous earth rise photograph that really transform the way we think about our client on but this one came two years before and it was set back in such row the low resolution that was never really seen by very many people but just a two years ago some nasa researchers discovered the original film canister on store and in that way and holding towels restaurant
near the joint proportion of propulsion lab or jet propulsion laboratory the massive sold in southern california and they are that developed it and an upgraded the resolution and it's a it's a starkly very interesting yeah i've always been fascinated by these pictures of the earth from space there's a rich history of how when you have a point that you know it hasn't been very visible neither hair is this crisis and that visible and it's really sort of a surreal way candidates is to get out of the problem dr lee if thought it if if the picture you're looking at is very low resolution may have trouble saying it understanding a feeling the impact and that is the way the climate crisis has come upon us the scientists are sketched out the basic outlines of this crisis decades ago in fact a hundred more than a hundred years ago a swedish scientists said were evaporating our coal mines into the air he
did ten thousand cancellations by hand and came up with the protection that it would raise the earth's average temperature by many degrees if we doubled the amount of sea or two in the atmosphere and it turns out he was pretty much right on the money all that time ago but it took modern science to fill in the details and if you will bring that picture up to a much higher resolution so it's much it's easier to see and for all fair minded people who are open to what the scientists are saying after rigorous peer review and debate of course that's the way science operates it's not crystal clear what we're facing the animal panel on climate change the world's authority on this crisis four thousand of the very best scientists from all over the world a hundred nations involved over twenty years they now say the evidence is quote unequivocal and call it as it is as well understood as a as gravity
and lit the room for dispute is confined to little tiny details that he and the broad outlines of what we're facing they're very very clear let's look at some of these photographs and just briefly to give a sense that's almost as a footnote explains itself what the caption that goes with that photograph is we're still borrowing money from china to buy oil from saudi arabia's learned in ways that destroyed in the habit of building of the plant and everybody that's got to change the consumption of oil and oil products also have coal of where half of our electricity comes from a natural gas combined with the unit before station which is almost a quarter of a problem around the world it is increasing catastrophic consequences and the rate of emissions it's continuing to increase it to the point where now if the united
states is to have zero omissions we would still face a crisis so we really have to have a global concerted effort to deal with this now the good news is countries around the world are now understanding this more clearly and the world is moving toward this major negotiation in copenhagen this december you mentioned the dichotomy between drought and floods and the next photograph is from a flooded flooded that was in new mexico paul hot record flooding there are floods now in places that have never experienced than before just last month the georgia you may have seen the picture of this giant rollercoaster underwater that never have lived there before and it seems ironic that global warming would produce both giant floats
and john and droughts but the isolation for the irony is that when global average temperatures increase more moisture evaporates off the oceans would cover more than three quarters of the planet for each one degree increase in temperature there is a seven percent increase in average humidity worldwide and that means when storm conditions present themselves much more moisture falls quickly both as rain and snow but of course there's also been a big shift from snow toward rain arctic an ingrained in antarctica are recently for the first time that humans have experience center been able to to a measure that it ever happened ah but these big downpours calls the flaws and they rush off the surface and take the topsoil with them and they get to the water doesn't see down into the underground aquifers as they do with more gentle rights but that same increase speed also
has a powerful effect in accelerating the evaporation of more sure from the solo so that you get the floods and then they're gone and then the the drought to sell zen and we've had record droughts all around the world australia is trying to recover from what they've called a thousand year drought and of course now in the american west in particular the southwest and mexico are just returned from mexico two days ago that you know that in the news now that on television looks like a travelogue of global warming consequences so all around the world if you were if you were unacquainted with this problem if you never heard of the ordinance made an inconvenient truth and there are solutions proposed you'd think we could continue in
the same vein and as i look at our society it seems to be heard most of us are continuing in pretty much the same thing but shock i love where were gone doesn't seem to have set in and one thing you are for them to both our views of what solutions might be and solar power solar energy use one of the world a potential as their cup of photographs that sort of documents that there is that import less from portugal and next door spain is one of the world leaders and solar and then portugal's also the leverage off china is will be the number one soared mission by next year that's about it
is he did buy solar and nineties of the last three years than a holy fathers of popes have been great voices on this particular issue of calling the faithful to have to do to respond and indeed every major faith tradition on the planet has the teachings that are directly relevant to this twist prices but just on sort of a moment more song light falls on the surface of the planet in one hour then as necessary to provide one hundred percent of the world's electricity news for an entire year and that the technologies for capturing and using them improve almost as rapidly as the power of computer chip so over the last few decades many of them are making is a material so i am it's somewhat of a classic problem the dramatic acceleration of those
cost reductions and efficiency improvements and solar cells really depended on the size of the commitment that we make to do work to determine in that direction others and all saying in business is if we had some ham we do have some haven't age of we have some that are and if we have the commitment to go toward renewable energy are and then we will have what we made a major shift away from carbon based fuels if we have the technology and will have the technology is already there are but it needs to be and improved and it will be with the lead that the larger commitment to renewable energy and then we hear about one else and you have photographs when milton dove and the argument is you can kill the birds how well you may have seen the of the gravity and the boats that the school had set the issue
a lot the day there are more birds killed by house in the united states and buy when you say in the store i don't want to minimize the importance of that and in some areas and mountain passes where there have been too many bird kills but a but taken as a whole it's so it's less than point zero zero something know presented of the bird kills birds flying into the buildings etc power lines and narrow so it is so not an entirely false issue but it's not a showstopper and there are new technology is now being installed that allow one one large flocks fly toward the wind farms and shut down so this is so this is a national issue and you also deal with the issues geothermal possibility and potential toppled about the wealth we have in the united states for example the equivalent of a hundred and thirty five thousand years' worth
of our electricity needs and just in geothermal power and most people think of geothermal power in terms of the heart springs the geysers near red boiling springs not far from here is an example of where the natural heat of the earth pulls out what pushes hot water for the service and there have been places where that's been harvested by collectors but that but the excitement the growing excitement over geothermal energy is not a lot because of those so few locations of hot springs and geysers is because now they have learned to adapt to the oil drilling technology and gas or one technology to go down not a couple miles where the natural heat of europe has so and mormons etienne du pont water or some other food in a closed loop you don't need huge amounts of water to bring it back up as steam to
drive the turbans that produce electricity geothermal energy it is also located almost everywhere because the center of the earth is so hot and that in the mantle of the earth in the crust of the earth itself has been naturally became radioactive element uranium and potassium that also create he bought a canned heat are insufficient average or can boil water make statement that's when hitler plan does us would call one of those woolly guests are one of us so we can have and it's in what they call base load power it's not interactive wait for the wind to blow or for the song the giants available constantly twenty four hours a day is a lot of excitement over this and the advances and made technology of the drill beards in some of the other things that they're they're working on has come along very very rapidly this was invented by the white family of the new approach called engineer geothermal are
enhanced through all it was invented dirt in our national laboratories in the us in the immediate aftermath of the first oil shock of the opec embargo in the early seventies you say that we can not what you mentioned nuclear when miers will address ago there many people say this is the answer there is the whole answers and the absolute answer you point out that there are problems there yes there are and i'm not an opponent of nuclear i think the nuclear will play a role i just don't think it's gonna play a much larger role then employees now and if you look at the promise of nuclear waste volver volver terrorist attacks i just assume that we're going to solve those problems those are problems that we can somehow deal with i truly believe are but there are other problems that are not as easy to deal with first of all the proliferation issues are
very very circus and it's true that the technologies for the peaceful use of nuclear energy and leah atomic or nuclear weapons are are are different but what they have in common is the same body of scientific and engineering expertise that is needed to manage a reactor program and nuclear fuel cycle can be used to buy some dictator to have the teamwork secretly at night to make nuclear weapons as what's going on in iran right now and it at the during the eight years that i served in the white house the every single nuclear weapons proliferation issue we face was connected to a reactor program so it does have to be handled very very carefully if the world decided to make nuclear energy the silver bullet and then we would have tens of thousands of reactors including in countries that we would not like to have nuclear weapons or we're making progress in dealing with the threat of nuclear weapons and president obama have an
important new initiative just last month at the united nations on that and this is an unfolding success story but we can go back into a wildly uncontrollably proliferating environment but then there's the final problem is probably the most serious one and that's cost and it's partly due to the fact that they either been no new reactors built in the united states ordered since nineteen seventy two are and a lot of the critical expertise is not lost but the basic inflation now affecting all of these technology all of the you know that the concrete all of the commodities and bob has driven the cause the fact that all of them have a unique one off design it has been a factor as well and the size of this escalated in price and far beyond what what is reasonable for utilities that the purchase and there's not a
single reputable engineering firm in the united states or europe that will give you an estimate that they'll stand behind on how much because to build a new nuclear plant and how long it will take to complete it and the french say who always get kudos for running their programs are in deep trouble on this and their next generation reactors they've got two of them under construction now the company is a reviled and the all the team from a really came to one of these solutions summits that i've had over the last three years and debated the experts with different views and it became really clear as it has done many people including the expert panel at mit that the cost of these things is just really out of control that we will see more of them built off and then it will play at slightly larger role than now and i could be wrong about all this but i'd be very surprised if it turns out to be a much bigger part of the set of solutions to the real
solution job is to move rapidly toward these renewable sources of energy they're available they're based on well expertise that we have here in the united states they open up export markets for our country that are just incredibly exciting producing millions of good new jobs that sounds perhaps like the political rhetoric but it really is that the case we just have to make the choice to move in that direction we just have left billy have now martial law at the end of the book you pose a couple of questions and those questions for what will the next generation that goes with you let's say did you sit there and watch the melt watch the ice cap melt and do nothing are and then you say when you have a really powerful clothing and what you project what you hope the answer will be on and it is that in twenty ten the world
changed now we have a new president to wait at a total commitment to it and that the tonal shift every segment of society involved in this came to a realization that it was that it was vital to move all their own natural it is for many years and for close to minimize these is on the spot saying the next generation not too many years from now we'll look back at us and that's one of two questions either what we're thinking or how did you find the moral courage to solve a crisis so many said was impossible to solve so in this book i write two letters to the future at age answering one of those two questions and i do believe that we are in the midst of a sea change in the way the world is beginning to think about this crisis everywhere i go in the world i find young people particularly by people of all ages
say yes we get it we have really got to face up to this sometimes in a football game fans will notice when the momentum shifts and it's an ephemeral thing at first but it has powerful consequences i think in a similar way the momentum of this contest for our future is now changing and i do believe that we're going to succeed but it does require the involvement of all of us and i know this is so we had a discussion about this book i would take me opportunity to urge or viewers to exercise their role as citizens in our democracy to counter the power of some of the powerful business lobbies that that i have been trying to block action and paralyze our congress ought to get involved and urge them to do the right thing we ran out and thank you so much thank you for watching i'm john c and over a word on words keep reading
A Word on Words
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Al Gore
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Our Choice Pt 1
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Chicago: “A Word on Words; 3809; Al Gore,” 2009-11-15, Nashville Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 12, 2024,
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