What lessons are already available to us as we tackle climate change? For Session 2 of TED Countdown Summit 2023, science, solutions and the role of industry in stemming the threat of the climate emergency took center stage.
The event: Talks from Session 2 of TED Countdown Summit 2023, hosted by TED’s Lindsay Levin and David Lammy, Member of Parliament for Tottenham, England and Shadow Foreign Secretary
When and where: Wednesday, July 12, 2023, at the Fillmore Detroit in Detroit, Michigan
Speakers: Jonathan Foley, Emma Nehrenheim, Cedrik Neike, Susan Lozier, Morten Bo Christiansen, Bo Cerup-Simonsen, Mike Duggan, Laprisha Berry Daniels
To solve climate change, the International Monetary Fund estimates that the global community needs to invest between three and six trillion dollars annually in climate solutions. Where should that money go and which projects should we fund? Jonathan Foley, executive director of Project Drawdown, uses a science-based framework to outline a plan for investing with maximum impact. First, we need to prioritize immediate actions with cumulative benefits, like stopping deforestation and cutting methane leaks. Next, we should focus our spending on cutting carbon emissions now over investing in distant high-tech solutions. Third, we must prioritize geographical hotspots with an outsized effect on climate change, like the Amazon rainforest or high-emission factories. And finally, we should invest in solutions that benefit people’s well-being, promote food security and increase access to clean water and sanitation.
Batteries will be fundamental to powering a sustainable world — but only if we don’t repeat the same mistakes of past industrialization, says battery recycler Emma Nehrenheim. She outlines the environmentally intensive impact of battery production — particularly from the extraction of minerals for lithium-ion batteries, which provide energy for electric vehicles and other key aspects of life — and proposes a shift towards a circular battery economy that uses and reuses already existing materials, vastly reducing the industry’s carbon footprint and need for mineral extraction.
We are running out of time to save our planet from climate change — and the metaverse can help. Using virtual tools like AI to cheat time in the real world, Cedrik Neike explains how “digital twin technology” (think simulated giga factories that are one-for-one digital copies of real ones) can help solve real-world problems more efficiently by providing a digital space to test solutions, without pollution. Using the example of virtually ideating the production of safer and faster-charging batteries and then bringing those learnings to the physical world, Neike points to the potential of industrial metaverses to revolutionize industries and redesign entire cities — from transportation, agriculture and housing — addressing massive challenges and avoiding the creation of excess waste at the same time.
Oceanographer Susan Lozier dives into the importance of the ocean’s natural circulation, which overturns water in a way that naturally captures carbon and regulates global temperatures. She shares the incredible research being done internationally to track changes in this overturn, as warming global temperatures could slow the circulation, lessen carbon uptake and increase the rate of climate-related disasters. While a collapse in this age-old system isn’t likely until 2100, Lozier warns of the dangers faced by future generations if we don’t change course now, calling for climate action to lower temperatures within the next 10 years.
As leader of the decarbonization team for A.P. Moller – Maersk, Morten Bo Christiansen is drawing an organizational roadmap to net zero that could help transform the global shipping industry. In conversation with TED’s Lindsay Levin, Christiansen shares his company’s ambitious goal to decarbonize their heavy-emitting business by 2040, highlighting how they’ve started implementing solutions like using green methanol as fuel in their container ships and deploying electric trucks in the US. He also points out the challenges in scaling green fuel production, price issues due to the high cost of green fuels and the need for collaborations across the value chain to manage these obstacles. Despite these challenges, Christiansen remains optimistic, making the case that the added cost to consumers for using green shipping methods is far outweighed by the urgently needed environmental benefits.
In conversation with TED’s Lindsay Levin, Bo Cerup-Simonsen, CEO of the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, discusses the essential role of their center in orchestrating systemic, global collaboration to tackle large-scale environmental challenges. Discussing the center’s origins, purpose and the strides it’s made in technological, commercial and regulatory spaces, Cerup-Simonsen highlights the push towards green alternatives, like green methanol and ammonia, in global shipping. Through tangible initiatives like “green corridors,” which enable end-to-end zero-carbon shipping between selected ports, they’re fostering cross-industry collaboration to accelerate the green transition and sharing lessons learned in combating the uncertainty hindering decisive action from companies and nations.
Mike Duggan is serving his third term as mayor of Detroit, and he’s dead set on building the city’s climate responsiveness. His proposal is a unique one: to transform blighted, vacant lots into solar farms throughout the city. He describes how, with the buy-in of Detroiters themselves, he plans to start building these farms in different neighborhoods with the aim of powering all of Detroit’s municipal buildings and cleaning up dilapidated, vacant land from the city’s manufacturing past.
Like many cities, Detroit is already feeling the effects of climate change. In the past 10 years, two major floods have cost the city more than a billion dollars in damages. The challenge of climate change may be daunting, but human beings have moved from place to place and adapted to changes in climate (both environmental and social) throughout history. For inspiration, public health social worker Laprisha Berry Daniels mines the survival strategies her grandparents learned after leaving the Jim Crow South to settle in Detroit. The climate crisis may be unprecedented, but Daniels says we can still prepare for it by embracing the lessons of the past. First, we must accept the reality of climate change and prepare for it. Second, we should embrace the power of mutual aid. Lastly, we should empower communities to adapt through community-led planning.