“I was excited to be a part of the ‘Dream’ theme,” says Al Gore as he walks onto the TED2016 stage. “But then I found out I was leading off the nightmare section.” He admits that what we’ve doing to our world is a nightmare, and that the consequences we’re seeing are quite scary: “Every night on the news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation.”
But he is hopeful. Genuinely, truly optimistic. Here are six facts from his talk that show why:
- In 1980, AT&T was curious how many people would adopt “big, clunky” cell phones in upcoming decades, so they commissioned a McKinsey study to forecast cell phone use by the year 2000. Their projection: 900,000 users. “That did happen,” says Gore, “in first three days.” They hugely underestimated because they didn’t account for the fact that the quality would improve and the cost would come down, both things happening with renewable energy.
- In 2000, the best projections said that the world would be able to install 30 gigawatts of wind energy capacity by 2010. “We beat that mark by 14 and a half times over,” says Gore.
- As for solar power, projections 14 years ago said that we could install one gigawatt per year by 2010. “We beat that mark by 17 times over,” says Gore. Last year, we beat it 58 times over. And this year, it looks like that will bump up to 68 times over. The point: solar power is increasing exponentially.
- The cost of renewable energy has come down 10 percent per year for 30 years. “We are close to reaching grid parity — that line, that threshold below which renewable is cheaper than electricity from burning fossil fuels,” he says. “This is the biggest new investment opportunity in the history of the world.”
- On December 26, 2015, Germany got 81 percent of its energy from renewables, mainly solar and wind.
- And then there’s the fact that on December 12, 2015, 195 governments came together in Paris, under the United Nations, and decided to intentionally change the course of the global economy in order to protect the earth, as described by Christiana Figueres. The year before that 400,000 people marched in New York in support of climate change advocacy.
“When any great moral challenge is ultimately resolved into a binary choice between what is right or what is wrong, the outcome is preordained because of who we are as human beings,” says Gore. “The will to act itself is a renewable resource.”