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Ira Glass Tries to Boss You Into a Moonshot

Ira Glass Tries to Boss You Into a Moonshot

[MUSIC PLAYING] IRA GLASS: So thinking about
what I was going to say to you, I found myself thinking
a lot about this quote that we had on our radio
show about a year ago. I do a radio show. It’s heard around the country. It’s a podcast that’s
heard around the world. And it’s a documentary show. And we did this thing that
was a tiny item in the news. And at the time,
the United Nations was holding one of the
international meetings that they hold now and
then about climate change. And this particular
one was in Doha, Qatar. And the goal of this meeting
was incredibly modest. Basically, what they were
trying to accomplish, if they were lucky,
they were going to come out of
this meeting, they were going to squeak out of it
with an extension of something that everyone at the
meeting had agreed to back in the 1990s, or almost
everyone– the Kyoto Protocol. And basically, if
they came out of this, they were going to say, OK,
we all agreed to this in ’97. Let’s just keep agreeing to it. And just imagine
how frustrating it would be to be a delegate who’s
taken a few weeks of his time to go and fly to this meeting. You’re a delegate. You’re interested
in climate change. First of all, think about
everything you’re not doing. First and foremost,
the world’s governments had agreed a couple
years before this, in 2009, that we
have a goal now. They agreed the one thing that
we absolutely cannot do is allow the planet to
get two degrees warmer. And that would be a disaster
in more extreme weather, food shortages, more droughts,
quicker melting of the ice caps, sea rising more quickly. So 141 countries agreed to that. And it’s a wide array. Like, it’s China, it’s Russia,
oil-producing countries like the United Arab Emirates. Even the United
States agrees to this. That’s how universal it was. And so now it’s a
couple years later. No one has basically done much
of anything to accomplish that, to stop us from
going to two degrees. In fact, every year the
amount of carbon dioxide we’re pumping into
the atmosphere is actually bigger
than the year before. This conference
is not addressing that in any kind
of substantive way. So they’re meeting. And they’re talking about
reasserting these old accords. And Tuesday of that
week, a Typhoon called Bhopa hits
the Philippines. This is December of 2012. It kills over seven
times as many people as Hurricane Sandy killed
just a couple of weeks before here in the States. [AUDIO PLAYBACK] -We are at a critical juncture. We are at a critical juncture. And the next few hours represent
a crucial opportunity for us to ensure that we are
on the right trajectory to address the climate crisis. IRA GLASS: OK. So this man talking
is the lead negotiator from the Philippines
at these climate talks. His name is Naderev Sano. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Maybe you haven’t. And when the hurricane
hit, he gave a talk, he give this speech
that many people noticed around the world. And they noticed it mainly
because, as you’ll hear, it was a very unusual speech,
a very unusual kind of tone he takes on– like, in this
very bureaucratic, dry, diplomatic setting. An important backdrop
for my delegation is the profound impacts
of climate change that we are already confronting. And as we sit here,
every single hour, even as we vacillate
and procrastinate here, we are suffering. Madame Chair, we have
never had a typhoon like Bhopa, which
has wreaked havoc in a part of the
country that has never seen a storm like this
in half a century. Finally, Madame Chair, I am
making an urgent appeal, not as a negotiator, not as a
leader of my delegation, but as a Filipino. I appeal to the whole world. I appeal to the leaders
from all over the world to open our eyes to the
stark reality that we face. I appeal to ministers. The outcome of our
work is not about what our political masters want. It is about what is demanded
of us by 7 billion people. I appeal to all. Please, no more delays. No more excuses. Please let Doha be
remembered as the place where we found the political
will to turn things around. [END AUDIO PLAYBACK] IRA GLASS: So of course
it’s not the place where we found the political
will to turn things around. And one year later, just
this past November, in 2013, during yet another deeply
ineffective UN climate summit– this one was
in Warsaw– Naderev Sano again found himself
stuck at a conference watching the news from his
homeland on a television. And this time it was a much
more terrible storm than Bhopa. This is Super Typhoon Haiyan. And you’ve all heard about this. Towns totally leveled. Nothing standing. Over 6,000 people dead. 4.1 million people displaced. No food supplies
for a little while. There was a very real
possibility that lots of people were just going to
starve to death. And Naderev Sano
gave another talk. You can find this
on the internet. He took the mic,
and this time he talked about how
this super typhoon– he said that this time
his own hometown was hit. And he said for a
couple days they thought his brother was dead. And then, you know,
thank goodness, they heard from his brother. His brother’s alive. His brother was now just
spending all of his time burying bodies. Had no food. And in that conference,
Naderev Sano says, OK, in solidarity with my brother
and all of the people back in my country who
don’t have any food, I’m just going to start fasting
until meaningful action is finally taken by this conference
to address the climate. So he fasts for a week or two. And the conference ends. And he stops fasting. And here we are. And I bring all this up today
because, like most of you in this room, I have the
luxury of picking and choosing what I work on, what
projects I work on. And sometimes,
I’ll just tell you, as a reporter, as a journalist,
it feels like any minute that I’m not talking
about climate change, it’s like I’m turning my back
on the most important thing that is happening to all of us
and the most important story. And it’s like it’s like
a meteor that is slowly spinning towards the earth. And it’ll be here by the
time our kids are grown. And what am I doing about that? Like me– most days, nothing. OK? Nothing. And I wonder if somewhere
in the back of your heads, you have this too. That’s what I’m here
to say, that there is this problem, this
project, this moonshot that you should be
working on that you’re not giving much time to. And when Astro and Megan
and Puneet and Rich invited me to come and asked
if I wanted to give the opening talk at this conference,
I thought a lot about what I would want
to say to a group of 70 intense, accomplished,
super-capable inventors, engineers, entrepreneurs,
and millionaires, who are literally holding a
conference to save the world. I was like, what do I
want to say that room? And what I want
to say to you guys is we should do more about this. And why aren’t we doing more? And I know that a handful of you
in this room, a handful of you absolutely are devoting
your work lives to this. And you should totally
take this moment to have a moment of total moral
superiority to the rest of us. And I know also that
some people here, you are experts on things that are
so specialized and different than this, at viruses,
or how the brain works, or the molecular biology
of plants, or aging. It makes no sense for
you to switch to this. But I think actually
most of us in this room are generalists, if I count
the roster of people correctly. And we can choose where we
apply our energy and our skill. And I want to make
the case for you why this should be
something that we are all working more on. And not just in this
room– this video might end up on the internet. If this ends up on the internet,
I want to say, you too, I’m talking to you too. So a quick review. A quick review of how
bad things are right now. As I said earlier, scientists
and the world’s governments have agreed two degrees is the
tipping point we want to avoid. That’s two degrees Celsius. That’s 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. This past fall, in 2013, the
UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
said if we want to avoid that, we should not
put more than 1,000 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere. And they said basically,
if you measure it, since the beginning of
the Industrial Revolution, we’ve put about half
that amount in the air. And an Oxford professor, one
of the authors of the IPCC report, Myles Allen,
calculated the way we’re going, we’re going to reach
1,000 gigatons. We’re going to reach
that number pretty soon. In fact, basically, it’s
two years before my wife and I pay off the
mortgage on our condo. It’s the year 2040. Or put another way,
if you in this room had your kids when you were
older than 26 years old, when they are your age, this
will have already happened. But despite the danger, we
have not turned this around. The amount of carbon
dioxide that we’re putting in the atmosphere
does not fall each year. It rises, as I said. The temperature
of the Earth right now is 8/10 of a degree warmer
than it was 100 years ago. 2/3 of that warming has
happened since 1975. In May of last year, we
reached 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide
in the atmosphere, as best as we can tell. For the past 800,000
years it only got up to 280 parts per million. And we seem to be seeing
the effects, right? More extreme weather here
in California– for example, less rain fell in
2013 than any year since records have been
kept, which is 1850. The snowpack right now is
12% of where it normally is. Drinking water supplies in
some places are endangered. There was an article about
this in the “New York Times” this weekend. And my favorite detail
from that article had to do with the trade-offs. Like, there’s so
much less water, there are all these
trade-offs that Californians are going to have to make. My favorite one was this one. Quote, “The heavy demand
for water, the heavy water demand of growers of
medical marijuana, six gallons per plant during
a 150-day growing period, is drawing down
streams where salmon and other endangered
fishes spawn.” In other words, California,
thanks to climate change, you all have to choose
between salmon on the one hand and pot on the other. I think we should vote. OK? Who wants salmon in the
coming world apocalypse? Salmon? OK. Pot? We are about evenly split. I’ll remind you that
pot will get you through times of no salmon
better than salmon will get you through times of no pot. So we’re going to have
to make some choices. The changes that we’re
making to the environment are big enough right
now that we are living during the sixth
great wave of extinction on our planet. And this one is one
that we created. A really wonderful “New Yorker”
writer, Elizabeth Kolbert, has this new book
about this new mass extinction that just
is coming out now. She notes, quote, “In the
end, the most deadly aspect of human activity may
simply be the pace of it. Just in the past century, CO2
levels in the atmosphere have changed by as much,
100 parts per million, as they normally do in
100,000-year glacial cycle. Meanwhile, the drop
in ocean pH levels that has occurred
over the past 50 years may well exceed anything
that happened in the seas during the previous 50 million. It’s estimated that one third
of all reef-building corals, a third of all
freshwater mollusks, a third of sharks and rays,
a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles,
and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion.” If you want to get
really alarmed, you could start to
read mainstream experts like former NASA
scientist Jim Hansen. He’s the one that the
Bush administration tried to punish for
accurately stating the science of climate change. He makes the case
in this article that he wrote this fall
that I completely recommend, that letting ourselves get
to two degrees is too much. He says, when you
look at the models where they came up
with the two degrees, they leave out something
called slow feedback cycles. And so, for example,
they don’t take into account what’s
going to happen with the melting of the
Arctic, of the Antarctic, and Greenland ice– that
actually, that can create a kind of feedback loop
that will speed on itself. And he makes the case that
we have to limit ourselves to a one-degree temperature
increase, not two. And he says that to do this, we
need to cut carbon emissions. He runs the numbers. He says we need to cut carbon
emissions by 6% a year. And in addition, we have to
have a massive reforestation program. So what can we do? I’m here to enlist you. What can we do? It turns out, I was
interested and surprised when I started looking into
this to give this talk that this is actually a moment of
enormous opportunities, some big and some small. And you can summarize
them pretty succinctly. Like, we need to generate
power differently, we need to transmit
it more efficiently, and we need to waste less
of it when we consume it. Those are the three big
areas of opportunity. And when it comes to generating
power, energy sources that do not throw carbon
dioxide into the air, they are still just a tiny
proportion of the energy that we make. So solar is 0.5% of the
energy used around the world. Wind is 2.5%. We have just not succeeded
in making solar and wind as cheap as other electricity
on a mass scale. And this is obviously a huge
project that lots of people are working on. Lots of money is chasing. When it comes to solar,
there are different estimates on when we’re going
to get to that point where it’s as cheap as
other kinds of fuel. I’ve seen 2015 as an estimate. I’ve seen 2020. There are some
projects that seem on the verge of being
ready for prime time. There’s one in particular
I want to talk about. Bill Gross give a talk here
at Solve for X last year where he outlined
a series of steps to make solar energy as
cheap as other electricity. And his methods are
totally ingenious– like, the ingenuity. His premise is basically–
he says the solar cells, the solar panels have gotten
so cheap, and what’s expensive is basically building
frames and stuff to put them in place
into these arrays. And basically, he just
walks you through all the ingenious things you
can do to make that cheaper. And it’s on video. I totally recommend it. I won’t repeat it all here. And I emailed him this week. And he said that since last
year’s Solve for X meeting– and he said partly
thanks to it, this was his launch pad–
he raised $2 million to build a pilot solar
field like he described. He hopes to be done that
by the end of this year. He hopes to be selling
the things next year. And he said that,
including the price of storing the
electricity, he thinks that they’ll be able to make
solar electricity for 3.9 to 4.9 cents per kilowatt
hour, which is basically the holy grail of
what he’s trying to do, without subsidies,
without a carbon tax. It’ll be cheaper
than electricity made from coal or gas, though he
still has to, you know, do it. He has to do it. The optimistic version
of his business plan has him selling gigawatts
in about three years, competing head to head with
other kinds of electricity. Wind energy is in a very
similar place– growing, still a tiny portion of
all the energy we produce, still an opportunity for
people to get in and try to figure out, how
do you make this as cheap as electricity
made from coal or gas? And bringing down the
cost is the next trick. If you guys don’t know this,
one of the most interesting investments that Google
has made in wind power is in this company
called Makani. And it’s basically
like wind energy without the expense
of building the tower. Like they don’t build a
tower with the big propeller thing on it. They basically take
these little robot airplanes that fly
in loops with a wire carrying the electricity
down to the ground. And by getting rid of
all those expenses, the hope is that
they’ll be cheaper than electricity made
from coal or gas. Again, I talked to somebody
from there, Andrea, who is here at the
conference, Andrea Dunlap. And she said that they’re
also in a prototyping phase and still a few
years away from this. So there’s all of that. Calling around to
climate experts and asking what
else could be done, one answer I got a
few times from people was just batteries– like,
storing energy made by wind and solar power so that energy
can be on tap 24 hours a day and not just when the sun
shines or the wind is blowing. Batteries– it’s
still just like we’re at some very basic
stages in a lot of ways. And then a few people
mentioned that cars would use much less fuel, they
would be much more efficient, if they were just lighter. And I knew nothing about
this a few days ago. And one person told
me, if we could just make cars with
lighter materials– like, replace steel with
aluminum and carbon fiber, reinforced plastic,
and other materials– they said you could double
or triple gas mileage. I was like, that seems
crazy to triple gas mileage. And then I read VW has actually
rolled out a super light car called the XL1, which
is just 1,753 pounds. It’s roughly half the weight
of a VW Golf or a Jetta. And it’s a hybrid. It runs on diesel. And its gas mileage is
261 miles to the gallon. With one gallon of gas, you can
drive from New York to Boston. I also wanted to
mention just other ideas about this, where you could
just kind of look around this room at people
who are doing things. Leslie Dewan is here. And her company,
Transatomic Power, they’re creating this technology
that is really closer to the thing in
“Back to the Future” where you put garbage
into a flying DeLorean and turn it into energy than
anything I’ve ever heard of. Is she here? She’s here somewhere. Maybe she’s not here. She’s here. I saw her here earlier. Basically, they
take nuclear waste, and using molten
salt reactors, they create cheap, clean,
emission-free energy. Lonnie Johnson has
developed a way to make clean electricity
without fossil fuels or wind or steam. He pushes hydrogen ions
across two membranes. Another project, it’s
been explained to me that 90% of the electricity
in the United States comes from steam, which is
moving and spinning turbines. And one of the people here
is Karen Gleason from MIT. She’s developed a
hydrophobic coating. It basically repels water. And if you coat a heat
exchanger with this, it works seven times better. It improves the overall
efficiency of a power plant by 3 to 5%. If it were employed everywhere
power plants are worldwide, it would basically,
through that efficiency, provide as much electricity
as made by 150 power plants, but with no extra
carbon emissions. It would save 1/2 billion
megatons of carbon every year. But the last area of opportunity
for engineers and investors, the technology that I have to
say seems the most exciting to me as a non-scientist–
and I think this is really the true, unexplored sci-fi
breakthrough that you would always want to see in this
kind of thing– is like, OK, you would think this
would be job number one. If you have a
planet which is just getting more and more
carbon dioxide in the air, why can’t someone
figure out a way to remove carbon dioxide from
the air in large quantities, cheaply? And this is something
that a number of people are working on. But the projects tend to
be– like I was talking– there’s somebody
here who actually does this work, Otto Steinfeld. And I was talking to him. He was saying you have tens
of thousands doing something that industry wants, that the
fossil fuel industry wants, which is putting things
up in smokestacks, up at the top of smokestacks,
pulling the carbon dioxide out of that. And he said there are only four
or five people in the world who are trying to just
figure out, how do we suck carbon
dioxide out of the air and not put it
back up in the air? Let’s just get the
stuff out of the air. And there are projects. There are a bunch of
projects like this. There’s a guy named Klaus
Lackner from Columbia. There’s a guy David
Keith up in Calgary. There’s very few people. And I talked to
Lackner this week. And he said that
he and the others, they’re all at kind of
very similar stages. There have some basic
technology down. But they need investors. And they just need
a lot of people working on the
engineering problem to turn what they
have into something that is ready for prime time. Lackner’s version is
really interesting. His thing, you don’t
have to be in a place with high concentrations
of carbon dioxide. Just go anywhere. You don’t attach
it to a smokestack. You just drop it anywhere. There’s no fans in it or
anything, no moving parts. It’s basically very slow wind
speeds, a 2-mile-an-hour wind, moves enough air through the
filters to capture the CO2. And he would
basically build them the size of a standard
shipping container. He says one of them the
size of a shipping container would be able to pull a
ton of carbon dioxide out of the air every day. Though he hasn’t built
one like that yet. What he has is a unit that
works in his lab, right? So he’s many steps of money
and engineering from that. And I asked him, OK, so how
many shipping containers like that would you need to
actually suck all the carbon dioxide out of the
air that we make? And he didn’t hesitate. He knew right away. He was like, 100 million. You’ll need 100 million of them. Which sounds insane. And then he’s like no, no, no. We make 80 million cars
around the world a year. That’s a number you can make. You can manufacture that. And he thinks that you could
get the price to a point where each one costs about
the same price as a car. So because our
politics are gridlocked when it comes to
climate change, I think the burden is even greater
on business and inventors and researchers, on the power of
the free market, on all of us, to try to make
changes, because I think the government
isn’t going to be a tremendous amount of help. Though I think a real
moonshot approach to this, to climate change, would
not just involve technology. I think it would take
on public opinion. It would take on politics. There’s been a well-organized,
well-funded campaign to raise doubts about climate
change that has totally worked, been totally effective. Groups like the
Heartland Institute, and the Competitive Enterprise
Institute, the Cooler Heads Coalition, funded by the
fossil fuel companies, funded by the Koch brothers–
it’s been so effective, climate change is a totally
toxic political subject. Barely came up during the
last presidential election. I’d remind you that like
just five or six years ago, presidential candidates like
John McCain and Mitt Romney openly called for immediate
action on climate change, until it became impossible to
be a Republican and do that. And if I were to describe
a doable political goal for the next four
years, it would be make the Republican
Party safe for politicians who think climate
change is real. That’s the goal. And there’s a former
Republican congressman who got kicked out of
office because he believed in climate change– his
name is Bob Inglis– who is leading the charge on this. He’s got a group. We did a story about
him on our radio show. One of our producers,
Ben Calhoun, reported on what Inglis
sees as the opportunity that is out there. [AUDIO PLAYBACK] -If you look at the polling of
Republicans on climate change, one of the first things
you notice right away is this huge gap between
how Republican citizens feel and how Republican
politicians vote. A recent non-partisan
poll by Pew found that 44% of
Republicans believe the climate is changing. Another by Gallup found
that 40% of Republicans are actively worried
about climate change. IRA GLASS: And then
Ben points out that just a couple years
ago, in contrast to that, on the House Energy
and Commerce Committee, all 31 Republican members
unanimously voted down symbolic language that
would’ve simply acknowledged that the climate is
changing and that humans are contributing to it. -That gap– 40% percent
of Republican voters worried about climate
change versus 0% of that committee–
that’s Inglis’ target. That’s his business opportunity. That’s what makes his
mission seem realistic. It’s like 40% of Republicans
want ham sandwiches. Surely you can persuade
a few more Republicans to sell ham sandwiches. IRA GLASS: So Inglis’
group at one point counted other Republicans in
the House and Senate who had ever
publicly acknowledged that climate change was real. And there were 20
names on their list out of 278 Republicans
at the time. And Ben asked Inglis about this. Could this really be
all the Republicans who think that climate change
is real in office there? -Do you know, personally,
Republican members who find the science
credible but would never say so publicly? -Oh, yeah. -Can you name them? -No, I’d better not do that. [END AUDIO PLAYBACK] IRA GLASS: Anyway, so I would
just say that some of you work for businesses, run
businesses that give money to both political
parties, which is great. When you fund Republican
candidates, when you donate to the
Republican Party, I would just say you
could be using that money to nudge the entire party
toward your own beliefs on climate change. You’re already
spending that money. But in addition,
I think there has to be a way to nudge the
national consensus on this. That will create the space
for politicians to change. I think it’s fine
if everybody doesn’t agree on climate change. But I think it’s toxic
if climate change stays a partisan issue, if
it’s a one-party issue. I’ve talked to principled
conservatives who simply believe– the way to
think of climate change is that it’s a conspiracy
between professors who want grants and liberals
who want more government. That’s all it means to them. And I think we have
to change that. We have to remove the face of
Al Gore from climate change and make it nonpartisan. And say, you know, you know
who believes in climate change? It’s business, insurance
companies, Monsanto. Who’s in favor of a
carbon tax these days? Exxon. True fact. Their official position. And I think something
like a carbon tax would change so, so much. It would totally
change everything about trying to spur
these investments. It would just create a
completely different set of incentives. A carbon tax would just make
everything so different. And the problem with a carbon
tax is that no one in America wants it. No one in America
wants a carbon tax, because nobody wants
their gas prices to go up. That is the most
toxic, third rail– like, nobody wants to
see higher gas taxes. And there’s an
interesting proposal out there by Bob Inglis
to solve that problem, though I’ve heard it
from Democrats too. And the proposal is,
you raise gas taxes, you have a carbon tax,
and at the same time you lower everybody’s income
tax and do it with a formula so that basically
you try to make it so that everybody
comes out neutral. But the incentives are
weighted so that now people have a reason not
to spend on carbon. So this is a conference about
what the organizers are calling moonshots, projects that
can change the world, and mix a huge problem
and a radical solution and a breakthrough
of technology. And I really love
the idealism of that. And I love the
idealism of the idea that they would
bring together people from different disciplines
with the thought that when we talk to each
other we would have something to say that could be
useful to each other. And it’s such an
amazingly diverse group from all over everywhere, too. There’s an interesting
moment in the interview that President Obama gave the
“New Yorker” a couple weeks ago. He said, “I think we are
fortunate at the moment that we do not face a crisis
of the scale and scope that Lincoln or FDR faced.” It’s an interesting thing to
say because, of course, we do. We do. The climate is that crisis. And the president
actually knows that. He’s described climate
change as a crisis. He’s used the word
crisis and said, just last year, the question
is not whether we need to act. The question now
is whether we’ll have the courage to act
before it’s too late. And I think what’s going
on is that he is just like me and you and all of us. He knows that that is true. We’re in this crisis. There’s a meteor slowly
heading towards the Earth. But he’s got a lot of things
that he’s supposed to be doing. Like, he’s busy. He’s busy. He’s got a lot of stuff. And unlike the problems
that Lincoln and FDR faced, global warming is
happening silently. It’s happening invisibly. And it’s so easy for
all of us to push this into the back of our minds. And I didn’t come here
thinking I had a moonshot idea. But I think if I
were to say one, I think it would be that
we could move forward with the feeling–
the feeling that we’ll have once it’s too late, we
need to have that feeling now. We need to move with that kind
of urgency now, all of us. I think human
beings, we seem to be built for denial in a
really powerful way, and especially about things have
to do with our own extinction. I have no idea
why that would be. But I would speculate
because if we all walked around all
the time knowing we’re going to be
dead pretty soon, it would be just
hard to function. So we’re just built to just
push certain stuff away. And that’s kind of what this is. And we all have
other stuff we’re doing that can take
our minds away from it. So with that in mind,
I want to play you something that President
Kennedy had to say, for all of us who feel like,
oh, we’ve got too much to do, I’m not thinking
about that, I’ve got other stuff that
I’m dealing with, President Kennedy had
something to say in the speech where he called for
the first moonshot. I know this by heart. Maybe you do too. [AUDIO PLAYBACK] -We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the
goal in this decade and do the other things. [END AUDIO PLAYBACK] IRA GLASS: I’ve always thought
that’s such a weird move, “And do the other things.” That makes it so
much less powerful. Why is “and do the other
things” in that sentence? It just totally
ruins his moment. He’s totally messing that up. But I think he’s
saying, OK, we’ve got to make this moonshot. But yeah, we got a
lot of other stuff we’ve got to deal with too. I think he’s talking to us. He’s talking to us
right now in a way that applies to our situation. Listening to that speech
again this week to come here, I realized, Kennedy
does this thing. He not only lays out all
the impossible steps ahead. He says specifically,
we’re going to have to invent metal
alloys which don’t exist yet. We’re going to have to invent
guidance and control systems. He’s very specific about that. And then he’s also very specific
about wanting a deadline. He says there’s a deadline. [AUDIO PLAYBACK] -And this will be done in
the decade of the ’60s. It may be done while some
of you are still here at school at this
college and university. It will be done during
the terms of office of some of the people who
sit here on this platform. But it will be done. And it will be done before
the end of this decade. [END AUDIO PLAYBACK] IRA GLASS: I think a
decade is so smart. I think nothing happens
without a decade. Nothing happens
without a deadline. A deadline is so smart. And we need a deadline. He put the moonshot
on a deadline, and we need a deadline. We need a deadline. And I’d say, well, let’s
just call it a decade. You know what I mean? Let’s call it a decade– or
way faster, but a decade at the latest. Like, this is urgent. The thing I’m advocating
here is so corny that honestly, I feel
a little embarrassed to be doing it, because
you all are really serious people who do serious things. And the language– I feel
like the only language we have for this is really
the stuff of comic books, where everyday life
includes speeches about how great power leads
to great responsibility. Literally, I’m saying we all
need to stop what we’re doing and save the world. That’s my thesis to you. And so I thought I would end
this talk with a comic book quote from a comic book
hero– a California resident, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In season seven, she
gives this speech. And she’s not fighting
carbon dioxide atoms. She’s fighting forces
of evil of the kind I don’t really need to
get into right here. All you need to know
is they are literally hellbent on doing what
greenhouse gases will do– destroy the Earth, OK? So she’s up against
the same thing we are, though she uses the word
“evil” to describe it. So just replace the
word “evil” in here quote with what we face. And she says this
comic book thing that I think is so
beautifully put. She looks around
a room of people just like this one, a group
about the size of this one, actually, and explains
that they’re up against a kind of threat they
have never encountered before, a kind of evil that
is fundamental and world-destroying. And she says to them,
and I say to you, “There’s only one thing on this
Earth more powerful than evil. It’s us.” Thanks. [APPLAUSE]

6 comments on “Ira Glass Tries to Boss You Into a Moonshot

  1. 25:33 "We have to remove the face of Al Gore from climate change" …  then shortly after Ira talks about shifting tax burdens from income to carbon.  Several years ago Al Gore made serious proposals to eliminate the income tax altogether and replace it with a revenue-neutral carbon tax.  Why don't we just F-ING LISTEN TO AL GORE AND DO WHAT HE SAID instead of worrying about his political image?

  2. If you are truely serious on this topic, there is one thing you will have to use as your front runner to solving the problem.  Nuclear power.  The efficiency improvements we could do with it are so enormous it has been described as Moore law for power.  If you try to avoid nuclear power, you are not serious about solving the problem at all.  Just like JFK set the country to  go to the moon in a decade; we could have a working molten salt reactor in under a decade for far lower cost then investments in other technologies and it would pay off far more then other technologies.

    Another interesting thing to consider is instead of focusing on reducing carbon emission from carbon energy sources, we could instead invest technologies to make it not economical to release to the air a resource like highly concentrated carbon dioxide.  Instead of scrubbing carbon, we could use it to make methanol, ethanol, and dimethyl either.

  3. This is a tough one Ira, because every other radio piece you produce that does not take global warming as a foundation – will be inauthentic. Thank you.

  4. Most people use their phones to check twitter. Ira uses his to create a real-time This American Life episode.

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