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Al Gore says 'we will prevail' in fight against climate change

Al Gore is bullish on the future of humanity and our ability to confront climate change, telling the TED conference in Vancouver, "We are going to win this. We will prevail."

10 years after An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore delivers a positive message at TED in Vancouver

Al Gore speaks on the TED Conference stage in Vancouver on Wednesday, saying that change can happen faster than we think. When solar power becomes cheaper than fossil fuels, 'a lot of things change.' (Bret Hartman/TED)

Al Gore is bullish on the future of humanity and our ability to confront climate change, telling the TED conference in Vancouver, "We are going to win this. We will prevail."

It's been 10 years since Gore's first TED Talk, when he delivered a slide show about the climate crisis, months before the release of Academy Award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

On Wednesday, he brought good news about the exponential adoption of solar and other renewable energy sources, the closing of U.S. coal plants and the Paris climate agreement last November.

"This is the biggest new business opportunity in the history of the world," he said to the auditorium packed with Silicon Valley investors and Hollywood executives.

"Some still doubt we have the will to act," said Gore. "But I say the will to act is itself a renewable resource."

First the bad news

As the momentum built in his 22-minute talk, Gore began to sound more like a Tennessee preacher than the Nobel Peace Prize-winning elder statesman of U.S. politics.

He blasted through alarming climate change statistics, with last year being the hottest on record, and extreme weather causing flooding and droughts.

He showed flooding in Miami on a sunny day, and video of a Spanish street with cars pushed along by murky rushing water.

"You could call this the running of the cars and trucks," he said.

"Every night on the evening news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation."

Human sources of greenhouse gases are trapping energy in Earth's atmosphere at a rate "equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year," said Gore, quoting climate scientist James Hansen.

Gore showed images of extreme weather events, including drought, which scientists say are likely to happen more often in a warming climate. (Bret Hartman/TED)

Renewable hope

Gore — himself an investor in renewable energy — places a lot of hope in renewable, non-carbon energy sources, especially solar power, pointing to graphs with skyrocketing adoption rates as the technology's cost has fallen.

When solar power crosses the line to become cheaper than fossil fuels, "it turns out a lot of things change," he said.

Change can happen faster than we think, he argued.

In the same way that people in developing countries, lacking a phone grid, have leapfrogged land lines straight to cellphone use, they don't necessarily have to meet energy needs with oil and gas.

"Here are solar panels on grass huts in India," he said.

"We are solving this crisis, the only question is how long will it take to get there."

Gore drew links between the rapid adoption of cell phones and growing use of renewable energy technology, punctuating the point with a photo of his younger self and an early mobile phone. (Bret Hartman/TED)