Philippe Cousteau: “Time is running out for ourselves and future generations.”

John Doerr: If we don’t embrace a low carbon economy this decade, it won’t just harm the planet, but also the U.S. economy.

philippe cousteauPhilippe Cousteau is becoming a true champion of the ocean and the climate (see “Stunning video makes clear prevention is the only cure: What dispersants have really done to Gulf“).  He is following in the footsteps of his famous father and even more famous grandfather with his work at Earth Echo.

He spoke earlier today at the third annual National Clean Energy Summit (webcast here), and was pretty blunt about the dire nature of our current situation:

The current status quo is an illusion.

“The true cost of our continued dependence on fossil fuels” was illustrated by the BP disaster.

“The true cost of a gallon of gasoline is by some estimates $6 a gallon.”

“The cost to our health, the cost to our security, and the cost to the environment of our addiction to fossil fuels has distorted our economy.”

Ocean acidification is indisputable science

“An investment in renewable energy is the smartest and only way to break our addiction to” fossil fuels.

Time is running out for ourselves and future generations.

John Doerr, partner in VC Kleiner Perkins (which helped launch Google, among other mega-companies), spoke later and explained that if we don’t embrace a low carbon economy this decade, it won’t just have devastating consequences to the planet, but also to the economy.

He said that he thought that the economic opportunity in low carbon technologies this decade was equal to what we saw in information technology and the Internet and the last decade.

He said that a price for carbon was critical if we are to avoid giving up leadership in this major job creating sector to Asia and Europe, something he has been saying for a long time (see John Doerr and Jeff Immelt: To become the green tech leader, “We must put a price on carbon and a cap on carbon emissions”).

16 Responses to Philippe Cousteau: “Time is running out for ourselves and future generations.”

  1. Christine says:

    I was unable to watch Cousteau’s remarks earlier via the webcast (tech problems). Is there another link where his remarks can be viewed?

    [JR: The talks will all eventually be put online and I will post the link.]

  2. Peter says:

    Mr. Cousteau is right- the continued belief in an economy powered by fossil fuel is almost over; those clamoring for an economic recovery- and think the GOP/Right/Wing Tea Party will bring things back- better think twice.

    From a post I made at the Huffington a few minutes ago

    “The economy is years away from any kind of recovery- It looks like the years 1930-33

    – the economy is stung by high debt by consumers, an aging cash strapped boomer population who have seen their homes fall in value and their stock portfolio crash. still rising health care costs

    Many jobs have disappeared and will not return- the GOP ideas of huge tax cuts will be like pushing on a string- it will not work in the current era we live-it will merely add more to the deficit.

    The canary in the Coal mine is climate change- that could cause havoc and chaos both socially and economically in years to come- making any real economic recovery weak and nearly non existent. By 2020 the economy will likely be not much better then today- the early 21st century will be wrought with profound social changes- caused by a deteriorating climatic environment.”

  3. max says:

    Has John Doerr spoken to the obstructionist US Chamber of Commerce to convince them of the wrongheadedness of their views?

  4. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    We are living off our capital in so many ways and the bills are about to fall due. The longer we put it off, the worse it will be.

  5. William P says:

    There’s really only one issue now: will we face James Lovelock’s prediction of culling of 6 billion humans, or James Hansen’s prediction of culling 100%?

    Lovelock feels the culling could start in as little as ten to fifteen years. Hansen is less definite.

    Its too late for anything else – let’s be honest. Methane is reported bubbling up from Siberian coastlines. Methane is many times more green house than CO2.

    Its time to pack. Smart nations (not the US) should start serious defensive planning and activities NOW. Private efforts should get underway to prepare far northern enclaves for survival of some (those that pay!). Drop all green wash nonsense NOW and put that effort into defense and relocation.

  6. Lewis C says:

    William at 5 –

    I’m unable to distinguish your defeatist cant from the cant defeatism being propagated by shills for the fossil fuel industry. Ditto for your devil-take-the-hindermost philosophy.

    If you think there’s somewhere safe to run and hide from the impacts of Global climate destabilization, and have some unpublished technical data showing that Lovelock is wrong about the potential for effective carbon recovery via biochar, and that Hansen is wrong about the effectiveness of ending coal emissions, then off you go.

    I guess we’ll just carry on trying to prevent this American-lead genocide-by-serial-famines without your help.

    If you’d rather not give up just yet, maybe you could avoid demoralizing visitors to the site by sounding like a doomist shill ?



  7. Rupbrecht St. John Smythe IV says:

    Time has run out unless Harry Reid can get his act together and pass Cap and Trade in a lame duck session. Our environment is going to go even further down the tubes than it has.

    Pray Obama can rally the troops so we can avoid this disaster!

  8. Nemo says:

    Lewis C – I can see your point of view, but also that of William P., more or less (not the bit about saving the rich, but the overall point that it’s probably too late to do any preventing now).

    Once you’ve jumped up and down on the snow field and started the avalanche, is it possible to stop it?

    Most of the climate science we have now seems based on some variation of a linear approximation, the sort of linear approximation where turning off the forcing function (C02 levels) will restore the former equilibrium. But positive feedback mechanisms trigger exponential change, not linear change – and that is very different kettle of fish indeed. Now that the ocean is sufficiently acidic to destroy the coral reefs, the Siberian tundra and sea floor is warming up and spewing methane, the ice caps are disappearing, and the glaciers retreating, is it really likely that we are still early enough in the exponential growth curve to pretend it’s linear? Do we really still think turning off our C02 emissions will undo this damage, or even have any significant effect on the future course of emissions? Or will we merely be shouting curses and entreaties after the avalanche has already sped off downhill, on its way to wipe out the town below?

    The science will always be conservative, as it must be to maintain credible accuracy. But we’ve all encountered those past-the-point-of-no-return events – the time you slipped on a banana peel and realized just before you fell that your foot had slid out too far for you to recover, or the time the grocery bag handles started to tear off and you had just enough time to notice before your groceries were spilled on the floor. Our instincts have encountered non-linear systems triggered out of their former stable equilibrium before, and can sometimes recognize the symptoms of the events to come.

    Looking at the avalanche of bizarre weather and climate events all around the globe these last two or three years, combined with the data flowing in from thousands of scientific experiments, what does your intuition tell you? Mine says we’re watching that avalanche fall down the face of the mountain, watching the rip in the fabric start to grow, watching the tree start to creak and tip over after the last blow from the axe, watching the heart attack start after a lifetime of too many bratwursts and too little exercise. In other words, we’re watching a nonlinear process that has been triggered out of its former equilibrium state, and is departing from it at an exponentially growing rate. Where it will end, we don’t quite know yet, but we know it will be a drastic and sudden change from now on out. And it almost certainly doesn’t matter much what we do, or don’t do, at this point. Shouting after the avalanche might feel like you’re doing something, but unfortunately, the avalanche neither knows nor cares.

    The issue is moot, anyway. There has never been a time in human history when a global majority of people agreed on any common course of action, and that will not change now. Six billion odd Neros will fiddle while the planet burns, and the other 500 million will run around screaming “throw some water on it, damn you!”

    William P. is actually being a little conservative. The “culling” isn’t starting in a few decades, it has started already. How many people have already died in Pakistan, China, various African countries, as a result of the floods, droughts, and fires of the past decade? I recently read an estimate that 360,000 deaths per year are now caused by global climate change. A tough statistic to verify, and I don’t know the methodology used to obtain it, but perhaps it serves as food for thought if nothing else.

    I’m only in my forties, and even in my very short time on this planet I’ve watched it being destroyed. When I was a child, guitar tops were always made of one piece of wood; now they’re two or three, because we have almost no trees big enough for one-piece tops any more. When I was a child, we had an apparently endless supply of free, clean water from the well in our yard. Today I pay for tightly rationed foul-tasting water piped to my house, and use waterless public toilets because we no longer have enough water to flush our own wastes away. A mere twenty years ago one could predict the Southern California weather a month in advance and be pretty darn accurate; just last week the temperature at noon at my workplace was 90+ degrees, today it was below 65 at the same time of day. Fish were apparently plentiful in my youth, but the Newfoundland cod industry collapsed fifteen years ago after they fished the seas empty of cod; the Japanese fishing industry is in the midst of a similar collapse now. And so on, and so on.

    We may only be awakening to the destruction now, but we’re actually watching the tail end of a centuries-long process of systematic destruction. Now the fat lady is singing, and usually that means the curtain is going to fall very shortly. My mostly unscientific hunch is that “very shortly” means drastic and horrific change within the next decade, rather than by 2040 or 2100. But if you compare the climate-related disasters during the decade from 1990 – 2000 with the decade from 2000-2010, I don’t think I’m going out very far on a limb with my prediction at all.

    I’m going to settle down and watch that fat lady sing, and try to accept the fact that the lights will be turning out not long after. And I’ll even cheer on the rest of you, the ones trying to get the cast back for encore after encore, hoping the show will never end. But cannot buy into your optimistic belief, much though I’d like to.


  9. William P says:


    Sorry if I can’t have a sunny attitude about all this. I just look at Kyoto, Copenhagen, at the recent Senate attempt to do something with cap and trade (which Hansen says is a big waste of time). I see zero progress. I am sorry, but there is a time to be realistic. I just don’t see anything actually happening to be hopeful about. Do you? What is going on now that has real potential to stop nearly 7 billion humans from rushing toward a higher standard of living – mostly powered by electricity which is driven by fossil fuel?

    Lovelock gives us an analogy (he, too, has been savagely attacked for being too “negative” and “defeatist”). His analogy is the doctor who comes into the room of relatives and reports that the loved one is terminal. Is this negative thinking? Is the doctor being defeatist? Or is he applying all his training and knowledge of medicine and reporting his honest, frank conclusions?

    So please don’t kill the messenger of bad news, unless you can point to some very promising progress man is making toward the stopping the growth of CO2 output NOW (Hansen says at 392 parts per million CO2 at present we must immediately cap all further growth AND somehow get CO2 back down to 350 ppm!)

    If retreat to polar regions is an answer (Lovelock suggests it is; Hansen see us becoming a fireball if CO2 does not come down) let’s get going on planning for that retreat. At least this gives us a real mission to get working toward. Man fled advancing ice in the Ice Age successfully. He migrated and survived. Lovelock believes we can do it again. He says were are a tough enough animal to accomplish that.

    But just whining about man’s ignorance in generating his own destruction, or working on piddling green projects (“green wash”) that come no where near providing the power we need for our enormous industrial needs, or just denying such a bad thing as man’s demise due to global warming can happen – these approaches are the real defeatism.

    If we are going to be tough enough to survive global heating we first have to be tough enough to face the situation honestly and squarely, and start work on a plan for survival if that is possible. We don’t know if it is for sure. But the thing to do is go out all out to try.

  10. Mark O says:

    “It won’t just have devastating consequences to the planet, but also to the economy”

    That statement is nicely illustrative of the radical disconnection from nature that lies at the heart of our current malaise. It should of course be reversed in any right thinking modus operandi. The failure to realise that the economy is at root a wholly owned subsidiary of planet Earth will lead to our current problems being magnified.

  11. MBrayne says:

    Re #5 William P.

    As a very regular reader though only occasional contributor to this excellent (the best) blog, I’m afraid I can only agree with William P #5.

    Yes, Hansen is right to press for coal to be left in the ground, as Lovelock is to write about the potential for biochar capture. And as we all are in hoping that it will all ultimately be alright.

    But as a psychotherapist and ex-journalist (inc long postings to cold-war Russia and China) all too engaged with the realities of human behaviour and motivation, the truth, I fear, is that it won’t be.

    Like the individual addict, human beings will only truly change their collective behaviour when they feel (not just know) that the wheels are falling off the wagon.

    The question for me is no longer, “can catastrophe be averted?”, but how best to prepare so that, one hopes, something of humankind might survive the coming collapse of populations and of our current civilisation.

    The longer we avoid naming the (yes, maybe only 95% certain, but that’s bad enough for me) certainty of collapse (not just CC, of course, but food, water, energy, the works), the worse it will be when we get there.

    That’s to me not Doom-ism but survival-critical truth. That said, of course, it matters how the warnings are conveyed and framed, so that rather than demoralising, they generate determination and engagement. Unfortunately, as we solo therapists know, you can’t change a lampbulb until it wants to change.

  12. Let’s not forget that this new generation has given us a multitude of Cousteau family members to help us understand our relationship to the oceans. Fabien Cousteau is also deeply involved in these issues as well.

  13. Windsong says:

    Nemo, Beautiful post! I’d just add that when the arctic summer sea ice disappears (it doesn’t look like it will last more than a couple more years– all that “rotten ice”!)– we’re really going to be in big trouble. Losing the summer sea ice in the arctic lets loose the Joker. And there ain’t no way in hell we can save the Arctic now– especially with all the non-cooperation with government officials!

  14. William P says:


    Save the Arctic? Like the post that worries about survival of the economy if global warming destroys the planet, its not just the Arctic, nor polar bears at stake. Its you, personally. Its your family and friends at stake. Its your country, your history, the grand creations of civilization at stake. Can you grasp that, windsong?

    It may be impossible to get people to grasp something like this. Its too big. Its truly the end of the world – at least our world. People recoil from the thought of it, and that is natural. But its true. All the real scientists agree.

    We are all raised on happy endings. Maybe its Hollywood’s fault. In the end there is salvation we have been taught. The guy gets the girl and they are saved from devastation. Remember the movie – “The Day After Tomorrow”? It had the nice Hollywood ending we all feel entitled to.

    But Mother Nature doesn’t care a wit about Hollywood, nor those sob story endings. She has some firm rules that never change. She displays them for us. She gave us time to learn these rules that everyone and everything in the universe must obey. Mother Nature does not allow re-dos or do overs. We get one shot. Those who do not follow the rules pay the ultimate price – the death penalty.

    Most creatures on earth had no capacity to learn and understand the rules. They had brains too small for that. They operated by instinct passed down to them by evolution. But man did have a brain to understand Mother Nature’s rules and alter his behavior accordingly. He could have curbed his green house gas emissions to save his beautiful, bountiful heaven here on earth with its animals, and forests and fishes and blue sea full of strange, wonderful creatures. He was handed an Eden beyond imagination. By the small corners of it still left, we can imagine how it looked two hundred, or five hundred years ago.

    But man invented something called money. And really he worshiped that more than anything. He put it first and ignored Mother Nature’s hard, fast rules. He was willing to cut the last tree on earth for the money it would bring and justified cutting it by the false rules of Capitalism.

    In biblical terms man has cast himself out of that wonderful Eden. Now there’s hell fire to pay.

  15. William P says:


    You wrote, “Where it will end, we don’t quite know yet, but we know it will be a drastic and sudden change from now on out.”

    Read James Hansen and James Lovelock, two very good and serious scientists who have spent their lives studying earth and her climate. Maybe we don’t know exactly “where it will end..” but they will give you a pretty educated guess. Read Lovelock’s “The Vanishing Face of Gaia” and Hansen’s “Storms of my Grandchildren” for a good account of where things are headed.

    Using some wishful thinking myself, I go with Lovelock’s account which says man may survive in polar regions. Lovelock thinks he will because he is tough and resourceful and survived the grim ice ages by migrating. Lovelock feels our numbers, of course, will be greatly reduced. With some actions now we could prepare northern enclaves and support infrastructure. Democratic governments probably won’t do that in time because you know how we procrastinate and debate and argue until the last minute. A private effort might get things going, however. Then governments might be spurred to action.

  16. ShellyT says:

    Is there video to any of this energy summit yet? I’ve been looking for it for about a week . . .
    I’d say most people missed it live so I hope they realize the necessity of making this available on video.