Must-See TEDx Video: Climate Change Is Simple

So I’m using the excuse that I’m still recovering from pancreatic surgery to finish and update some old draft pieces.

I never got around to posting a great Dave Roberts TEDx talk from, well, June, but in October, it was given a soundtrack and cool videos, so technically I’m only 5 months late.

Plus, just Tuesday, Roberts wrote a must-read post, “Two reasons climate change is not like other environmental problems,” so I’m killing 2 birds with one stone here, if efficient avicide is your thing.

Watch “Climate Change Is Simple”:

Worth the wait, no?

27 Responses to Must-See TEDx Video: Climate Change Is Simple

  1. fj says:

    Yes, it is powerful except that things are out-of-control right now and we must ramp up to across the board net zero immediately while restoring the environment.

    A wartime military situation is only so command and control social structure that can respond to such an extreme crisis.

    Mr. President you must understand this.

  2. David B says:


    As always, thank you for the post. While we’re on the topic of TED talks, I wonder what your reaction is to the claims in Allan Savory’s recent TED talk regarding the potential for storing all the world’s legacy emissions by improved management of livestock grazing. A mega-wedge of land use, if you will. It was a very hopeful message, but I can’t evaluate it with my own knowledge or in the reading I have done since watching it. It is definitely worth a look while you’re in recovery mode. I hope you’re feeling fit again soon!


  3. wili says:

    Thanks for highlighting this most important video, which also has the advantage of being brief and by a youngish person–both important factors when presenting these hard realities to students. It really has caught the attention of those I’ve shown it to.

    I do like the fuller version with his introduction about how he ended up creating this talk, as it helps to further humanize him and helps the audience sympathetically connect with him through his self-deprecatory humor.

    There are some nice images, but I find the music a little distracting.

    We need more videos like this, though! And we need them updated as things continue to unfold/collapse.

    For example, in the Arctic, even the thickest sea ice has been shattering to smithereens like aspic splattered on linoleum–ill omens for the coming melt which will start to pick up steam now that dawn has broken over the top of the planet.

    Neven and his colleagues have presented some great images and context, but most of the world is blissfully unaware of the world-altering tragedy unfolding in that breathtakingly stark realm.

  4. todd tanner says:

    Joe: Great video – I’ve watched it a handful of times since it first came out. One question. At the 11 minute mark, Dave makes the claim that if the earth warms 12 degrees C, places that were an average of 80 degrees F will experience 170 or 180 degree F temps. Is that particular assertion a touch hyperbolic, or does the science actually support those numbers? I’ve been giving Dave the benefit of the doubt, but those figures seem awfully high to me. Any thoughts you can share?

  5. Best to you, Joe. Hope you feel better soon!

  6. P.S. That presentation is stunningly powerful. Very well done.

  7. Joe Romm says:

    Yes, it seemed high. Warm places become unbearable, for sure. I’ll ask him.

  8. Joe Romm says:

    Seemed implausible. He seems to think desertification doesn’t at all happen because of climate change.

  9. fj says:

    I believe 170 – 180 degrees was projected for three centuries into the future which may scale correctly considering we have had record-breaking temperatures above 129 degrees in the last two years.

  10. Mark Belgium says:

    Here’s the video without the music :

  11. Mark E says:

    “Avicide?” Thanks for a great vocab word, but greater thanks for taking good care of yourself.

  12. Jack Burton says:

    I have seen the video previously, but it was good to hear it again. He has the courage to say the 2C will be blown through. Yes, he is correct! Why any self respecting climate scientist would even speak of 2C is beyond me. That is baked in the cake, it is already a done deal. Only argument now is how fast our new record CO2 emission levels will drive us into 4C.
    Humanity is fighting over the European bankers greed and stupidity. Same in the US. Our energy policy makes greedy bankers look like saints! We fiddle while we have poured gasoline all over the house and are sitting around lighting flares and casting them about.
    Gloom and Doom, it is now the appropriate farm of mind to be in. Let the deniers spew their screed like the fools they are. They are useless distractions.

  13. Sasparilla says:

    Thank you for highlighting this video Joe and Dave’s post – I’d watched the presentation once before and it is excellent…and Dave’s post is awesome as usual (his Virtues of Being Unreasonable on Keystone post is one I have bookmarked, may print and mount it on the wall).

    I do wish Dave had mentioned in his post all the warming we have “locked in the pipeline” (30-40 years) from the emissions we’ve already created but aren’t feeling the heat from yet (since the oceans act as a huge drag on temperature rise) – it also gets the point across that this isn’t like a previous environmental issue from before and that things are seriously worse than they already appear.

  14. fj says:

    Claiming no expertise on this subject, but at 12 degrees F, climate dynamics are likely dramatically different; no ice caps, minimal vegetation, ocean temps . . . and convection systems much different.

    It’s been described that one of the reasons for the abundance of life on earth is that the oceans do not freeze solid since water expands — ice floats — when it starts to get colder than 39 degrees F which is not the usual way matter responds to cooling.

    If I am not mistaken water also expands when it gets warmer than 39 degrees F; though I do admit to get a bit of vertigo thinking about this.

    It might be fun to hear what the denier anti-science crowd thinks about this.

  15. David B says:

    I think he was really trying to get across that desertification didn’t start with the industrial revolution, but far predates it. We typically refer to pre-industrial conditions when discussing climate change. But if his analysis is correct, we would have to revise our understanding of soil-based carbon to a time far earlier than 200 years ago. Given the low cost and rapid results of a wedge of that nature, I think it deserves real inspection.

  16. Terry Finefrock says:

    Decision makers receive conflicting information and conclusions from credible and trusted sources all the time; it is a not possible to 100% verify all data, assumptions and calculate a reliable result. But responsible Decision Makers have learned that when there are viable alternatives it is not appropriate to choose an option that will cause significant and irreparable damage. As “Sasparilla” points out that we have alot of carbon-climate chnage already in the pipeline, takes 3040 years to manifest. A responsible decision maker would take action to assure the potential damage does not occur. We have alternatives to generate energy that will not only avoid the potential catastrophic consequences but also provide many other benefits.

    Let’s act now to provide beneficial change, avoid uncertainty, avoid catastrophic legacy driven by short term gain/inconvenience, analysis-paralysis… potential damage to our children’s children.

  17. Jim Baird says:

    Dave Roberts quotes a study that says we are bound for 3C temperature rise even if we stop carbon emissions immediately. How does Mathews and Weaver come up no rise with zero emissions in The Dangerous Myth That Climate Change Is Reversible?

    The IPCC says only 40 ppm will decline this century if we stop emissions. Since this is only a third of the increase since the atmosphere starting accumulating carbon. It would seem 3C is far more likely than Mathews and Weaver suggest.

  18. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    I learned a little about Hadley Cells in one of the first books on climate change that I read a few years back. [Sorry, don’t remember which one now.] But what I do remember is that most of the world’s derserts are around 30 degrees north and south latitude because that’s where the dry air plunges back to ground level after having dumped their moisture in the tropical zones. The Hadley cells are, I believe, expected to get bigger, expanding their extent to take in S. Europe, and S. US, which would bring more desertlike conditions to those areas. Due to symmetry, the same should happen in the S. Hemisphere. Corrections and/or mental realignments welcomed.

  19. todd tanner says:

    Thanks. If you learn anything about his numbers, I’d love to hear about it. You can always reach me through

  20. M Tucker says:

    My take from the talk and the article:

    We must begin to do something in the next 5 to 10 years and it must be more than reducing emission 80% by 2050.

    Each year we do nothing raises the cost of actually doing something by $5 billion.

    If we allow ourselves to continue with BAU for 10 years or more, average temperature will rise to 12 deg C by 2300. This means that places with highs in the 80 deg F range will experience highs in the 170 to 180 deg F range.

    Some things I think he should have said:

    Eventually we will get to a place where no matter how much money we throw at the problem we will not be able to enact change fast enough to make much difference.

    The small .8 deg C average warming has already produced changes to the environment that were unexpected. The rapid melting of the Arctic, the increase in atmospheric water vapor, the changes to weather patterns and the increase in extreme weather events indicate that even warming to 1.5 deg C is not a safe place to be. All the warming produced by AGW is bad.

    My personal conclusion:

    Say hello to disaster.

    Chances we will do anything meaningful in the next 5 to 10 years is virtually zero.

    The nations of the world will not cooperate to spend any money to address climate disruption.

    Forget about 2300. If we make it past 2100 with anything resembling our current civilization intact it will be a miracle.

    Rename Earth Day to Ben Dover Day and start practicing kissing your ass goodbye.

  21. Michael Dowd says:

    Yes, this TEDx talk is truly awesome!

    Joe, with respect to your intro, I recommend “feeding two birds with one hand” or “feeding two birds with one scone”.


  22. Ernest says:

    I like the original TEDx talk better. The music seemed incongruent with an ongoing lecture type talk with a lot of detailed concepts.

    The visuals and music are a great start for illustrating the points. But if one is going to do a YouTube video, I think it’s better to do it purely that way. Maybe Dave Roberts can help narrate the video, but the central format would be the video, not a lecture type presentation.

    But doing a little of both formats doesn’t work for me.

  23. 6thextinction says:

    It’s 5-9 yrs now, because he made that statement last year. As depressing as it is, we cannot give up. Join; start a group; give up flying; give up meat; give up driving; write LTEs; forward AGW articles, David Roberts’ TED video, climate progress, grist, etc. articles to friends, family, whoever. We owe that much to future generations.

  24. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Apicide is more of a worry at the moment.

  25. Bill D says:

    Dave Roberts has done the best job I’ve seen so far in distilling the very real threat of irreversible global climate change. Trying to sweet-talk people is pointless and it leads to delays that humankind simply can’t afford. Paul Revere didn’t merely suggest that the British were coming and Dave Roberts is framing this issue in stark terms that correspond directly to its gravity.

  26. Cree Dreams of Bear says:

    More extreme weather, rising seas, and escalating risks to our health. That’s what we can expect as climate change gets worse.