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8 TED Talks on climate change to inspire and inform you

TED Collage

(Left to right) Long-time climate educator Al Gore, social innovation and nutrition expert Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli, Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees and Gen Z climate activist Zahra Biabani. Collage by GreenBiz

Climate change is accelerating, but we have the science and the technology to mitigate emissions, adapt to their ongoing impacts, and even reverse them to restore a habitable, healthy planet. We need a multipronged approach with big, bold ideas to solve climate change, the biggest challenge of our generation. 

One platform that showcases such ideas is TED Talks, in which scientists, researchers, technologists, business leaders, artists, designers and other experts give short, powerful talks on valuable new knowledge and innovative research in their respective fields. Because climate change is an interdisciplinary field, TED Talks about the subject run the gamut and are some of the most interesting presentations from the organization. 

Recent climate change-related TED talks present some of the boldest and biggest ideas to solve this global problem. Here are eight of the biggest recent ones that address climate change and climate solutions.

1. Al Gore: This is the moment to take on the climate crisis

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the scale of the climate crisis and inaction by global leaders, it’s comforting to hear from a long-time climate leader about the ongoing progress and the feasibility of addressing climate change. 

In this video, one vanguard of the climate movement, Nobel laureate Al Gore, founder of climate training organization Climate Reality Project, speaks about how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. He discusses the many leading institutions continuing to pour money into polluting sectors and dives into how the financial interests of fossil fuel companies have blocked national climate action. Still, he strikes a hopeful note that we can meet this moment.

"Remember always that political will is itself a renewable resource," Gore says.

2. The eco-creators helping the climate through social media

Modern problems require modern solutions. In this TED Talk, Gen Z climate activist Zahra Biabani discusses how she and other content creators use social media to spread sustainability messages and fight "climate doom-ism," or a pessimistic outlook on the future of the planet. Too many young people feel there’s nothing that they can do about climate change, and this nihilistic view has the potential to halt the climate movement in its tracks, she says. 

Instead, hope and information can empower younger generations to spur action. Biabani explains how platforms such as TikTok can spread these messages to reach new people and spark interest in sustainability.

If you want to feel inspired by the power of Gen Z, this video will show you how younger generations are committing to making real change in their everyday lives to tackle climate change. 

3. The future of the food ecosystem — and the power of your plate

The food system is one of the biggest paradoxes in climate change. While we need to feed the nearly 8 billion people on the planet, many of them in low-income countries vulnerable to food insecurity, the way that a great deal of food is produced is wasted or emits greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change. At the same time, fixing these systems is one of the greatest opportunities to tackle climate change. In this video, discusses how to build a more equitable, sustainable food system.

Nwuneli presents her plans to connect those around the world without access to healthy food with the food that goes to waste in many other places. She believes a food system that nourishes all people is possible.

If you are interested in learning about the connections between the food on your table and the food grown in fields around the world, this talk will certainly broaden your perspective.

4. What you need to know about carbon removal

It’s well established that we need to stop new sources of carbon from entering the atmosphere. However, we also need a strategy to deal with the excess carbon that’s already there and warming this planet. That strategy is known as carbon removal, and while the concept is not new, the variety of ways to remove excess carbon from the atmosphere today is.

Renowned author Gabrielle Walker dives into the necessity of carbon removal and provides an overview about the many ways to go about it. "If we're going to have a fighting chance of staying below 1.5 degrees [Celsius], that safe limit, we have to have carbon removals," she says. "And it looks like we’re going to need a lot."

Walker discusses how we can store this carbon in everything from trees and soils to the ocean and buildings to rocks and deep underground. While trees and high-tech machinery are the two carbon removal methods that stick in the public’s perception, she argues that the carbon removal landscape isn’t so black and white — or "green or chrome," as she calls it.

The strategies that she discusses involve wooly pigs, volcanic rocks and other carbon removal approaches that aren’t as widely known.

If you’re seeking creative solutions for carbon removal, look no further. "We can clean up the mess we’ve made and give the world a chance to heal," Walker says.

5. Tracking the whole world's carbon emissions — with satellites and AI

When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, three key questions are: Who’s emitting, how much and where? Too often, the answers come from global actors, such as countries and multinational companies, self-reporting numbers, which can lead to inaccuracies. 

In this video, climate tech expert Gavin McCormick introduces the solution to this problem: A real-time global carbon tracking system that can identify the worst polluters via satellite imagery, big data and AI. Currently, a coalition of scientists, activists and tech companies are working together on this powerful free tool, Climate TRACE.

"There are now literally thousands of eyes in the sky, and many of them are actually free and open to anyone to use this information," McCormick says. 

This giant open-source shared database features emissions information from every country, every sector and every year. The goal is to monitor global emissions and publicly report on them, in order to increase transparency and spur meaningful climate action. To achieve the Paris Agreement, McCormick says, and prevent this "civilization-ending crisis," countries will need to cooperate and share resources — and Climate Trace can help.

If you want to learn the background and goal of one of the most powerful public, free open tools that can help fight climate change — and then go check it out yourself — this video is for you.

6. Why Indigenous forest guardianship is crucial to climate action

In this video, human rights lawyer Nonette Royo describes how growing up on a small island in the Philippines and learning from her family about the importance of protecting the forest there helps her in her work today, providing legal assistance to Indigenous people by taking their land rights battles to court. Her team of lawyers at the Tenure Facility, an organization at the intersection of environmental and Indigenous rights, is aiming to help these Indigenous communities around the world secure and defend 123 million acres of forests over the next five years. 

She dives into harrowing statistics: 470 million Indigenous people live on and manage land that is home to 80 percent of the world's biodiversity, yet their legal rights are constantly threatened and exploited by loggers, miners and corporations. 

If you’re looking to learn from a true leader working for justice for Indigenous peoples, you won't want to miss Royo’s talk.

"No one should have to die protecting forests," she says. "We all have a choice — all of us — to stand as allies, to protect the protectors of our future, to restore balance, to survive the climate crisis."

7. Why healthy soil matters now more than ever

Jane Zelikova, climate scientist and co-founder of gender equity organization 500 Women Scientists, presents her case for agricultural practices that protect Earth's soil and slow global warming. 

"Soils are considered the ‘skin’ of the Earth," Zelikova says. They play a significant role in our lives: They nourish our foods, store massive amounts of carbon and contain diverse microbial life. These microbes help decompose organic material, such as dead plants, animals and more microbes, to create clumps of carbon that are crucially stored in the soil. But when the soil is disturbed — from converting grassland and rangeland into agricultural land or cities — this carbon is released. This practice is occurring at an alarming rate. 

"The trick is to rethink how we do agriculture," she says, pointing out that increasing the diversity of microbes in soils allows carbon to stay in the ground, grow more nutrient-rich plants and keep communities around them resilient. 

If you’re looking for inspiring climate solutions just under your feet, Zelikova’s 10-minute presentation will change the way you look at soils.

"Soils are the literal foundation of life on this planet — the reason that we eat and the climate solution just waiting to be unlocked," she says.

8. How is your city tackling the climate crisis?

Amid the dearth of national-level climate policymaking, cities are often at the forefront of climate action. 

This presentation from Marvin Rees, mayor of Bristol in the United Kingdom, discusses how local legislation can help the environment around cities and contribute to deeper climate action on a greater scale. Building sustainable infrastructure is an investment that can also build healthier, happier communities. He touches on electric buses in Colombia and freshwater reserves in Singapore, both results of city mayors’ innovative efforts. 

"If we can unlock the full potential of our cities, we can minimize the price the planet pays for hosting us in our growing numbers," Rees says. 

Rees makes complex international climate topics feel personal, and his talk will make you curious about how your own city is helping mitigate climate change and provide for you and your neighbors

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