Climate Change is Simple: David Roberts’ TEDx talk

Climate Change is Simple: David Roberts' TEDx talk
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The management of Face Activities is very concerned about the environment and threats to the health and welfare of our planet, animal habitats, and human life, caused by environmental dangers, like climate change. In this spirit, we will periodically present pieces on significant threats to the safety of our planet, including climate change, pollution, and over population. We urge our membership to stay active, and involved, in making our planet a better, safer, and cleaner home.


David Roberts, a staff writer for, gave a TEDx talk about climate change, called “Climate Change is Simple,” in 2012. It remains an excellent, simple introduction to the subject, and a call to arms. The threat of warming global temperatures, caused by human activity, is a great risk to the long-term survival of humanity, and all life on earth.

Roberts explains how critical the problem is. By burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas, we are pouring billions of tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere yearly, which acts like a blanket, trapping heat from the sun that would otherwise radiate back into space. This heats up our atmosphere and oceans relatively rapidly. Natural atmospheric warming of a similar sort has happened before in our planets prehistory, but slowly. In our post-industrial revolution era, global warming is happening at a much faster rate than ever before. So, what are the effects?

According to Roberts, scientists and politicians proposed a somewhat arbitrary 2 degree Celsius limit on the global temperature rise. If average temperatures went above this threshold, then negative effects from climate change would be likely. Unfortunately this threshold was set much too high. Negative effects are likely to become quite noticeable at just 1.5 degrees Celsius (note that we’ve currently reached the 1 degree mark, since the start of the industrial revolution.)

Roberts also notes that if we continue on our current course, with our current green house gas emission rates, we could reach 4 and even 6 degree rises. This level of warming would have devastating effects on world populations. Over half the species on earth would die, and 40% or more of the habitable land on the earth’s surface would be stricken by drought, risking the world’s food supply. Sea levels would rise dramatically, flooding many coastal lands and cities, and hundreds of millions of people would become refugees. We would have a very real problem housing and feeding the world’s population.

In the worst case scenario, global warming could trigger feedback loops in the environment, causing a run away warming trend that’s irreversible. For example, if the permafrost in Siberia melts and releases significant quantities of methane gas into the atmosphere, which is a potent green house gas, then temperatures could sky rocket, causing the average global temperature rise to hit 12 degrees Celsius by the year 2300. In such a case the world may become virtually uninhabitable. Half the earth’s surface would literally be too hot for human habitation. For example, a place that now has an average temperature of 80 F could reach 170 F! Human beings may not have the technology to survive in a world that hot, and life as we know it now would surely be a thing of the past.

Roberts urges action now. He recognizes that many hold back from climate change activism because they don’t understand the science very well. But he presents his TEDx talk in order to over come that barrier. To Roberts, the principles of climate change are simple, and its consequences are dire. We must greatly limit carbon emissions over the next few years, or risk a significant and lasting increase in global temperatures, threatening our safety the habitability of planet earth.


Photo: Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed) – Climate change is simple: David Roberts at TEDxTheEvergreenStateCollege / Youtube

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