A decade ago I saw Al Gore give his now-famous talk on climate change, the lecture that became the film “An Inconvenient Truth,” at Stanford University. As I watched the politician-turned-VC-turned-environmental-activist wax eloquent and passionately argue his thesis, I had an epiphany. If only that man—the funny, emotional, persuasive, comfortable-in-his-own-skin Al Gore—had run for president, he’d be in the White House.
A Gore presidency wasn’t to be, of course. Gore instead went on to wear many hats, including helping lead a nation and the international community toward consensus on climate change. That same man turned up Wednesday night in Vancouver at TED, the conference populated by people just like Gore: intelligent, curious, caring, and overwhelmingly wealthy.
Gore displayed the fiery and utterly sincere rhetoric that was so missing in his doomed 2000 presidential campaign. He provided an update on his now famous lecture. TED itself reviewed the talk, in which Gore asked and answered three questions in the affirmative: Must we change? Can we change? Will we change?
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Gore offered three increasingly optimistic truths to prove his point. Still inconveniently, 85% of all energy in the world comes from fossil fuels, he said. And yet, the private sector makes two-thirds of new investments in alternative energy, and government action such as the recent COP21 climate talks in Paris shows that global citizens are getting with the program.
It can be hard to find the practical outcomes from talkfests like TED. Yet it took a still committed statesman—who reminded an adoring audience that he is done with politics—to prove that the right message, delivered well, can still change the world.
This is my last dispatch from TED, an exhilarating smorgasbord of ideas and experiences. Look for more targeted tech-industry news next week, and have a wonderful weekend.