Speech: The Opportunity for Private Citizens to Effect Positive Change in an Increasingly Interdependent World

March 28, 2006
London Business School

Full text of the speech

…The second thing that I would like to talk briefly about is global warming. I believe that it is the only existential threat that, those of you who are students here, your generation faces. It could literally undermine your ability to raise your children and grandchildren. A whole spade of new books and studies have come out in the last couple of months, and I will just cite two or three. A dig through the ice pac in Antarctica, deeper than any before it had achieved has enabled us to measure the pattern of climate warming in the last two hundred years. The climate is warming more rapidly than anytime in the last two hundred thousand years. Homosapiens stood up on the planes of the savannah in East Africa somewhere between 130,000-150,000 years ago. This goes back before the time when our species was on the planet. The last ice age receded 15,000 years ago that allowed people to move across the globe. They were five civilizations on earth five thousands years ago. We are playing with serious fire.

The Indians and Chinese are in this huge fight now to see who can get the most oil. We may be at a point of peak oil production. You may see $100 a barrel oil in the next two or three years, but what still is driving this globalization is the idea that is you cannot possibly get rich, stay rich and get richer; if you don’t release more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That was true in the industrial era; it is simply factually not true. What is true is that the old energy economy is well organized, financed and connected politically. The new energy economy is underfinanced, under organized, entrepreneurial and in need of the type of research and development work that we routinely did when we were trying to sequence the human genome or go into space. But just with existing technologies for conservation and clean energy, we can more than meet the Kyoto protocols if we were remotely serious about the targets and in the process create jobs in the developed and developing world on a scale that is otherwise unimaginable to me. It is just a question of whether we accept this, but I can only tell you that I have studied this data seriously. I consider it an existential threat to your future. It may be the most remote security threat you face, but the only one who has the chance to change the life of everybody on the plant for the worst. And yet it is a phenomenal opportunity. …