including iran. when they need more water for cds they usually take it from the irrigation water supply. then they import in a productive capacity. the reason for is this is since it takes 1,000 tons of water to produce one ton of grain the most efficient way to import water is in the form of grain. and grain becomes the currency with which countries balance their water books. the world grain market is in a sense a whirl broader market. to the extent that we have a world water market it is embodied in the grain market. countries with water surpluses don't export and those with water deficit import. the water issue is a big one. because it is underground you can't photograph it. it is largely out of sight but that doesn't make it any less
real. and then we have some new tracks beyond soil erosion and aquifer completion. i did a piece that justin referred to entitled the copenhagen conference on food security. i did that piece because this is the bottom line at copenhagen. 193 delegations planning to gather have various concerns on the climate front for companies -- countries in east asia and the caribbean, more powerful and destructive storms, for southern europe. east africa and australia, intense heat and drought and lower crop yields. for the low-lying island countries, it is rising sea
level. i was at a un conference on population and development a few weeks ago and i was pointing out 115 delegations who were there, national delegations, we are almost certainly going to see a decline in un membership. because there are so many low-lying island countries that may not exist 30 years from now simply because of rising sea level. some of them are so close it doesn't take much of a rise for them to begin planning evaluations and some of them are already at that stage. the ice sheets are melting. the greenland ice sheet and the west antarctic ice sheet. if the greenland ice sheet melts entirely sea level rises 23
feet. west antarctica breaks up completely. it has already started to break up. c level rises 16 feet. we are looking at potentially very substantial rises in sea level over the longer term. the greenland ice sheet will not melt overnight. the latest projections are during this century we can expect roughly -- we can expect a rise in sea level up to six feet. even a three foot rise in sea level according to world bank would put bangladesh under water. bangladesh is a country of 1 sixty million people, half that of the united states. a three foot rise in sea level would put a good part of the become dulled the beneath the sea. that produces half of the rice for vietnam. a country of eighty million
people and the country that is the world's second rising rice exporter after thailand. others will be affected in varying degrees by rising sea level. imagine ice melting in the far north atlantic will shrink the rice harvest of asia. but this is not the most serious threat. that is coming from melting mountain glaciers. the glacier monitoring institute in switzerland has now reported the eighteenth consecutive year of shrinking mountain glaciers around the world. they monitor glaciers in the andes and the rocky mountains,
the alps, the himalayas, the tibetan plateau and they're reporting glaciers are melting everywhere. it is the ice melts from the glaciers in the himalayas and on the tibetan plateau that sustains the major rivers of asia during the dry season. it is that i smelled that sustains the rivers that also sustains the irrigation systems of indiana and china for example. china is the world's leading wheat producer. india is number 2, we are number 3. a lot of people think we are number one. we are not. china's harvest--a hours. it is because they irrigate most whereas we irrigate very little of our week. with price, china and india
totally dominate the world rice harvest. what happens to the glaciers in the himalayas will have the most massive affect on future -- we have never had projected threat to food security on this scale before. to many americans thinking about the melting glaciers on the tibetan plateau, that is china's problem. it is china's problem but it is also our problem because if china comes into the world market for massive quantities of grain as it has done over the last decade or massive quantities of soybeans, it will come to the united states because we are far and away the world's largest grain exporter. for american consumers, this is a nightmare scenario because we
are looking at the prospect of competing with 1.3 billion chinese with rapidly rising incomes for our grain. historical the, when we face a situation like that and food prices were rising out of control we restrict exports has in the 1970s. the problem today is that china is our banker. every month, the treasury department auctioned off treasury securities. this is how we cover our fiscal deficits. one of the big buyers every month is china. they now hold over a trillion dollars of u.s. treasury security. the trillion dollars. that is 1,000 billions. we are going to be sharing our
grain harvest with china. big time. the world is changing so fast i don't think most of us who don't have the luxury as i do of tracking these things all the time realize how much. we also have rising temperatures affecting grain harvest. the rule of thumb has emerged, this is included in a paper published by the nationally academy of sciences, for each one degree celsius in temperature above the norm during the growing season we can expect a 10% decline in wheat, rice and corn yields. the problem is agriculture as it exists today has evolve to maximize production in a climatic regime that has changed
very little over the last 11,000 years until recently. as it changes, agriculture will be increasingly out of sync with the climate system. and the affect of higher temperatures on yields of one manifestation of that. one of the consequences of these trends is that it is not only leading to higher food prices but increasing numbers of hungry people in the world. for some decades the number of hungry people in the world was declining until the late 1990s it bottomed out to twenty-five million. it then turned upward last year and went over nine hundred million. this year it has gone over a
billion and the prospects are that it is going to continue rising. one of the consequences of these continuing -- this continuing rise in the number of hungry people his growing political instability in low income countries around the e of this o increase the number of failing states. when i lived in villages in india in 1956 india was only 9 years old. it was created, one of the many countries created as a result of the colonization during the couple of decades after world war ii. this was the period of nation-building, creating new states, colonies becoming independent. now suddenly in the past decade we have this new term creating
into our vocabulary, failing state. a failed state is a state that can provide personal security. pakistan would be an example and many others. a failing state cannot feed its people. 80 would be a dramatic example. states are failing and the risk is growing longer year over year and the question is how many failing states before our global civilization begins to unravel? yesterday i was in minneapolis. and it took 3 cavs and all three were somalis. i couldn't help but contrast them driving cabs and moving us about and their cousins still in somalia trying to make a living
by escorting ships into the harbor and holding them ransom. what a division. these guys were very nice, good cabdrivers. they are now 20 navies in the indian ocean, the arabian sea, the persian gulf area trying to protect ships going through the area. and often failing. piracy has become a major source of income for people in somalia. it doesn't exist as a country. this is a free enterprise
system. just a year ago i was reading an article in newsweek magazine, a long feature article, three or four pages. at an end of the first paragraph, something jumped off the page that said business as usual was beginning to read like the end of the world. it struck me not because it was a new revelation for me but because it was a mainstream news magazine saying this. business as usual is no longer an option, no longer a viable option. we have got to change quickly and the key changes needed, plan b has four component,
stabilizing climate, eradicating poverty, stabilizing population and restoring the economy's natural support system the progress land and fisheries and so forth. we don't really have any choice if we want to sustain civilization. i was in a meeting in raleigh, north carolina. someone -- i can't remember for sure -- was at that meeting. it was called something like the american society of higher educator's for sustainability. for sustainable -- i can't remember exactly but that was the thrust of it. i thought about the terms for sustainability is what it was. as one who was involved nearly 40 years ago and conceptualizing sustainable development as an
ecological concepts, it occurred to me that it is not a very exciting term. it does not, quote, stir the soul. as i was talking it occurred to me this is a huge group of 1600 professors who teach courses in sustainable development or individuals on campuses across the country responsible for the greening of the campus. was a huge group, so many u.s. colleges and universities represented and i said if we don't stop talking about sustainable development and talking about saving civilization, this is what it is all about. i could see students rallying to a call to work to sustain civilization. to achieve sustainability, it just doesn't work very well. we have got to rethink that. the exciting thing is we can now
begin to see how to build a new economy, one that will be sustainable. you can see how to save civilization. let me talk about lighting. most of us here know that if we go from incandescent light bulb to a fluorescent at 75%, if we go from incandescent to a light emitting diode, latest lighting technology, if we combine that with smart sensors, we can cut electricity by 90%. that will enable us to close 705 of the world's 2500 -- just that
one initiative. in los angeles i was in california a few days ago but it los angeles, the mayor is in the process of replacing the 130,000 street lights in the city with new efficient light emitting diodes that cost quite a bit more and took eight years to cover the additional cost. take the electricity savings to cover the cost and they will be home free. each year, the electricity bill will be $11 billion less than it would have been had they not made the change. then there are enormous savings on the maintenance side because these last long time. the manufacturers are pointing out that if you put in a light emitting diode when your child is born it will still be working when the youngster goes off to
college. it is an exciting new technology. i can talk about other things, but that makes the point. the other thing that is happening that is so exciting is the rate and scale of the growth in renewable energy development is anything beyond we could have imagined two years ago. it is extraordinary. considering the state of texas, texas has 8,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity and another couple thousand under construction and according to an energy research firm, some tens of thousands more in development. altogether, they add up to according to this research report, 53,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity. think of the coal-fired power
plants. when these wind farms have finished they will generate more electricity for twenty-four million people living in texas can consume. it is extraordinary. what i find so interesting about this is if you were to rank states in the u.s. according to environmental sensitivity, taxes would not be near the top of. this is will country. a lot of oil guys are investing in wind farms. that is where the money is. china. china has come to wind energy because they insisted on 70% local content. it took a while to get that because they haven't been
involved in developing wind technology. it doubled generating capacity. if you keep doubling every year you are going to have a lot. in addition to this ongoing, a government agency called the national resources. i have it exactly right. it is cowher and aiding the development of six-complex is the smallest of which will be tens thousand megawatts of generating capacity. altogether -- hundred thousand megawatt.
this is on top of wind forms. the chinese are worried about an enormous toll on their population. birth defects, cancer rates, the leading source of death in china today is cancer. usually in a low-income country is infectious diseases transitioning into cardiovascular disease. china has a separate area. cancer has become the leading source of death. a third project, this is the biggest alone, for years i have heard from the public about a project to harness the solar energy resources of north africa to generate electricity. i don't know how many years i have been hearing this and it always seemed like a good idea but there never seemed to get much traction.
i heard it twice last year, 1/7 conference in june in rome and in early september another conference in germany. on july 13th of this year, munich insurance, the largest insurer, their companies that insure people operating insurance companies to spread the risk. they put together a consortium of a dozen corporations, one from algeria, this includes siemens, a d d, several other major companies. they have created a new organization the purpose of which is to devise a strategy to integrate the resources of north africa into the european electricity system combining with wind from northern europe, the north sea for example to
satisfy future electricity needs. the second responsibility for the organization is to develop a financial plan. they announced two weeks ago that they expect to be pumping electricity under the mediterranean by oceanic cable from solar thermal power plants in north africa by 2015. a german research firm has looked at this -- let me point out that the algerians which already started building solar panel plants to export electricity because they know one day they won't be exporting -- in their desert they have enough harness the bowl solar energy to power the world economy. that sound like an error but it is not. i should also point out that in china a few months ago a u.s./china team completed a national wind resource inventory.
they pointed out in an article in science that china has enough harness will wind energy to increase its current electricity consumption sevenfold. that is just wind. doesn't insults doesn't -- this includes solar -- in this country we have known for a long time that north dakota, texas, have enough harnessable wind energy to satisfy national energy needs. electricity, and all other energy needs as well. one of the questions that comes up when we think about -- i should also mention the goals for cutting carbon emotions emissions in plan b we did not ask the question political leaders usually ask which is what is politically feasible or acceptable or popular among our constituents because when you ask that question they all say
the same thing. we want to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2015. that is a convenient date because very few of them will be in office. we didn't start with the politics. we started with the science and we asked question, how much and how fast will we have to cut carbon emissions if we want to have a decent shot at saving the greenland ice sheet? how fast do we have to close coal-fired power plants if we want to save the glaciers in the himalayas on the tibetan plateau? when you ask that question it is clear we have to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2020. for those of you who track the science, atmosphere carbon dioxide is 387 parts per million. if we cut carbon emissions 80%
between now and 2020 we will hold the line at just under 400 parts per million. then the stage will be set after 2024 reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide to 250 parts per million that jim henson in the u.s. government leading's climate scientist and the head of the i p c c, entered government panel of climate change think we need to be pushing for. they think we need to get 350 parts per million as quickly as possible. we look at the u.s. and gasoline consumption. we consume in this country, the next 20 countries combined, that includes japan, china, russia, germany, brazil and 15 other countries. we consume a lot of gasoline. the good news is oil use in this
country, gasoline use as well, by 10% in the last two years, but the key to reducing our gasoline consumption is electrifying our transport system and with cars that means moving to plug in hybrids in all of electric cars and it is entirely doable. gm has pointed out that the standards for determining mileage will get 230 miles per gallon of gasoline use. that is because most of the time it will be running on electricity. it will have a range of 16 miles. most daily driving can be done with electricity and recharging the battery at night. prius, toyota will have several hundred plug in hybrids in various commercial fleets and so forth in this country by the end
of next month. next year will probably begin marketing on a larger scale. be widely, the chinese term, started marketing hybrids last december. they plan to be in this market next year. warren buffett is one of the stockholders in this company. we are looking at enormous potential for reducing gasoline use by moving to plug in hybrids and all the electric cars. engineers know but not everyone else knows electric motor is three times as efficient as the gasoline engine. moving to electric motors harnesses a lot of inefficiency. it also -- it also means we can be running cars on the
electricity equivalent of a gallon of gasoline that costs $0.75. especially if it is wind energy. the economics are going to be very attractive in terms of dealing -- especially if oil prices rise as dramatically as we think they might. is that five minutes? how do we get from here to there? if you follow the legislation on the hill you would think happened trade is the way we restructure the energy climate. unfortunately, is probably not going to work that well. if you look at the cap and trade initiative as it now exists in the legislation it doesn't look like it is going to have much effect on carbon emissions as it has not in europe for the last
four years. if you take a poll of economists and ask them whether we should have cap and trade or tax restructuring, 95% say tax restructuring. by that we mean lower income-tax is and raising carbon taxes. we don't change the amount we pay, we just take one down and take the other one up over the next decade or so. that would lead to a rapid restructuring of the energy in and of itself. when i think about these issues and how we can change quickly i use three models of social change to think about things, one is the pearl harbor model where we have a catastrophic event that changes everything. with climate change when we reach that point it might be too late. the second model is the berlin
wall model, something rising until finally it >>reporter: the tipping point and everything changes. the berlin wall coming down was the physical manifestation of a political revolution in eastern europe that change the form of government in every country and it was a political revolution. the third model i call the sand which model where you have an upwelling of support from change from the grassroots and a responsive leadership at the top. when you get that you can get the very rapid change. i think that is what we now have in this country. when i get a little discouraged about how much it is going to have enormous effort, i go back and read the economic history of world war ii beginning december 7th, 1941, surprise
attack on pearl harbor, a good part of our pacific fleet anchored in pearl harbor and a month later, january 6th, 1942, president roosevelt gave the state of the union address in which he announced arms production goals. we are totally in world war ii at that point. we are going to miss 45,000 tanks, 60,000 planes, 40,000 artillery guns and thousands of ships. no one had ever seen arms reduction numbers like that anywhere in the world. these were off the chart. but what roosevelt and his colleagues realize was at that time, the largest concentration of industrial power in the world was in the u.s. automobile industry. after his state of the union address he called leaders of the industry and said because you guys represent such a large share of our industrial capacity, we were making three million cars a year during the
depression, you represent such a large share of industrial capacity, we will rely heavily on you to meet these production goals. these arms reduction goals. they said mr. president, we will do everything we can but it will be a stretch. you don't understand, we are going to ban the sale of private automobiles in the united states. that is what happened at the beginning of april 1942 until the end of 1944, there were no cars in the united states and we exceeded every one of those arms production goals. we produce not 60,000 planes but 229,000 planes. fighters, bombers, troop transports, cargo transports. it is extraordinary. i was in seattle last friday. airplane country. the idea of producing 229,000
planes is even today intimidating. but the importance of this example is that it did not take decades to restructure the u.s. industrial economy. it did not take years. we did it in a matter of months. we do that then, we can restructure the energy economy today because it was important enough for some of -- for us to do so. we are in a race between tipping points, natural tipping points and political tipping points. ice melt purses closing coal-fired power plants. as environmentalists we talk about saving the planet. for decades now. i think the planet is going to be around for a long time to come. the question is can we save civilization itself? as weaker governments breakdown
and stronger governments begin to breakdown, that is the challenge. it is not a spectator sport. someone was asking me before the meeting what can we do? they expect to say change light bulbs and recycle your newspapers and so forth. those are important but we now have to become politically active. we need to change the system. i don't mean a political revolution. we need to restructure the economy so we can sustain progress and sustain civilization. it is not a spectator sport. we need to get involved. pick an issue that is important to you. closing coal-fired power plants in illinois, developing a world class recycling program because the energy savings inherent in that are huge. or join a population group that is working to stabilize world population. or go to work on bottled water. this is one of the most obscene uses of energy and resources in the world particularly when you
realize the standards for public water in every state in this country are higher than they are for bobble water. it is a con job of epic proportions that takes a lot of energy. not just the oil to produce the plastic for the bottles, but the energy it takes to move water, to haul water around when we have pipes that do it very efficiently. that is why bottled water costs a thousand times as much as bathwater. an enormous amount of energy. get involved. take an issue. go to work, get some friends, organize, to city council or representatives in washington. the other president from illinois now, great opportunity.
let's get involved. the stakes could not be higher. i think with that we can go to questions. there is a mike here if you have a question and would like to come to the mike. come to the mike because if you don't it will be a big, empty spot on the c-span booktv audio. [applause] yes, sir? >> if we attempt to electrify our auto transport network there is going to have to be a lot of transmission to recharging centers. what kind of research has been done on lowering the amount of waste heat through electrical transmission lines? >> one of the best studies that is available is one that has
been done by northwest labs located in the state of washington. and what they did, this request gained from senator maria cantwell, what they did was look at the u.s. generating capacity and and asked the question, could we run our cars on this system? what they pointed out was most of the recharging would be done at night and we could convert 70% of our fleet to our electric cars that have been a electricity to operate 70%. we couldn't do the whole fleet. we would need to make modifications but the point about electricity transmission efficiency is well taken because one of the things we need to do is to develop a national grid in the same way in the 1950s we
needed an interstate highway system. we have all the state systems to connect pretty well but they weren't designed to permit long-distance travel. we did the interstate highway system. what we now know is high-voltage transmission lines using direct current are highly efficient in transmitting electricity long distance and i mean hundreds and hundreds of miles. there is now a proposal as you may know, country has a western grid and eastern grid where they are tied together and the texas grid, texas has its own grid and there is a proposal giving favorable consideration from federal electric regulatory commission to link those three grids in a huge center with transmission lines in new mexico
which is very close to where the three grid come together. there is work underway and there are individual pieces of this well along, whether it is linking wind farms in wyoming or montana with california war linking the dakotas the way the points through chicago and the industrial cargo. a lot of these are in the planning stages but it is one of the keys to having a high lee efficient economy running largely on electricity. >> it seems to me we have the forested land. the army corps of engineers site says all our most fertile cropland are drained the forested wetlands. have you done any projections as to how long our agricultural soils will last? >> it depends a lot on where we are looking. i don't know if you mean the world tour the u.s..
>> i don't know about elsewhere but in countries like ethiopia, they had 100 years ago forests and fertile lands. they deforested, then they used up all the soil and what i realized recently is our farm land is an ecological desert, the lands have been deforested so leaves and insects and animals and birds need this oral so there's nothing left to recreate the soil. we killed the animals. the usda is poisoning tens of millions of birds. to my mind there is nothing to recreate that soil. that is crucial to food and everything. i am wondering if you studied that, how are we going to get soil to grow at anything? >> we happen to be richly
endowed with soil as ethiopia once was. there are two things that affect soil fertility. won his the nutrient content of the soil and the second is the structure of the soil. soil scientists call it the tilt. we are losing quite a bit of topsoil to erosion in the midwest particularly where we have growing farmland. currently, we have one of the finest pieces of real estate in the world but we are slowly losing some of it. just to give you a sense of how productive our land is, iowa produces more green than canada. that is surprising when we first. but that happens to be the reality. the question you are raising is can you protect the productivity
of these soils indefinitely because you will need more food? >> what i was hearing is those soils are drained wet before deforested wetlands. each time we take a cropped off even though there is the road and we're taking material from the soil. eventually that's will will be diminished. there is not going to be anything left to grow anything with because the crops are made of atoms and molecules from the soil. >> what we are losing is nutrients. what we are putting back now is nutrients. we have broken the natural nutrients cycle by losing -- we take crops from rural areas and consumed them in cities and they end up in sewage system and those nutrients do not get back on the land. is even more true of international trade re-export 1 hundred million tons of grain. we export three million tons of
plant nutrients like phosphates and nitrates and potassium and potash and so forth. the only way we can get that back is to put it back in chemical form. we can retrieve it from the nile river or tokyo bay or wherever these nutrients end up. it is a basic challenge in disrupting the nutrient cycle. >> you make a strong case that there are ecological solutions available to mitigate a lot of these problems. the larger problem seems to be getting policymakers to push behind these solutions, convincing them we're talking about a threat to modern civilization and convincing them that this is not something that can be put off. what troubles me about your world war ii analogy is after pearl harbor there is a clear, undeniable crisis that from the ordinary political divisions. right now we don't have that.
when environmental change reaches the tipping point that is so devastating and undeniable that it is the equivalent of pearl harbor we may be at the point where these sorts of solutions no longer are as effective. what do you see as the most effective way to actually light a fire under policymakers and get them to take a look at these longer-term issues the right now don't necessarily affect their next election cycle? >> it depends on you hand me becoming politically active. let me give you a recent national example. over the last two years there has emerged a powerful grass-roots movement to ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants. it has been remarkably successful. the sierra club has been working and lawyers have been handling the court challenges of which there are scores and scores. but it has been effective. and it may be that we will not
see many if any new coal-fired power plants licensed in this country. it is a major achievement. i don't think most of you realized it. just to give you an example. over the last two years coal consumption has dropped 40%. part of that was the recession but part of it is coal being replaced -- backing out by wind. even during this recession during the last two years we have 190 wind farms on land in this country with 15,000 megawatts of generating capacity. beyond that, 22 additional coal-fired power plants are scheduled for closing either to be replaced by e efficiency gains or to be replaced by wind or natural gas. things are happening and it is happening because people have become active. a number of activists is not numbered in the millions. it is numbered in the thousands but it is a very effective group
and it is coordinated with information and ideas from sierra which is working at the national level. that is the kind of change that happens quite independently of congress. congress hasn't passed any legislation manning coal-fired power plants but this grass roots movement brought the coal industry to a standstill. it is not unlike what happened to the tobacco industry a dozen years ago. yes? >> there is skepticism that the united states is not happy about this change, which is seeing very unlikely because of the health-care debate, there is skepticism that if this legislation is not passed in time for copenhagen, nothing of any substance will be produced at copenhagen. if this happens, where does the international community go from
there? >> i would firsts say that international in negotiated climate agreements may have become obsolete, you have not realized it. i say that for two reasons. by their nature, these agreements caramelized because no country wants to appear to have done more than anyone else. the people who go to these are diplomats and lawyers. they are not scientists and people with imagination and so forth. in any form of foreign service officers here? we have 7% over 15 years or something for the industrial countries that cut carbon emissions. if we reached an agreement next year i don't think we will reach one in copenhagen.
if we reach it next year it will take years to get enough countries to ratify it for it to take effect. the game may be over by then. we have been working on copenhagen for years and it looks like we will not make it. both because of time and minimal nature of -- i would not count on international in negotiating climate agreements to stabilize world climate and save civilization. i think it is going to happen very differently. i mentioned the movement opposing coal-fired power plant. and the point did the leaders of this movement say we want to do this if europe does it if china does it, they said we want to ban coal-fired power plants in this country. if you look at the consortium in europe, a dozen countries planning to build a solar feral power plants in north africa there's not a single government agency in that group liege -- they are happening independently of government and internationally negotiated climate.
>> you mentioned the project for north africa to harness solar power and send it and such. what is there to prevent solar power from going the same way as something like natural gas? is solar power also vulnerable to the resource curse that often afflicts other countries? >> first, let me say that i was generalizing in some respects but a good part of that solar thermal power will also be used in north africa. the exports of electricity from countries like algeria will be exports of oil to day. algeria wants to export energy and knows it can't export oil. if your question is what are the chances of it being disrupted? it is possible but there will
not be just one cable. >> the whole problem of production and stuff like that, the resource curse, natural gas, oil, the corruption coming up. >> that is a major problem. one of the differences is the electricity produced will be consumed locally and exported. there will be a stake in developing it and we have to hope that it will be done in a way that will benefit the populations at large, not just a small group as has been the case with oil in nigeria. >> thank you for a wonderful talk. it has been really educational. i have been hearing recently about the growing and reliability of our forecast of
future oil production and it seems that we may have reached the tipping point in terms of realizing that there is not as much oil out there as people would like to think there is. i was wondering if you could talk about what impact this might have politically and may be a starting point that we can tap into as far as affecting political change. >> i have spent some time trying to analyze the world oil situation and to see where oil production will be. my guess is we will never produce much more oil and it may well be a year or two ago, on the way down. the interesting thing is we have all spent our lifetimes in the world where oil production was rising. a world where oil production is declining will be a very different world and this is why
i am so eager to get this country converted to and electricity for example to run our cars instead of being dependent on oil. it doesn't have to disrupt the economic system. if we play it right, we made energy transitions before. we went from wood to coal and oil became the major player and this is simply going beyond that. the second thing is we have the technology now. we can see how to build the new economy that is not dependent on oil. i think that is exciting. it is not as though -- what are we going to do now? we know what to do and we are starting to do it. >> what do you find most personally satisfying in your work of survey and environmental problems and solutions?
>> thank you. >> there's a challenge at times. that is why ask. someone asked me my biggest mistake. that is actually easier. that came about early in 1997. i was heading to the worldwide institute. the environment minister from germany was coming to washington and her office called and asked if i would be available for a meeting and i said i would be happy to meet with her. so one afternoon at 4:30 or 5:00 at the watergate hotel where she was staying, we had a meeting for an hour-and-a-half or longer. a very informal discussion of global environmental issues and exchanging ideas and so forth
and a couple weeks later i got a letter from her suggesting that maybe we could co author a book together on global environmental issues. i was doing the state of the world and another annual called vital signs and another book was working on. it pushed me over the edge. i wrote back and politely declined. the chancellor of germany -- i thought i would get that letter out and say remember that idea you had? i could have been famous. i console myself with the fog that if we had done a book together she might not be chancellor of germany today. anything i would have been happy with would have been too liberal for her conservative party to face in germany. i think as a researcher the
things i find most satisfying is because i have some training in the national science, social sciences. i do a lot of reading. my staff gives me this many clips every day of science journals and newspapers and things to read. it is being able to see how of things connect and the relationship between them. whether it is government departments or university departments, there is a tendency to put things down into a fairly narrow lens. the challenge is to see how of things fit together and to realize future food security for example will be determined as much by energy misters -- ministers as but agriculture ministers. the role of family planning will be as important as farmers in achieving sustainable balance going through that.
i remember launching the chinese edition of "plan b.4.0: mobilizing to save civilization" last year, i suggested to a group of government officials facetiously that they build a phone line from the ministry of agriculture to the ministry of energy so that they could talk with each other because the decisions being made in the ministry of energy will have a far greater effect on future security than those made in the ministry of agriculture and in fact they have begun to do that, bought to build the phone lines but to seriously engage the question of how to restructure their energy. >> i am sayre of warren working on climate change. i like your sandwich analogy. part of what i am thinking about is who is the most important audience to reach at this point and in what way and in spite of
my -- i am targeting most of my markets toward the mass market, developing an entertainment radio show. where are we in the bottom of the sandwich and what percentage of the population needs to become part of that sandwich and in addition to the message of political engagement with which i totally agree, what is the message we need to be giving? >> we think about getting climate legislation through congress, we think of a majority, more than 60%. some of the most important things happening don't even involve congress. i mention the defect in moratorium we have on new coal plants. it is an extraordinary