• Visionary
  • Engaging
  • Inspiring


Given the magnitude of the climate change crisis, you may feel hamstrung and doubt that your actions can have meaningful impact. Tom Rivett-Carnac, a political strategist at the United Nations, understands the feelings of powerlessness associated with battling a challenge that seems beyond your control. He suggests that the world can tackle the problem effectively by adopting the British stiff upper lip approach of “stubborn optimism.” His inspiring TED Talk is a rallying cry to all global citizens to dig deep and muster the strength to fight a common enemy – climate change.


When a task seems insurmountable, the human brain often trivializes it instead of facing it.

Political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac took a job at the United Nations because he believed it was the most powerful action he could take to help resolve a global crisis – climate change. Alas, he soon became disillusioned. Progress was excruciatingly slow. Meetings were tedious, and bureaucracy abounded. Dejected, Rivett-Carnac came to believe that he had control only over his own environmental impact. He began to doubt humankind’s ability to respond, because – when faced with a crisis of enormous magnitude that seems beyond individuals’ control – the human brain tends either to downplay the issue or to surrender to it.

Yet not everybody gives up when confronted with overwhelming problems. For instance, though medics around the world can’t control the spread of COVID-19 and some of their patients die, medics nonetheless strive doggedly to help their fellow...

About the Speaker

Tom Rivett-Carnac, a former Buddhist monk, ran political strategy for the United Nations during its formulation of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

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