The TODAY weatherman delivered the talk at the TED Countdown Summit in Detroit in July, which is now available to watch in full on TED Conferences website. The event featured a series of climate talks from figures around the world. Al's talk was titled, "An extreme weather report from America’s weatherman."
He spoke about the dramatic changes in the climate since his first weather reports as a sophomore at the State University of New York at Oswego in 1974 to now focusing on the next generation after becoming a grandfather this summer.
At the time of the TED Talk, Al had been a grandpa for 10 days following the birth of his granddaughter Sky. He recalled holding the baby girl and pondering her future.
"And I was thinking about, what kind of world is she going to have?" he said in his talk. "I mean, let’s face it, I’m only going to be here, if I’m lucky, maybe another 15 years. Who knows? But it’s her world.
"All of our grandkids and their kids, it’s going to be their world. What world are we leaving them?"
Al called for listeners to "support politicians who decide that our planet and its health is the more important thing" and for people to "be conscious of the decisions you make."
He mentioned the catastrophic weather seen around the world this year "that are being fueled by climate change."
During his talk, he focused on hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires, which he called "the tip of the iceberg when it comes to climate change."
He noted that the U.S. experienced an unprecedented stretch of four straight years with Category 5 hurricanes between 2016 and 2019, and that studies have shown an increase in EF2 tornadoes in the Midwest and Southeast.
The effects of wildfires were felt this spring in New York City, when smoke from fires in Canada caused dangerous air quality levels. Then Hawaii experienced a deadly wildfire in August that killed more than 100 people in Lahaina in Maui County.
"We’re getting used to bad air quality," Al said in his talk. "And in fact, the intensity from these frequent wildfires has led to the deterioration of our lifestyle, our air quality, loss of property and crops. It is just really one of these things that is changing how we live."
Al also spoke about tens of millions of people most likely being displaced by climate change in the next 30 years, and its negative effect on our national security and people with outdoor occupations.
The TODAY weatherman also discussed solutions to mitigating the effects through everyday changes.
"We need to stop thinking about that green, lush lawn," he said. "Let’s rethink that to using more shrubbery, more brushes, more drought-resistant plants. It’s called xeriscaping. So that there’s less green as far as lawns, well-manicured lawns, and more natural, indigenous plants that help conserve water and help the actual planet keep that water in."
He spoke against fast fashion, the process of producing quick and disposable clothing to capitalize on trends.
"It’s cheap, quick, mass-produced fashions that are meant to be discarded, fill up our landfills, cause pollution because of the dyes that are used," Al said. "So what you end up doing is adding to landfills and spending a lot of money. Instead, find good, durable, sustainable clothing that’s going to last more than one season and you help reduce our landfills and causing more problems."
Al then concluded with a call to action.
"You have to be engaged," he said. "You have to let your elected officials know that this is important to you. You have to vote. You have to go out there and support politicians who are going to support our planet."