Impact of a TED Talk by Shisheng Liang

Writer’s Reflection

I chose to analyze this TED talk because it is short and influential. Even though everything he talks in this TED talk is brief, it has a lot of information inside. In addition, watching videos becomes more popular nowadays, so my readers might be familiar with the topic of my analysis. I found writing a rhetorical analysis was hard because I had to make transition smoothly from one aspect to another aspect and analyzed with narrative. After peer views, I added more explanation before and after each quotation I used. It is very important to explain quotations as clearly as you can, so that your readers could totally understand. Using correct quotations is very important because quotation is the only evidence you can use to support your statements. After learning how to analyze an artifact, I will be able to get a better understanding of the deeper meanings of artifacts. In the future I will use what I learned about ethos, pathos, and logos, along with the tricks I learned to help me better understand texts, to improve my ability to read and think critically. And overall, improve my writing ability.


This world is becoming hotter and hotter. There are more and more natural disasters every day. Most of those can be chalked up to “global warming”. Even though you might not have heard about any movements to help prevent global warming, there are many people out there who are already aware of the dire implications of global warming. In addition, they are doing their best to make people more conscious about the effects of global warming. Al Gore is one of those people. He has done many projects about the movement, including directing the documentary movie “An Inconvenient Truth” and giving speeches in TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design). Al Gore’s speeches have helped raise people’s awareness and knowledge about global warming.

All of his TED speeches are very impressive. One of them is called, “Warns on Latest Climate Trends,” which is the most recent, and the one that needs to be thought about deeply. In this talk, he talks about the use of cleaner energy, such as wind power, hydroelectricity, and solar, in place of unclean fossil fuels or natural gas that use coal and pollute our environment. Al Gore shows us how global warming affects the Earth. Also, he states that there are many states, in the United States, where coal usage has already been reduced.  However, there are still many things we have to do to prevent global warming.

Al Gore is very smart, a recurring speaker at TED.  TED is, “a platform for ideas worth spreading. Started in 1984 as a conference where technology, entertainment and design converged, TED today shares ideas from a broad spectrum – from science to business to global issues – in more than 100 languages”(TED). To speak at TED, you have to be a leading scientist contributing to both his/her field of work, along with society. Al Gore being a reoccurring speaker at TED only helps to solidify his credibility. Furthermore, he was, at one point, the Vice President of the United States, and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. In order to raise people’s awareness on global warming, he started this historic social justice movement. He wants people to know the effects of global warming, and what we can do to stop this from continuing.

While at TED, Al Gore’s audience is very knowledgeable and up to speed on the causes and effects of global warming. Yet, many of the views and comments about the presentation come from the masses of people who watch these and many other TED talks online. Although Gore doesn’t shape his speech around his future online viewers, he sticks to the jokes, facts, and stats that the audience members in front of him will understand and benefit the most from.

Giving TED talks are a great way to tell people how serious many current problems are, because not only do they reach out to those attending TED, but also millions of those who watch TED talks from the comfort of their home. Only the smartest, most controversial, and trustworthy speakers can be found throughout TED’s database. Speakers who can easily be trusted by TED’s online audiences. With the internet becoming more and more popular, it seems like credible and un-biased information is hard to come by. Yet this is never the case when watching one of TED’s many talks: making TED the best option when looking for information and solutions on new, hot topics.

By using rhetorical appeals, including pathos, Al Gore is very successful in convening his points on global warming. He uses a lot of videos in his talk to demonstrate that coal actually is not as clean as many companies advertised such as COALergy:

At COALergy we view climate change as a very serious threat to our business. That’s why we’ve made it our primary goal to spend a large sum of money on an advertising effort to help bring out and complicated the truth about coal. The fact is, coal isn’t dirty. We think it’s clean – smells good, too. So don’t worry about climate change. Leave that up to us (Gore).

Actually, after smelling the coal, the nose of the man in the video became black. By using sarcasm, Al Gore perfectly caught people’s attention and emotion. Obvious contradiction and TV advertisements could make people think more about their daily life, such as whether it really happens in their daily life and how they could solve the problem. Through pathos, Al Gore makes people want to do something to change the bad situation.

Al Gore also uses studies and breakthroughs of other scientist throughout his speech to help better his points. One specific example ethos appeal in the talk is: “because the warming heats up the frozen ground around the Arctic Ocean, where there is a massive amount of frozen carbon which, when it thaws, is turned into methane by microbes” (Gore). Gore uses the experience of Professor Katey Walter, a knowledgeable and credited professor from the University of Alaska, to show his audience yet another effect of global warming on the environment. Since Al Gore uses another educated person on the issue of Global warming it gives him more credibility.  It is not just him explaining the issues of global warming, but he also has another well-educated and knowledgeable person who is a professor at a university. Moreover, his background and using videos make his statement even more creditable.

With the use of videos like the one mentioned above, and other statistics, Al Gore uses logos appeal to better his talk.  At the beginning of his talk, he uses the arctic ice cap to demonstrate that climate change has had an incredible effect on the Earth’s environment. He says, “The arctic ice cap which for most of the last three million years has been the size of the lower 48 states has shrunk by 40 percent” (Gore). This reality points out that global warming is, in fact, a large problem. He shows the public the logic behind the melting of the polar ice caps, by giving the data and percentage of the reduction of the polar ice caps.  By giving this example, at the very beginning, it not only makes people know what he will talk about in the next video, but he also uses logos appeals to prove his opinions and enhance his credibility through knowledge.

Through the use of many stats and videos, Al Gore creates a very strong and right to the point talk, he uses a large amount of data to make people clearly understand how severe the problem is and how urgent we have to take action. “In the last five years we’ve added 70 million tons of CO2 every 24 hours – 25 million tons every day to the oceans” (Gore). From this data, we can figure out that it is really the time for us to take action, instead of continuing to pollute the Earth. On the other hand, the talk had some weak points. For example, Gore’s talk doesn’t light a flame under the audience. Although it conveys a lot of information, it doesn’t give the audience that do or die instinct to fix global warming. Because people have to listen to the whole talk, for example, a TED talk is not like a poster, which people could immediately react to, people have to spend time thinking about the situation after listening to the talk. Another weakness is that you have to be knowledgeable on the topic before you hear the talk or you have to be a smart person with cultural background of the topic in order to understand the sarcasm and statistics used in the talk.

For a TED talk, people are supposed to talk without doing anything else. However, for Al Gore’s talk, he used a lot of videos about sarcasm and jokes to state his point, which subverts the norms of language. It is intelligent for him to do that because people can always remember something different. Moreover, people would especially think deeply about why it happens, and if it is a problem, people would think how they could solve it.

Al Gore did raise awareness through his TED talks because he is regarded as the first man who knows global warming is a problem, which is necessary for us to solve immediately. Don Blankenship who is a CEO of the sixth largest coal company in the United States claimed: “Let me be clear about it. Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, they don’t know what they’re talking about” (Gore). Those made his company get involved into a controversy because his company did not take any strategy to protect the environment when they were exploiting mines. With Don Blankenship pulling out Al Gore’s name, we can know Al Gore did make some differences in preventing global warming.

Overall, Al Gore’s TED talk “Warns on Latest Climate Trends.” gives a clear, brief but thoughtful statement that it is time for us to have some actions to prevent global warming. We should take our words into actions. It is just like him and what he says in the last of the TED talk, “There is an old African proverb that says, ‘If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ We need to go far, quickly” (Gore).

Work Cited

Gore, Al. “Warns on Latest Climate Trends.” TED. Feb, 2009. Lecture. Web. 28th Feb, 2014.

“TED: Ideas worth Spreading.” TED: Ideas worth Spreading., n.d. Web. 28th Feb, 2014.