Source: The case for optimism on climate change, a TED talk presented by former Vice President Al Gore, February 2016.
Notes: The original source for this quote seems to be a 1990s interview that the PBS documentary series Frontline conducted with M.I.T. professor of economics Dr. Rudi Dornbusch. Frontline asked Dornbusch why didn't Wall Street forsee the Mexico Pesos Crisis of 1994-95. Dornbusch's response:
"The crisis takes a much longer time coming than you think, and then it happens much faster than you would have thought."
In the Al Gore 2016 TED talk, Chris Anderson, Curator of TED Talks, asked Al Gore, "How do we know that all those graphs, all that progress, (providing hope for the second half of your talk) is enough to solve (the seriousness of the climate crisis) what you showed in the first part?"
Al Gore responded by talking about his experience in the business world learning that "apparently it matters if a new product or service is more expensive than the incumbent, or cheaper than. Turns out, it makes a difference if it's cheaper than. And when it crosses that line, then a lot of things really change. We are regularly surprised by these developments."
Gore then gives his version of the Rudi Dornbusch quote: "Things take longer to happen then you think they will, and then they happen much faster than you thought they could."
Gore points the example of "The Solar Singularity." He defines it as when solar gets below the grid parity, unsubsidized in most places, then it's the default choice over fossil fuels for electric utilities.
He then shares the story of Debbie Dooley, the Chairman of the Atlanta Tea Party. Koch brothers-funded American Legislative Exchange Council enlisted her to put a tax on solar panels and regulations. She didn't understand the request since she had just put solar panels on her roof. Dooley then formed an alliance with the Sierra Club and they formed a new organization called the Green Tea Party. Thus, Gore was making the case that clean energy is now also accepted and even pushed by Tea Party conservatives.
In my own life, I know that things can happen faster than they seem. In 1989, I took a trip to Detmold, West Germany. As I sat in a high school history class discussing the Cold War. The teacher asked me, as an American, what I thought of the two Germanys. I responded it was sad to see one society seperated into two countries by a wall. I expressed hope Germany would be united soon.
The students and teacher looked at me like I was crazy. They told me it was always going to be this way. After hearing that, imagine my surprise when the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989 and Germany was re-uniting just a couple of years later.
Image Source: reddit.com of the Berlin Wall coming down from November 1989.