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Climate activist Bill McKibben: We’ve made “nowhere near enough” progress against climate change

Oct 6, 2017

Despite consensus among most scientists that climate change is real, and that humans are contributing by burning fossil fuels, there is still resistance to actually doing something about it.

Oil, gas, and coal companies are fighting it. So are businesses that rely on fossil fuels, and politicians who are more worried about the economic costs today than they are about threats to life and the economy down the road.

In 1989, a guy named Bill McKibben wrote the book End of Nature. It was the first book on climate change intended for a general audience.

McKibben has since been telling people we need to reduce the burning of fossil fuels dramatically. He says in the nearly three decades since he wrote that book, we’ve made “nowhere near enough” progress.

“This is a race against the physics of climate change,” he said. “We’ve put so much carbon into the atmosphere that we’re now seeing wholesale damage: the rapid melt of the ice caps at either end of the Earth, the destruction of coral reefs, changes – huge changes – in the drought and flood cycles of this planet.”

McKibben says that while solar energy and wind energy are a step in the right direction, “we’re nowhere near doing it on the scale that we could, or the scale that we need to.”

The current administration in the White House has rolled back government regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but at the same time car manufacturers, power companies, and retailers are making changes on their own. SFor that reason, some wonder if that will mean the government’s position will eventually become irrelevant.

McKibben, however, says that will never be the case.

“If we’re going to make this change in time to make a difference, we’re going to have to go faster than is economically convenient … so government is going to have to push us along – government being us,” he said. “We’re going to have to make the joint decision that we want to do this fast enough to catch up with the physics of climate change.”

McKibben spoke at the annual Wege Lecture at the University of Michigan last night. During his lecture, he mentioned Enbridge’s Line 5, the controversial oil pipeline running under the Straits of Mackinac. 

“You’re telling me there’s a pipeline sitting on the bottom of the Great Lakes that’s been there for 60 years just so we can make a little shortcut for oil coming from Canada to get back into Ontario – that it’s worth risking the biggest supply of freshwater on the planet for that?” he said. “It doesn’t seem like a good cost-benefit analysis to me.”

Listen above for the full conversation.

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