Bill McKibben: Is It Hot Enough Yet for Politicians to Take Real Action?

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From Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

According to McKibben, even Canada is backsliding and compromising. And Britain’s opposition leader “hates tree huggers”.

Is It Hot Enough Yet for Politicians to Take Real Action?

The latest record temperatures are driving, again precisely as scientists have predicted, a cascading series of disasters around the world.

By Bill McKibben
July 11, 2023

We’ve crushed so many temperature records recently—the hottest day ever measured by average global temperature, the hottest week, the hottest June, …

So the crisis is everywhere—that’s why it’s called global warming. But the case of Canada is interesting, because it’s a liberal democracy with a strong environmental sentiment—polling earlier this year found that seventy-five per cent of Canadians were anxious about climate change; twenty-one per cent of the population was having fewer or no children as a result. …

Yet none of this has been enough to really change the political dynamic, which remains dominated by the fossil-fuel industry. Justin Trudeau’s government had been making noises about a plan to dramatically cut emissions—perhaps by forty-five per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, in line with what climate scientists have set as the necessary targets. But the government quickly began to back down after a meeting in June with officials in the oil-rich province of Alberta, when the Minister of Natural Resources, Jonathan Wilkinson, explained that “we have committed to a cap on oil and gas emissions. But there are lots of different ways to do that. There are flexibilities and how you design it.” The targets may shrink, the timetables may fade, and, incredibly, Canada may decide to count increased exports of fossil gas as a method of cutting carbon. 

But it’s not fair to just pick on Canada. In the United States, President Biden has laid claim to a powerful environmental legacy by passing the Inflation Reduction Act, but his Administration also approved both a giant oil and a giant L.N.G. project, in Alaska; the Mountain Valley Pipeline, in the Virginias; and lots of offshore leasing—and it may back big L.N.G. terminals on the Gulf Coast. In Great Britain, the leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, was quoted in the Times of London on Sunday as saying that he “hates tree-huggers,” probably because they keep pushing for more action than his party wants to commit to.

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Bill McKibben himself is not without his own climate controversies. McKibben had a hard time remembering who his sponsors are in “Planet of the Humans“, though McKibben’s supporters strongly denounced the documentary’s portrayal of their climate hero.

You can view the full documentary here.

Note I am not accusing McKibben of financial wrongdoing. As far as I know McKibben has not broken any laws. And for what it’s worth, I think McKibben is a true believer when it comes to climate change.

McKibben claims government support is required because although simple economics is driving the green revolution, economics alone will not drive the transition quickly enough.

We may soon have a chance to test this theory. My crystal ball tells me 2024 will see a strong showing for America First Republicans. In the bloodbath of subsidies which will follow a likely Republican victory, I doubt green projects will continue to receive the same level of support they received under the Biden administration. The test of McKibben’s claim that green energy is economically viable will be whether green energy installations survive the coming withdrawal of government support.