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Bill McKibben: Obama must show muscle to tackle climate change



US environmentalist Bill McKibben has argued that the Obama administration has continued to promote the extraction of polluting fossil fuels – the majority of which need to stay in the ground if the world wants to take tackling climate change seriously.

McKibben, who leads the environmental pressure group and has been campaigning for fossil fuels divestment, criticises the US president in an editorial for Rolling Stone magazine.

He acknowledges some of the positive measures promoted during his tenure, such as the incentives for green energy and the support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations on new coal-fired power plants. However, McKibben says these steps are not sufficient in helping tackle climate change, as boosting renewable energy is ineffective if a country continues extracting fossil fuels.

It’s like eating a pan of Weight Watchers brownies after you’ve already gobbled a quart of Ben and Jerry’s”, he writes.

He also notes how Obama has changed his attitude over the years. The president said in 2008 that it was “time to end the tyranny of oil” and that during his term “the rise of the oceans will begin to slow”.

But in a speech in Oklahoma last year, Obama said, “Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states.We’ve quad­rupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth.”

McKibben argues that not only is Obama not doing enough to fight climate change, but actually, he has made the problem worse.

He says that the president has given the go-ahead for oil drilling in the Arctic, auctioned the coal in the Wyoming’s Powder River basin, backed the Keystone XL pipeline to transport Canada’s oil from tar sands and eased coal mining in Kentucky.

McKibben also criticises Obama’s widely praised speech on climate change that he made in June.

Inspiring stuff, but then in October, when activists pressed him about Keystone at a Boston gathering, he said, ‘We had the climate change rally back in the summer.’ Oh.”

The founder concludes by hoping that Obama will have second thoughts on the Keystone XL pipeline, which is believed to be 95% completed.

The president went ahead and got it done”, he adds. “If only he’d apply that kind of muscle to stopping climate change.”

Further reading:

Keystone XL a ‘high-risk’ investment with minimal economic benefits

Barack Obama: five years at the top

Obama sends strong climate change message to global counterparts in speech

Protesters rally in Washington to urge US climate action

Is Barack Obama’s new-look cabinet sufficiently green?


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