Bill McKibben: We 'Dont Trust' Obama on Climate Change

In an interview with veteran journalist Bill Moyers set to air Friday evening, author and co-founder Bill McKibben, a key voice in the climate justice movement, says that President Obama’s looming decision to approve or reject the Keystone XL tar sands will be the ultimate indicator of whether his loyalties reside with the health of the planet and future generations or with the desires and financial interests of the fossil fuel industry.

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According to McKibben, the climate movement does not trust Obama to do the right thing on the pipeline, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence and outpouring of opposition to the tar sands project. “He’s done some good things, but his record is mixed at best,” McKibben tells Moyers. “And he will be remembered at the moment, as the president who produced more carbon than anybody thought possible, unless he begins to act now with real power.”

Articulating the very precise moment that we’re in and why the stakes surrounding Keystone XL and our overall relationship to fossil fuels are so dramatically heightened at the moment, McKibben says:

The remarks come one week since the State Department released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the pipeline project which green groups said contained all the information the president and Secretary of State John Kerry need to reject the project once and for all.

Though many mainstream news outlets followed the oil industry spin that tried to play the FEIS findings as a move closer to presidential approval, climate experts and opponents of the pipeline were quick to counter that narrative by saying the report clearly shows the climate impact of tar sands would make it impossible for Obama to say “yes” if he intends to keep his pledge to seriously address the crisis of global warming.

As McKibben explains, the story being peddled by the oil industry, the pipeline companies and their political backers is “unraveling” quickly in the face of the evidence. “The idea that [completing Keystone XL] would make no difference is crazy. It’s a pipeline that would carry 800,000 barrels of oil. In the last two weeks, the head of TransCanada itself has said, if we can’t build this pipeline, then the expansion of the tar sands is called into question.”


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On the Monday following the FEIS’ release, thousands of climate activists in hundreds of locations across the U.S. and Canada held vigils as they called on Obama to fulfill his promises, follow the science, and say “No” to the pipeline. Led by green organizations, indigenous groups, young people and students, and concerned landowners along the pipeline route, the broad and diverse movement has vowed to fight against Keystone XL even if it gains Obama’s approval. So far, nearly 80,000 people have now pledged to commit acts of civil obedience if the greenlight comes from the White House.

“What counts in moments like these are not the words in Washington’s reports, but rather the voices of people in the streets—that’s what changes the equation for the President,” said online organizer Duncan Meisel in a letter to his group’s members this week.

In that vein, students and youth leaders of the climate movement have announced a White House civil disobedience action on March 3rd to drive their point home. As The Nation‘s Peter Rothberg reports:

And that’s the message from McKibben as well. Championing the movement of which he feels part of—though not necessarily a leader of—McKibben said:

Watch the whole interview below (check local listings here):


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