Greenspace August 7, 2013 By Jordan Sayle
James Hansen's August 2011 Arrest by Ben Powless

James Hansen's August 2011 Arrest by Ben Powless

“I was very encouraged by his forthright and straightforward talk,” McKibben said in our interview. “It’s clearly the most significant statement yet by an American president on global warming.”

Hansen, for his part, was also encouraged, to an extent: “It is certainly useful to use energy more efficiently.  It provides a little more time to move to clean energies,” he said. At the same time, though, he expressed concern that slowing the pace of the problem doesn’t succeed in bringing it to an end: “Burning fossil fuels more slowly, by itself, does almost nothing to solve the climate problem,” he continued. “The CO2 will stay in the climate system for millennia.” 

If short of ideal, President Obama’s new measures represent a rare sign of progress in the quest to phase out the energy sources linked to warming after the failure to reach a global agreement in Copenhagen in 2009 and the dissolution of the House’s climate legislation the following year. The president’s carefully chosen words that the Keystone XL pipeline should be granted a permit only if it “does not significantly exacerbate the climate problem” also went beyond what many critics were expecting. However, asked whether he’d be willing to accept Keystone if its effects were offset by other actions, McKibben, a vociferous opponent of the pipeline, gives an emphatic “no.”

“At this point we have to do everything right,” he argues. “If [the president] curbs power plants’ emissions and then approves KXL it will be two steps forward and two back. Illogical in the extreme.”

1 2 3 4 5 6