By Jacki Lyden
All Things Considered
JACKI LYDEN, HOST:
In all the major news of 2012, let’s not forget that one of its most consistent features was the extreme weather. While we bemoaned unbearable heat, livelihoods in the Midwest and the South dried up in the worst drought in 50 years. And then there were the floods and superstorms both intense and deadly.
Author Bill McKibben is the founder of 350.org, focused on the movement to solve the climate crisis, which he wants to be a top priority for the next Obama administration.
BILL MCKIBBEN: The first tell that we’re going to get of whether the second term will be different from the first will be the president’s decision on this Keystone Pipeline, this huge pipeline to the tar sands of Canada. It’s the one thing that’s really united the environmental movement and brought people out into the streets. And if he stands up to the fossil fuel industry for once, it’ll be a, I think, a sign that he may be ready to take climate change with at least a little bit of the seriousness that it deserves, the single biggest problem we’ve ever run into as a species.
LYDEN: Well, obviously, Keystone is huge and international, but beyond that, why is it so important?
MCKIBBEN: It’s important in very practical terms as tar sands are the second biggest source of carbon on Earth. But at this point, it’s also very important in symbolic terms. The one thing the president and most other leaders have been unwilling to do is leave some carbon in the ground, which we now know every scientist tells us we must do.
We’ve already passed all kinds of tipping points. Last year, the hottest year in American history, also saw a rapid, rapid melt of the Arctic. And so extreme that by its end, the NASA scientist Jim Hansen was saying there’s no other word for where we are now than planetary emergency.