Bill McKibben explains what individuals can do to win the climate fight — together

Bill McKibben explains what individuals can do to win the climate fight — together

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

Jessica McKenzie: I was wondering if we could start just by taking stock of the global climate movement. How do you think things are going?

Bill McKibben: The success or failure of the global climate movement is obviously measured by how high the temperature is. And the temperature is higher than it’s been in 125,000 years, at least, this year. So I think you’d have to say from that, we’re not exactly triumphant. In the context of the Bulletin, there are now large explosions going off all the time, as it were, and we’re losing whole regions of the planet to famine, to desertification, to flood, to fire. And those things, in turn, are setting off enormous feedback loops of their own. The fires in Canada are so big this year, that they’ll produce twice or three times as much carbon as Canada produces in an entire year with all the heating and flying and cooking and heating and cooling that it does. So we’re in a very hard place.

McKenzie: It’s not great.

McKibben: If you want to think a little more positively, we’re also in a moment of extraordinary opportunity. The scientists and engineers have done a tremendous job in lowering the price of solar power and wind power by 90 percent over the last decade. We now live on an Earth where the cheapest way to produce energy is to point a sheet of glass at the sun. And that means there’s really no technological or economic obstacle to making very, very rapid progress—no real obstacle to ending large-scale combustion on planet Earth for the first time in hundreds of thousands of years. Because we don’t need to be burning stuff anymore. We don’t need small fires under the hood of our cars, we don’t need small fires in our basements, in our furnace, we don’t need them in our kitchen, we don’t need them in our power plants.

Because we could rely instead on the very large fire burning 93 million miles away, whose rays we can catch on our solar panels, which also by differentially heating the Earth creates the winds that blow those turbines. And so, in that sense, it’s a remarkably hopeful moment. The challenge is that, for any of that to matter, it has to be done fast. Because unlike other problems that we’ve been up against, this is a very time-limited one. And if we don’t quite quickly manage to shut down fossil fuel and replace it with renewable energy, then the amount of energy that the planet uses and will continue to use, will produce so much heat that we’ll just be overwhelmed.

I wish I could tell you that I knew what the outcome was going to be here. And I wish that the outcome was going to be that we knew we were going to carry the day, but I can’t tell you that. We don’t know. [Continue reading…]

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