By blocking the international climate politics, opening the arctic to drilling or allowing the opening up of huge coal fields in the Powder River basin, U.S. president Barack Obama has not kept his environmental promises, McKibben sums up. In the recent presidential election campaigns climate change was not a topic. Meanwhile the fossil fuel industry has become a "rogue industry". They determine the laws of the land and finance congress members to sabotage the climate politics and promote climate change denial.
Bill McKibben: Environmental Journalist and Activist, Founder of the grassroots global warming movement 350.org, Author of "The End of Nature", Middlebury, USA
David Goessmann: Before Obama was elected he promised a greening of America. He promised new clean energy jobs. What is your assessment of Obamas environmental policy?
Bill McKibben: Well, I guess you have to ask relative to what ? Obama's done better than George Bush, on the other hand I've drunk more beer than my 14 year old niece. It's not a very high bar being better than George Bush on the environment. In comparison to the size of the problem, Obama hasn't done anywhere near enough. It's been hard for him because of the Republican Congress, which has refused to go along with anything. But even where he's had a free hand, he's made a couple of good decisions, increasing mileage for cars, and a number of bad ones, opening the arctic to drilling for instance, or allowing the opening up of huge coal fields in the Powder River basin, which will be mined and sent to China. So he has not lived up to his promises, he's clearly better than Bush, and he's almost certainly better than Romney, so there is where we are.
David Goessmann: In the election campaign environmental issues seemed off the table. It was all about economy, growth, jobs. Your response to that?
Bill McKibben: I think it's really odd that it's not on the table at all, because we're having the worst weather that the US ever experienced. And it's as if these guys just don't notice. The president gave a speech in June in Pennsylvania and it was so hot that 15 or 20 people passed out during the speech watching him, but he didn't even acknowledge that it did happen, much less that it was related to the record heat that was sweeping the country. We're, I think, reaching the point where they're going to have to start talking about this stuff. The new polling shows that 70% of Americans now understand that the climate is changing. For America that's a lot, I mean, half the country still thinks that Elvis is alive some place, so to get 70% agreement on anything is pretty good. People know, because they see with their own eyes.
David Goessmann: There are a lot of climate change deniers right now in the US. A lot of congressmen of the Republican party are outright denying global warming. What does that mean for the US?
Bill McKibben: Well, what's going on right now is easy to explain: These guys are on the payroll of the fossil fuel industry. That's how it works. There isn't a climate change denier in our Congress who hasn't gotten thousands upon thousand of dollars from big gas, big oil, big coal. And you don't get the money if you don't tell the line. That's how it works. It means we have to take on this industry head on and explain to people the truth, that they've become a rouge industry. That they're an outlaw industry, Shell and Exxon and Chevron and BP and everybody else. Not outlaw against the laws of the land - they wrote the laws of the land. They've bought and paid for a congressman. But there are laws against the laws of Physics and Chemistry. And if we can get people to understand that, maybe we can break some of their grip on Washington.
David Goessmann: Talk about how you became an environmentalist and politically active.
Bill McKibben: Well, I didn't set out to do it at all, I am a writer by profession. I wrote the first book about climate change for a general audience, it came out in 1989, when I was in my twenties, 27 or 28, called "The End of Nature". I kind of figured that was my contribution. I would write about these things and other people would build the movements. But the movements never got built, at least in this country and in most of the world. At some point, some years ago, four or five years ago, I just decided at least give it some kind of try and working with mostly young people, mostly from here at Middlebury College in the beginning. We built what's turned into a huge global movement. 350.org now works in every country of the world except North Korea. And, we're not winning, more losing, but we're getting closer every day, getting bigger and stronger.