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McKibben Calls out Climate Movement for Failure on Natural Gas

March 13, 2018

Post Carbon Fellow Bill McKibben describes the climate movement’s biggest failure as the inability to inform the public of the dangers of natural gas. Promotion of natural gas as a “clean” alternative to coal, development of fracking techniques, and broad political support have fueled a boom in natural gas production in the U.S. As a result, methane emissions are on the rise, and we’re not making nearly enough progress toward replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy.

From the article:

Last week, the New Orleans City Council — all Democrats — voted 6-1 to approve a big new gas-fired power plant. Sometime in the coming weeks, in Orange County in upstate New York, another vast new gas power plant is expected to go on line — as soon as it’s hooked up to a new pipeline, one of literally dozens planned across the country. Local opponents — environmentalists, community activists — are fighting hard, but somewhere, almost every day, a new piece of natural gas infrastructure goes up.

When I think about my greatest failing as a communicator — and one of the greatest failings of the climate movement — it’s not that global warming still continues. Stopping it cold was always too high an order: The fossil fuel industry is so rich and powerful, and hydrocarbons so central to our economy, that this battle was always going to be uphill. At best we can limit the damage, and in that we’ve made at least some progress.

It’s not even that Donald Trump managed to win the presidency as a climate denier — in fact,  most people regard that stand as stupid, and its not why he took the White House. We’ve more or less managed to persuade Americans that global warming is a real danger. The oil industry’s propaganda effort may have delayed that realization by a generation, but eventually the siege of studies — and of fires, floods, and windstorms — took their inevitable toll.