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Environmentalist Bill McKibben talks climate change during Keep Vermont Cool webinar

Bill McKibben
Bill McKibben
Bill McKibben

Keep Vermont Cool, a project of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, has been holding a series of virtual webinars on climate change. Its latest, and sixth in the series, featured environmental activist, author and 350.org founder Bill McKibben.

McKibben, a prolific writer, is also founder of Third Act, which organizes those over 60 to work on climate and racial justice. McKibben began the webinar talking about what is happening globally.

“We didn’t actually expect this to be a record globally hot year. We’re in a La Nina cycle right now in the Pacific and that generally cools the planet at least a little bit. All the record years of warmth that we’ve had have happened in El Nino years when the Pacific is particularly warm. But this year, despite the fact that it was a La Nina, June turned out to be the globally warmest June that we’ve ever measured. That’s scary. What that implies is the next time we get an El Nino the temperatures are going to be just absolutely through the roof. But they’re bad enough obviously right now. In June and July we’ve seen incredible heat waves across much of the planet. We live on a different plant. And we can see this in place after place after place around the world.”

McKibben says part of the problem is that a 1-degree Celsius rise in planetary temperature doesn’t sound problematic to the average person.

“The extra heat that we trap near the planet every day because of the carbon we put in the atmosphere is the heat equivalent of 400,000 Hiroshima sized explosions. When you think about it in those terms it’s easier to understand how we’ve melted half the sea ice in the summer Arctic. It’s easier to understand why sea levels have now begun this accelerating rise. We’ve raised temperature one degree. On current trajectories we’re headed for three degrees Celsius, 5 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit. If we do that then we’re not going to have civilizations like the ones we’re used to on this planet. That’s just too much chaos and violent, dramatic flux.”

McKibben says there is good news – renewable energy technology is available and affordable.

“Each time we double the installation of solar power on this planet the price drops another 30 percent. I think we’re still used to thinking about alternative energy as more expensive and more cumbersome and more difficult. But it is not alternative energy anymore. It’s just the smart way to do things.”

VPIRG Keep Vermont Cool Campaign Manager Jordan Heiden fielded submitted questions about included home solar, recycling and climate change.

“What are some easy ways for people to adjust their habits to help the cause?”

"Well, we’re not going to make the math of climate change square," McKibben replied, "one Tesla at a time. We’ve waited too long for that to be our strategy. The most important thing an individual can do is be less of an individual and join together with others in groups large enough to push for changes in the basic political and economic ground rules, because that’s what we need.”

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