Transcript: Thom Hartmann gets an update from the Copenhagen Climate Summit from Phil Radford. 17 December 2009

Thom Hartmann: Phil Radford is on the line with us. He is the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, is the website, Phil, welcome to the show.

Phil Radford: Hi Thom, thank you.

Thom Hartmann: Welcome back, and I am getting very, very disconcerting reports from Copenhagen that the demonstrators are being pre-emptively detained, they’re being held in cages, that people are being pepper-sprayed and beaten with batons, when they are not acting in a violent fashion, it’s like Mayor Daley’s Chicago. Are you seeing this? Is this going on?

Phil Radford: This is true. There are people in the streets who are very concerned about their future, they’re entirely peaceful, and people are being detained for no reason whatsoever.

Thom Hartmann: And is this the Danish government? I mean, Denmark is kind of famously liberal.

Phil Radford: It is the Danish government. I think they’re very nervous. There are countless Heads of State that are coming to the country, so they want security. But I think that they are really taking it too far.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah, well. What’s going on within the summit itself? We know Hillary Clinton recently gave an offer, a speech, on behalf of the United States. You know, what was the substance of that, how are people reacting, have the other nations come back in, give us, fill us in on what’s going on.

Phil Radford: Well, there are four things on the table, really. The first is, will the world cut pollution enough to fend off global warming?

Thom Hartmann: Right.

Phil Radford: The second is developing countries need some money to invest in clean technology. So that’s what Hillary Clinton did. She offered a little bit of money, it’s unclear how much, it’s unclear where it comes from, and so a lot of people are very uncertain if this was a good thing.

Thom Hartmann: Because it wasn’t specific?

Phil Radford: Right, not at all. She said we need a hundred billion dollars of money for clean tech and for other things.

Thom Hartmann: Right.

Phil Radford: And then she said the US will contribute something towards that, and we’re not sure where it comes from.

Thom Hartmann: Wow, ok. And so, you said there are four things on the table, and that was the second?

Phil Radford: Yes, so there’s money on the table. There’s cutting pollution. There’s actually protecting forests, because cutting down forests causes a lot of global warming. [ unclear ] legal agreement. And right now the US is really failing on all of those things.

Thom Hartmann: So what are… It appears to me from the news reports that I’ve been reading, and the commentaries that I’ve been reading, from people like yourself, Phil Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA,, my sense of it is that this thing, there’s not going to be a solid Kyoto type treaty / protocol / legal framework that’s going to come of this, that Copenhagen is going to collapse and it’s going to collapse in large part because of a lack of leadership from the United States. Am I overstating that?

Phil Radford: Well, I think that’s entirely possible. It can be true that at this point we won’t see a legally binding treaty. I think it’s still possible that we could see one early next year. But I think it’s possible that it could collapse, and it’s also possible that if the United States decides to lead, that President Obama could say the US is going to re-engage the world, commit to cutting our pollution, and put money on the table, and we’ll be a part of a legally binding treaty in the future.

Thom Hartmann: Right.

Phil Radford: And if the President does that, then it doesn’t need to collapse, and it could be implemented legally next year.

Thom Hartmann: Right. That would sort of be like him saying to the United States Senate, “You know, single-payer health care is really the cheapest option, and the best for our nation, so I’m going to propose single-payer,” he didn’t do that. I’m a little concerned that he keeps backing off these things, and you got the fossil fuel industry that is dropping a lot of money, and you know, when cap and trade comes up in the United States, they're going to be, you know, out there on that, and particularly if he decides to use the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide. They’re going to be, I mean they going to be dropping millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars on his head. He’s got to be feeling like he’s between a rock and a hard place, right now.

Phil Radford: I think he is, and I think that moment when you’re between a rock and a hard place is the true test of leadership.

Thom Hartmann: It is.

Phil Radford: In the first three months of this year, the coal industry and the oil industry spent about eighty million dollars fighting against clean energy legislation, like the global warming bill, and I’m sure they’ll do the same. What people voted for when they voted for President Obama was someone who promised to get special interests out of policy making. But unfortunately, we’ve seen him really kind of wimp out once in a while, or back off when special interests rear their ugly heads. And I think it would be really refreshing if he said, literally, “The fate of the world is on our shoulders right now, and I am going to make a decision as a leader that’s hard, and that will save the world.”

Thom Hartmann: And he would then have all the, you know, oil billionaires down on him like, you know, a metaphor doesn’t come to mind, but just, you know….. a cliché, but you get it. What is the deadline? How much time is there, you know, we only have like a day, right, Phil? We’re talking with Phil Radford, by the way, Greenpeace USA, Go ahead, Phil.

Phil Radford: Yes, there is one day left, and I think the metaphor for what you’re talking about is Lyndon Johnson, when he knew that civil rights was important, and that segregation was wrong, and he also knew that if you voted for the Civil Rights Act, he would lose all the racist Democrats in the South for years to come, and lose power in the US for the Democratic party. That’s the analogy. Is the President literally ready to save the world and take the political risk to do it?

Thom Hartmann: Right. And Lyndon Johnson, we’ve all heard, I think it was Bill Moyers tell this story. I think it was Moyers who was in the Johnson administration and in the White House when that happened, it may have been somebody else, but this is my recollection, and you know, one of the advisors said to Lyndon Johnson, “If you sign the Civil Rights Bill, sir, we’re going to lose the South for a generation,” and Lyndon Johnson said, “If that’s the price that we have to pay to do the right thing, I’m willing to pay it.” And the question is, will President Obama say, you know, take a similar principled stand. Lyndon Johnson was willing to take that kind of risk with Medicare and Medicaid, he got them passed in his first six months in office. I’m not seeing that with, you know, which were both single-payer health care systems. I’m not seeing that with President Obama. I’m wondering, and with the civil rights issue of the day, which is gay rights, you know, he still hasn’t rolled back "Don't Ask", I mean with an Executive Order he could do it, he could do away with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. So I’m not real optimistic that he’s going to take on the fossil fuel industry if he hasn’t taken on any of these other issues.

Phil Radford: I think it comes down to your listeners and I think it comes down to people like you and me. When Lyndon Johnson first looked at civil rights, he was really wimping out, as was John F Kennedy.

Thom Hartmann: Right.

Phil Radford: Then people all around the country really rose up and peacefully said, “We demand that our future be a brighter future for our children.” And once that happened, it forced them to choose what side of history they would be on. I think that we need to do that as well now.

Thom Hartmann: That is such an excellent point, Phil Radford. It really is up to us, and this is not a blame-the-victim rant. This is a lets-take-power rant. It really is up to us. It’s not enough just to vote. We have to get out there. We have to support, it’s movement-based politics. It’s like joining Greenpeace, and sending a few bucks, and saying, “Ok, here, let’s make some noise.” And there’s no shortage of other great organizations out there. Bill McKibben's and others that are working on that issue, you know, or on this issue that you and I are talking about. Phil, you’re live with us from Copenhagen, for our listeners who just tuned in. And let the Obama administration know that we’ll have their back if they want to take on the fossil fuel industry.

Phil Radford: Absolutely.

Thom Hartmann: And so we have to do that. Phil, thanks so much for the report from Copenhagen.

Phil Radford: Thank you Thom, always a pleasure.

Thom Hartmann: Great talking with you and, you know, keep up the great work.

Phil Radford: Will do.

Thom Hartmann: Thank you.

Transcribed by Gerard Aukstiejus.

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