Transcript: Thom Hartmann gets a wrap up on the Copenhagen Climate Summit from Bill McKibben. 18 December 2009

Thom Hartmann: And Bill McKibben is on the line with us from Copenhagen, and Bill, I’m looking at “Der Spiegel” or maybe it’s not, maybe, no actually it’s David Corn writing in Mother Jones : "No deal. Not even a fig leaf. That seemed to be the implication of President Barack Obama's ... speech". Bill McKibben, by the way, Bill, first of all, welcome to the show.

Bill McKibben: Good to be with you as always, Thom.

Thom Hartmann: Thank you, Bill. Tell me, what’s going on in Copenhagen?

Bill McKibben: Well, part of the answer is no one really knows. All of civil society has been locked out of the conference, in fact most of the nations of the world have been locked out, supposedly. Obama is secreted in a room someplace, negotiating with four or five other powerful countries, but the negotiations at best are over a face-saving deal, not a planet-saving deal. Obama came here and offered absolutely nothing new. He gave a speech that just let everybody in the whole place down. I mean, there was scattered polite applause in the plenary hall when he gave his talk. And it was just the sound of the last possible air really going out of this. They may get a deal, but it’s not going to be a deal that means very much, I think.

Thom Hartmann: Bill, here in the United States, you know, Americans for Progress, for Prosperity, funded in large part, you know, headed up by one of the Koch brothers, wealthy oil billionaires, the oil industry, oddly enough, apparently being one of the major funders of one of the groups that's behind the Tea Party movement, and others. I’m frankly of the opinion that the whole anti-healthcare Tea Party thing is just dress rehearsal for when the oil and gas stuff comes down the road. They’re building their infrastructure, their Astroturf infrastructure, and the President has to know that, you know, if he thinks that he’s going up against a big industry with the health care industry, that’s just a purely domestic industry. The fossil fuel industry is an international industry. Was it too much for us to expect that he would, you know, that anything could get through the Senate? This isn’t even about Barack Obama being strong or weak. It’s about, you know, if we’re going to do something in the United States that has to be legislative and it has to get through the Senate, you know...

Bill McKibben: Well, arguably it is about Barack Obama, I mean, you know. He is President. He’s got a theoretical sixty-vote majority in the Senate. He’s done nothing to try and push down, to try and raise the profile of this issue, to try and make it really count. This, you know, three minute speech he gave today was about as limp as it was possible to be. It wasn’t Barack Obama in orator mode; it was Barack Obama in kind of scolding the world mode. Unimpressive, and didn’t move the ball really very much either here in Copenhagen or in the Senate. You’re right; we may be heading for a serious train wreck. I wish I had some great advice other than the fact that we’re obviously going to have to keep building movements stronger than we have in the past.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah.

Bill McKibben:, you know, did its job. We had the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history. It was enough to really give courage to small nations here who stood up far longer to the intense pressure from the big ones than we would have thought. And it raised the science. You saw these leaked documents, that came out yesterday, from Copenhagen, which for reasons that I still don’t quite understand, had my name scrawled all across the front. I guess, because I’ve been reporting on these issues from the beginning. But, they made it clear that even the UN knows that the deal that they’re trying to strike today, a kind of face-saving deal that is a sham, and that the two degrees that they say that they’re aiming for, two degrees Celsius rise in temperature increase, even by their own numbers is a three degrees Celsius rise, that’s a five or so degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature, and that cooks the planet. That’s game over. That’s tilt.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. The planet is as much of a living organism as you and I are, and as complex as we are, and certainly I think is, to stretch a metaphor, but I think it's good one. If we have a five degree or six degree rise in temperature, we die.

Bill McKibben: That's right, think about what happens if your temperature goes up three to five degrees, and then stays there for a few thousand years, yeah, you’re out of luck.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly.

Bill McKibben: The earth will still be here, it just won’t be the earth that civilization developed on. So, you know...

Thom Hartmann: To quote James Hansen.

Bill McKibben: We’re losing here in Copenhagen, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve lost altogether. We've really raised the stakes. We’ve really raised the profile. We have still some kind of short time to try and make a movement around the world that does what needs to be done. We’ll keep trying. I’m not going to, you know, I’ve not going to blow smoke up your behind, there’s nothing to celebrate coming out of Copenhagen, but at least the stakes are clearer than they were a couple of week ago.

Thom Hartmann: Well, the good news, Bill. We’re talking with Bill McKibben, and get over to that website by the way. It’s really, this is an important organization, and an important movement. The good news, Bill, is that at least the conversation is really visible. I mean, and you know, there was, I don’t know how it was reported over there, but one of the stories here, was how James Inhofe showed up, and was basically ignored, and a German reporter told him, you know, he was crazy, and you know, it’s revealing, I think, to many Americans the shallowness and stupidity of the either the true believers, the creationists, you know, I mean Inhofe, he said “God’s up there, and he’s not going to let anything happen to us.” The religious crazies…..

Bill McKibben: Joe Barton from Texas just said in his press conference here, Joe Barton, the Republican Congressman from Texas said, “There’s no ice caps in Texas”, which has to rank as one of the dumber remarks.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. People I think are getting it and it's the beginning of the conversation. Let’s, to, first of all, I don’t want to be totally demoralized, I don’t want you to and I don’t want our listeners to, because then they’re not even going to go to

Bill McKibben: Thom, there’s no excuse for total demoralization.

Thom Hartmann: What are the next steps, Bill McKibben?

Bill McKibben: We’re going to have to build this movement bigger. Now I confess, I’m going to go home and sleep for a couple of weeks, and my crew all around the world is pretty worn out, and we’re going to go home and, but everybody here in the movement from our organization and others, is talking about nothing but how we’re going to have to come back and build this bigger, because clearly so far the power of the future, the power of survival, is not yet equal to the power of the darn fossil fuel lobby.

Thom Hartmann: Right, well, or the power of really corporations in the political sphere. I mean, a series of Supreme Court decisions that have given corporations the right to use the…..

Bill McKibben: You wrote the first book about this, and it’s absolutely right, Thom, absolutely right.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Yeah. And we have to change that. We've got so much work to do on so many levels and we can’t, you know, it’s not enough to just vote. We have to get involved in movement politics. We have to get out there and be doing this stuff. Bill McKibben, Bill, what, we just talked with Victoria Jones from the Talk Radio News Service about 30 or 40 minutes ago on the radio program here, and she said that the President has delayed his departure by two hours. That he’s had a series of unscheduled and lengthy meetings with China…..

Bill McKibben: Yeah, yeah. They’re doing their best to reach some kind of…

Thom Hartmann: Is this the fig-leaf stuff?

Bill McKibben: Yeah. You know, they’re trying hard for the fig leaf, but that’s apparently a reach. You know, they'll sign something.

Thom Hartmann: And even that's a reach. So what's the next...? I'm sorry, I interrupted you.

Bill McKibben: You do not get this many world leaders someplace and they just say we didn’t do anything. They’ll sign something, and they’ll try to keep face. In fact, the last thing that I heard from the plenary session was somebody explaining that this is Conference of the Parties 15, someone explaining that Conference of the Parties 18 would be taking place in 2012, in Korea. So you know, I mean, at a certain point they’re going to be holding these conferences, you know, up on Mount Ararat, watching the waters rise.

Thom Hartmann: Well, that may be. Isn’t there a point at which a critical mass of consciousness is going to be reached, and hopefully that is reached before the critical mass, the thermal mass of the planet is reached, and we've hit the point of no return.

Bill McKibben: You did it. You said it just right. There’s one of two tipping points will come first, and the problem is that we’re pretty near the physical typing points, and really we’re probably closer than we realize because the lag time between carbon being emitted into the atmosphere and the temperature rise that it causes means that we have to be way ahead of those tipping points, if we’re going to prevent them happening.

Thom Hartmann: Right. So we need to be working very, very aggressively on creating the tipping point of consciousness.

Bill McKibben: This can’t be job three behind health care and financial reform. All those things are incredibly important, but there’s only one thing going on around right now that can alter the geological future of this earth, and that’s climate change. And we’re not giving it, Obama and everybody else, giving it anything like the attention it deserves.

Thom Hartmann: Bill, will you come back on the programme in two weeks, and explain the next steps?

Bill McKibben: Of course, of course. And in the meantime, Merry Christmas, and a Good New Year.

Thom Hartmann: Thank you, and Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Good New Year to you too. Cause we, I want to get you back in a couple of weeks when you've had a chance to digest this stuff and we can do some scheming here on the air with our listeners about where we take this thing as a movement.

Bill McKibben: We'll do it. What we do next. Absolutely. God bless, brother, take care.

Thom Hartmann: Thank you. You too, Bill. Bill McKibben,, get over there to his web site. Great guy, live with us from Copenhagen.

Transcribed by Gerard Aukstiejus.

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