Bill McKibben has written about climate change for general audiences for more than two decades and in recent years has become the most prominent American environmentalist on this issue. Through his writings and grassroots campaigns, McKibben has helped organize tens of thousands of rallies around the world to demand stronger, faster government action on climate change. In this interview, he describes founding 350.org to raise consciousness about climate change and explains why the organization has a number as its name. McKibben lays the blame for climate change—and for the lack of political action to mitigate it—squarely at the feet of a fossil fuel industry reluctant to part with its biggest subsidy: the privilege to dump its waste products into the atmosphere at no charge. He argues that educational efforts alone are not enough to address global warming and that organizing is the best thing people can do to help reduce climate change. He explains why the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada’s tar sands to refineries in the United States, became the focal point for a social movement that erupted in civil disobedience at the White House—and became a political football—in late 2011 and early 2012. McKibben shares his thoughts about the best ways to communicate with the public about climate change. He identifies cost, along with the risks apparent in places such as Fukushima, as impediments to an expansion of nuclear power and calls for a price on carbon as the quickest and surest way to reduce emissions. And he reflects on developments in China and Australia that could lead to progress on climate change, even in the absence of American leadership.
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