Video: ‘Thank You’ MTV’s Sway Williams! Obama Speaks on Climate Change


This week MTV’s Sway Williams got President Obama to break the climate silence, asking him a tough question about global warming. Obama says he’s “surprised it didn’t come up in the debates.”

Unfortunately, Obama’s answers are based on trying to get the U.S. to the Copenhagen carbon target, which scientists around the world resoundingly agree are woefully inadequate.

According to UK’s The Guardian, “The pledges made by governments resulting from the Copenhagen climate conference are nowhere near enough to hold global temperatures to the summit’s agreed goal of no more than a 2C rise, researchers have calculated. The results, which are the most rigorous analyses yet made of pledges submitted to the UN …, will increase pressure on rich countries to make far deeper cuts in negotiations over the next year.”

The key climate defense strategy right now is three fold (read more at Why Bill McKibben is the New Noah). If we do these three things, there’s a possibility that we can reverse climate change, restore health to our skies, earth, and oceans, and move forward into a future where our grandkids can not just survive, but thrive.

Here’s the plan (and look for Bill McKibben’s “Do The Math” tour this fall):

1. Divest or get active regarding all stockholdings in these six corporations: ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Peabody, Arch, and BP. These are the primary oil, natural gas, and coal companies operating in or through the United States that top the charts as carbon polluters. If Americans focus on U.S. companies, then we can be the tipping point for a transnational shift. If you — or the portfolio you influence — own stock, then get rid of it and tell the company why. If you don’t want to divest, then you need to decide now to become a shareholder activist. If you’re not a stockholder, then pressure your faith institutions, universities, and local governments to get out of “planet-killing” profits. This is the economic part of the plan.

2. Push for carbon “fee-and-dividend” laws on corporate carbon emitters at the local, state, and federal level. No more free rides for oil, gas, and coal companies. You pay taxes to have your garbage hauled away. Why shouldn’t they? The fee is charged at the point of origin or point of import on greenhouse gas emitting energy (oil, gas, and coal). The fee is progressive (increases gradually) over time. The fee is returned directly to the public in monthly dividends to individual taxpayers, with limited-to-no government involvement. Australia initiated this legislation in June. We can learn from them. This is the legislative part of the plan.

3. Take personal responsibility. Everyone can continue to limit energy consumption, use renewable energy sources, and build out a sustainable footprint for our homes and churches. But we also need people to step up and put their bodies on the line to stop the mining of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, and prevent the construction of the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines that are being built to transport Alberta’s unconventional “tar sands” oil. Scientists around the world say that opening the Alberta tar sands and pumping this non-traditional oil through these pipelines will put the planet on a one-way road to climate disaster. That’s why fighting the Keystone XL Pipeline in the U.S. and the Northern Gateway Pipeline in Canada is critical. This is the direct action and personal responsibility part of the plan.

Read more about this here.

IRD’s Mark Tooley Takes Issue With McKibben on Climate Change

Mark Tooley
The Institute of Religion and Democracy president Mark Tooley, a longtime “opponent” of Sojourners’ Christian mission and also a faithful brother in Christ, has taken issue with my article Why Bill McKibben is the New Noah.

IRD is a conservative religious thinktank noted for its critique of  progressive religious groups as well as for advocating a strong defense of Christian freedom and traditionalist view of scripture as well as a conservative political perspective. Mark has worked at IRD for many years. He’s also a proud Methodist – as is Bill McKibben.

Mark writes:

McKibben’s plan is for all enlightened investors to divest from oil, gas and coal companies, to levy special taxes on energy firms, and to demonstrate against the Keystone Pipeline and development of tar sands oil. Berger admits these acts may not “completely reverse climate change.” But “we’ve got to listen to Noah this time.” After all, remember last time.

It’s nice that Rolling Stone readers were momentarily excited. But getting arrested at anti-pipeline demonstrations will not affect global temperatures. If prophets of climate apocalypse are anywhere near accurate, the global industrial economy would have to grind to a virtual halt before there’s any appreciable impact.

McKibben’s counsel may help stifle economic growth, keep poor people poor, and help corrupt overseas tyrants retain their energy monopoly. It will not affect climate. But it will help yuppy environmentalists feel virtuous at minimal cost to themselves. Didn’t the real Noah demand more?

For Mark, I’d have to say this is as close to a plea for help as I’ve ever heard from him. I agree with him completely that a blip in Twitter after Bill McKibben’s Rolling Stone article does not reverse climate change, nor does risking arrest in front of the White House. But I firmly believe that “acting in hope” and choosing to act “for life,” rather than withdraw in cynicism, will be honored by the Holy Spirit and is a faithful expression of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As for Mark targeting the emotional life of “yuppy environmentalists” … well, I also agree. People don’t like to sacrifice – especially when they don’t see others around them doing it. And for the U.S. to seriously reduce our dependency on finite energy resources, we need to all sacrifice–starting at the top of the economic pyramid–rather than just making the poorest and the weakest sacrifice.

Besides, if there is one thing that Bill McKibben has made clear, it’s that we can’t get ourselves out of this climate mess by buying a Prius or or recycling. There has to be an international sea change in how we do business or there will be … well, an international sea change.

Mark speculates that the strategy McKibben and others around the world are putting forward to reverse climate change may “stifle economic growth, keep poor people poor, and help corrupt overseas tyrants retain their energy monopoly.” Gee. I sure hope not. But since the current system is doing these things anyway, I’m not sure what we have to lose.

And I’m very clear what we stand to gain: A planet where God’s word can take root in fertile soil and where the rains come in due season; a planet where “they will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). Thanks, Mark, and peace.

Rose Marie Berger: Why Bill McKibben Is The New Noah

Noah and friends

Bill McKibben is a good guy.

He’s a Sunday school teacher. He’s funny and a little shy. But he’s got a big problem.

He just got a job from God — and it’s not an easy one. It seems to me that Bill’s been tapped to be the new Noah to our faithless generation.  It’s his job to warn us that we have “grieved the Lord in his heart” and that the flood waters will rise again if we don’t get back to working within our “original contract” and reverse climate change.

Remember the Bill Cosby skit about Noah and the Ark? Noah’s neighbors didn’t think much of him, and Noah himself didn’t know what he was doing half the time. But he had a job to do, and cubit by cubit, two by two, he did it.

Bill’s like that.

Last month, Rolling Stone magazine featured his latest plea for climate sanity on its cover. And despite every pundit’s whining proclamation that climate change is such a buzz-kill, Bill’s article got forwarded, commented, tweeted, and otherwise pushed around the Internet more than anything else RS has put out lately.

So somebody out there is paying attention to climate change — even if the elites can’t seem to grow a spine about it.

What I liked about Bill’s article was that he lays out a clear, 3-pronged strategy for really doing something about climate change while there’s still time.

If we do these three things, there’s a possibility that we can reverse climate change, restore health to our skies, earth, and oceans, and move forward into a future where our grandkids can not just survive, but thrive.

Here’s the plan:

1. Divest or get active regarding all stockholdings in these six corporations: ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Peabody, Arch, and BP. These are the primary oil, natural gas, and coal companies operating in or through the United States that top the charts as carbon polluters. If Americans focus on U.S. companies, then we can be the tipping point for a transnational shift. If you — or the portfolio you influence — own stock, then get rid of it and tell the company why. If you don’t want to divest, then you need to decide now to become a shareholder activist. If you’re not a stockholder, then pressure your faith institutions, universities, and local governments to get out of “planet-killing” profits. This is the economic part of the plan.

2. Push for carbonfee-and-dividend” laws on corporate carbon emitters at the local, state, and federal level. No more free rides for oil, gas, and coal companies. You pay taxes to have your garbage hauled away. Why shouldn’t they? The fee is charged at the point of origin or point of import on greenhouse gas emitting energy (oil, gas, and coal). The fee is progressive (increases gradually) over time. The fee is returned directly to the public in monthly dividends to individual taxpayers, with limited-to-no government involvement. Australia initiated this legislation in June. We can learn from them. This is the legislative part of the plan.

3. Take personal responsibility. Everyone can continue to limit energy consumption, use renewable energy sources, and build out a sustainable footprint for our homes and churches. But we also need people to step up and put their bodies on the line to stop the mining of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, and prevent the construction of the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines that are being built to transport Alberta’s unconventional “tar sands” oil. Scientists around the world say that opening the Alberta tar sands and pumping this non-traditional oil through these pipelines will put the planet on a one-way road to climate disaster. That’s why fighting the Keystone XL Pipeline in the U.S. and the Northern Gateway Pipeline in Canada is critical. This is the direct action and personal responsibility part of the plan.

The threat of climate change is overwhelming. It’s been hard to sort out what to do. But Bill McKibben has given us a plan — one that everyone can join in, one where everyone can take part.

And even though he presents it in a folksy manner, this stuff has been vetted from the farmers on the ground to the economists in the think tanks to the scientists running the algorithms. When governments fail, people stand up.

This plan may not work to completely reverse climate change. But if anything is going to succeed, we’ve got to listen to Noah this time. Or rather, Bill.

Welcome to the fight of your lifetime.

Rose Marie Berger, author of Who Killed Donte Manning? is a Catholic peace activist and a Sojourners associate editor. She blogs at rosemarieberger.com.

Resources and Further Reading

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math by Bill McKibben

1. ECONOMIC

2. LEGISLATIVE

3. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY/DIRECT ACTION

Poetry: ‘News reach of the women dead in them sleep’

I studied with Shara McCallum in the MFA poetry program at the University of Southern Maine. Her new book This Strange Land has just been published and includes her series of “Miss Sally” poems in Jamaican dialect. Based loosely on conversations with her grandmother, McCallum’s poetry here is stunning and clear.

Miss Sally on the Grandmother Fires
by Shara McCallum

Hear what I tell yu: God promised Noah,
No more water. The fire next time.
That evening, mi sit down on the verandah
teking in a lickle fresh air when news reach
of the women dead in them sleep.
Lickle by lickle, the rest of the storey come out:
two young boys acting like men, like God himself.
153 dead—and fi what? Fi win election?

Mi dear, in all mi years I never imagine
is so low we would stoop.
For a people who know
what it is to be the lamb,
how we go lead our own
to slaughter?

Shara McCallum is the author of This Strange Land, just out from Alice James Press. Her two previous collections of poetry are Song of Thieves (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003) and The Water Between Us (University of Pittsburgh Press). Born of Afro-Jamaican and Venezuelan parents in Kingston, Jamaica, she lives with her husband and two young daughters in central Pennsylvania, where she directs the Stadler Center for Poetry and teaches creative writing and literature at Bucknell University.