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Bill McKibben Calls Out Green Hypocrisy

Walter Russell Mead

Everyone’s favorite environmentalist Bill McKibben ranted against Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, scolding the public for “swooning” for the leader who, in McKibben’s own words, “sure is cute” and who “appears to have recently quit a boy band.” Trudeau’s sin? Green hypocrisy. McKibben writes for the Guardian:

Trudeau says all the right things, over and over. He’s got no Scott Pruitts in his cabinet: everyone who works for him says the right things. Indeed, they specialize in getting others to say them too – it was Canadian diplomats, and the country’s environment minister Catherine McKenna, who pushed at the Paris climate talks for a tougher-than-expected goal: holding the planet’s rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But those words are meaningless if you keep digging up more carbon and selling it to people to burn, and that’s exactly what Trudeau is doing. He’s hard at work pushing for new pipelines through Canada and the US to carry yet more oil out of Alberta’s tarsands, which is one of the greatest climate disasters on the planet.

Last month, speaking at a Houston petroleum industry gathering, he got a standing ovation from the oilmen for saying “No country would find 173bn barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.”

McKibben savages Trudeau but stops short of the final truth: none of the world’s important leaders back the green agenda. The difference is between the sly hypocrites who pretend to be green for the cameras, and the Trump types who don’t bother. He seems more bothered by the former, but the truth is that neither type of leader is sympathetic to the green cause that McKibben embodies.

But from McKibben’s point of view, there is even worse news. The hypocrites reflect what voters want: they want to feel that something nice and green is being done, but they don’t vote for parties who are willing to make the huge changes McKibben and his colleagues claim are necessary.

This is what we mean at TAI when we say that the conventional green agenda is a Dead Man Walking and that all the green activists and all the climate diplomats won’t move the needle.

We think there is a better alternative: not to deny the dangers of climate change but to develop a new green agenda that could actually command enough political support to bring real change. That isn’t as hard as it looks; the information revolution is producing a Great Decoupling, with economic growth increasingly unrelated to resource intensive manufacturing and other greenhouse promoting activities. American emissions dropped three percent last year even as the economy grew, not because of green policymaking (then-president Obama’s Clean Power Plan never had a chance to go into effect), but rather because a flood of cheap shale gas displaced coal as our nation’s primary source of power. The United States is showing that you can grow, and do it green.

For reasons that are essentially non-rational and even religious, McKibben and the Hair Shirt Green lobby he represents will never buy this, but the anti-tech, dystopian greens aren’t the only people who care about the future of our beautiful planet.

In many ways McKibben is a more clear-sighted and honest observer than the gassy green mainstream media and Davos groupies who fall for the Trudeau hypocrites and vacuous Paris accords, but his path still leads only to futility and despair. If the green movement and the human race are to flourish, we must find a better way forward, and we need fewer hypocrites and more smart greens to lead the way.

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