Climate Change March

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bill McKibben, environmentalist, resident scholar at Middlebury College and founder of, discusses the weekend protest against the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington.


Bill McKibben

Comments [51]

Noach (independent, anti-corporate traditionalist) from Brooklyn


Thank you again for replying in detail. Much appreciated.

Feb. 22 2013 04:16 PM

I think I understand the reference now. The difference (that I see at least) in making those arguments today vis a vis the depression era is this new found sense of fiscal rectitude (I think it's hypocritical and disingenuous, but don't get me started on that). It undermines...hell outright torpedoes any effort to make an investment in science and technology. Most people don't understand it so it's easy to sell a false narrative on its lack of potential rewards.

Regarding Nocera, my humble opinion is that it's a comfort zone thing on Brian Lehrer's part. I tend to cite Neil DeGrasse Tyson a lot because of my comfort level with science so I assume Mr. Lehrer is no different.By the way, I never thought you were singling me out on the Nocera comment:-)

Question 3 is loaded so I'll try to be succinct(which invariably leads to more confusion so I must be a glutton for punishment).It depends on the field of study. If one is a chemist or physicist, that background would make them more well versed on those issues(quacks notwithstanding). If one has a PhD say, in Mechanical engineering, he/she wouldn't typically study the specifics of greenhouses gases to that extent. A PhD in a non science field amplifies that idea.

You're spot on about Zizek. His name was the one that I didn't know. I'll give that link a try. I didn't even know who Amy Goodman was either, until a few years ago when I found out she was a graduate of the high school in my town.

Feb. 22 2013 08:24 AM
Noach (Independent, anti-corporate traditionalist) from Brooklyn


1.) You had written,
"I agree with the idea of government investment in a long term R&D strategy. That said, this probably a bad time(economically), and congress is too dysfunctional. Moreover, many people are too scientifically illiterate to embrace the idea of a long term investment in science/technology that might not be cost effective to a private company in the short term."

I could imagine at least some of those arguments being made against at least some of FDR's New Deal programs. So I wondered about possible parallels between then and now.

2.) I understand the point you were making about Nocera and I didn't mean to single you out or give you a hard time.

Effectively, I used your comment as a launching-point to express an ongoing grievance I have against not only this show in particular but also WNYC, NPR and the media in general.

3.) I'm flattered that you think I'm an academic but my educational background is actually quite weak. (And I suspect that may at least somewhat account for my independence; I've been subject to less indoctrination, in at least certain respects.)

And I haven't noticed anything wrong with your writing-- for what my observations are worth.

Let me ask: Could an academic (even of a non-science field) be as ignorant as I was about the difference between green house gases, themselves, and the other, completely different toxins that are also released with the burning of fossil fuels?

4.) "only two of whom I know"

If not for having heard Slavoj Zizek on Democracy Now!, I likely would not know of him either. (Zizek _was_ the one you didn't know of, right?)

You may want to give him a try. Even if he may be somewhat esoteric (he went over my head sometimes too), in addition to being intellectually stimulating, insightful, highly substantive, informative, etc., he can also be quite entertaining and funny. (I suppose it's 'not for nothing' that Zizek has been called, "the Elvis of cultural theory", as noted on the page I link-to below.)

Here's a link to the Amy Goodman interview of Zizek that I heard, with full transcript:

One of the quotes that especially made an impression on me:

"I, as a Marxist, I much prefer skeptical conservatives to naïve progressive liberals. Why? Because skeptical conservatives are ready to admit a deadlock."

Feb. 22 2013 01:46 AM

Could you elaborate on your New Deal reference in response to my post? Regarding whether Joe Nocera has more to offer than the others you mentioned (only two of whom I know), I say potentially, but only on the political front. My post was intended to highlight the opinion that Nocera has a handle on the mechanics of the political machine, but his vision regarding how a technology or scientific principle should be applied should not be taken as gospel. He just doesn't have that kind of background.

I sense that you're an Academic by your punctilious writing style so please pardon any writing "faux pas" on my part;-).

Feb. 21 2013 07:55 AM
Noach (Independent, anti-Corporate Traditionalist) from Brooklyn

@Amy from Manhattan:
"greenhouse gases (esp. CO2, the most common one, but not even methane) aren't associated w/cancer, asthma, etc."
"The kinds of health effects you're asking about often come from other pollutants that are released along w/greenhouse gases,"[...]

Thank you for explaining and clarifying this important distinction.

I take it that the other pollutants include particulate matter as well as other gases?

Is it possible to burn fossil fuels without releasing said other pollutants?

If not, then my point would still stand. (see below)

"& environmentalists haven't ignored them--we've been working to control those long before global climate disruption became a major issue, & those efforts continue."

I never meant to suggest otherwise and I hope you didn't think I did.

My only point was that sometimes, when debates with climate change skeptics and deniers are schlepping-on, getting bogged just seems that someone should interject and say something like,

"Okay, let's say, you're right and global warming isn't real or at least isn't something we need concern ourselves with too much. Do you dispute that burning fossil fuels is nonetheless credibly (if not _incontrovertibly_) linked-to cancer, lung disease, asthma, etc....Is that not reason enough to make every possible to reduce burning fossil fuels? So why do we need to keep arguing over global warming?"

Feb. 20 2013 10:18 AM
Noach (Independent, anti-Corporate Traditionalist) from Brooklyn

Thanks to everyone who replied to me. Below are some specific responses.

@Rich_P, Feb. 19 2013 10:09 AM:

I wonder how applicable the arguments you made are to FDR's WPA, etc.
Feb. 19 2013 10:38 AM:

"Joe Nocera is scientifically illiterate but politically astute."

In addition to having him on the show far more times than Glenn Greenwald[1], Brian Lehrer also seems to mention and cite Nocera far more as well.

The last time Noam Chomsky was on the BL show appears to be June 2009 and prior to that, sometime in 2002.

The search string, "Slavoj Žižek", returned exactly two results, both of which were merely _mentions_ of the Slovenian philospher; not _appearances_ by him on any broadcast.

Do you find Nocera to have more to offer BL show listeners than the likes of Greenwald, Chomsky or Zizek? (To take three examples off the top of my head. All of whom, by the way, I have at least some vehement, fundamental differences with.)

In fairness, I must note that I had emailed the Leonard Lopate Show asking why it seemed that Chomsky had _never_ been on the show and I received the reply that Chomsky had been invited many times but had always declined. So, for all I know, the same explanation may apply in one or both cases here.

But whatever the explanation, I find the discrepancy I described-- on _public_ radio, no less-- indicative of a sad state of affairs.

[1] Comparison is for the last few years or so, based on Google searches that confirmed my impressions and recollections from listening.

Feb. 20 2013 08:59 AM
rolf niebergall from Floral Park, LI/NY

dear Rich, I do not have a finished product but something new. It should not take to long to bring it to the market. I worked to long in photo/electronics to know what I am talking about. I do not have the equipment to do the work it on my own therefore someone should help me! I am retired and not retarded. New technology should even do much better! It is the idea not a old knowledge which will do the success! Where are the universities and companies who should have an interest? My experience is, there is no Alexander the Great living in this country anymore. We depend on few people for success!

Feb. 19 2013 05:52 PM

rolf niebergall, are those PV cells you worked on still in the prototype stage?

Feb. 19 2013 03:18 PM
rolf niebergall from Floral Park, LI/NY

I am a physicist and worked on cheap solar cells, about 27% efficiency, no one is interested. Is it not not important at least take a look at it? Why in the world is it not possible to talk to me? I am an American and I like to have the knowledge stay in this country. It is my knowledge and my knowledge only!

Feb. 19 2013 02:57 PM
Jeremy from Charlotte

Thank you and all tose that made the rally possible. It was a real powerful event and even with the high winds the folks were wonderful and the speakers moved us all. President Obama has his back and I hope he took notice of the 99% of us about climate change.
Mr. McKibben, keep up speaking out and holding the standard, the truth will be told!

Feb. 19 2013 02:28 PM

Smokey, I too am curious as to the reasons for such trepidation regarding nuclear. The 80's are long gone (sort of), and nuclear is very very safe and reliable. Oh yeah, my recurring theme comes to mind: People are too scientifically illiterate to make as sound judgements on these issues.

Feb. 19 2013 01:33 PM
Noach (Independent Traditionalist) from Brooklyn

@Mr. Chuzzlewit (2nd reply):

"Grow up, be a man,"

The rest of your verbiage, while finding laughable, I can nonetheless make some sense out of, given the perspective and mindset that you have amply demonstrated in numerous comments.

But this admonition to, "Grow up, be a man", has piqued my curiosity.

Just what, exactly, in my posts do you find indicative, specifically, of a lack of _maturity_ and _masculinity_?

Feb. 19 2013 12:24 PM
Noach (Independent Traditionalist) from Brooklyn

@ Martin Chuzzlewit, 07:02 a.m.:

And a fine morning to you as well, my dear Sir!

I actually welcome your post, not only for providing some comic relief but, more importantly, for providing me with an opportunity to clarify where I stand.

I have never denied or tried to hide that in _certain areas_, at least _some_ of my views and positions do indeed align considerably with the left.

No less real, significant or considerable, however, are the areas where I _diverge_ from the left, often quite vehemently and even fundamentally.

Just yesterday, reading the comments posted on the Lopate segment on academic freedom[1] prompted me to make a post in which I wrote,

"When it comes to allowing ideology and agenda to trump reason, science, empiricism, and sound public policy, the left is no less guilty than the right. Likewise for inserting blatant bias and indoctrination into education."[1]

I made somewhat detailed mention of what may be the most strikingly egregious example of this in a post I had made last January, on a Brian Lehrer segment on Ron Paul's primary candidacy. I urge you to read that post of mine. You can find it at:
Once at the page, search (Ctrl + f) for "Jan. 09 2012 03:07 PM" (without the quotes)

Going back to my posts of just yesterday, I also wrote that I am conflicted on the issue of public education and not at all convinced that the teachers unions are blameless. [2]

I will acknowledge that of the posts I have made here at WNYC thus far, more are probably occupied with areas of my convergence with the left than with areas where the reverse is true. There are reasons for this disproportionality, however. And to infer from it that I feel more at home on the left than I do on the right, while perhaps not entirely unreasonable, would nonetheless be most erroneous. Perhaps I will elaborate at some other time.


Feb. 19 2013 11:54 AM
Eileen Clark from Brooklyn

Reading through most of these comments, I'm detecting a RESISTANCE TO GIVING UP OIL? Why? Why the lack of courage? Why the need to hang back with the old school status-quo? What does oil REALLY do for your life that giving up oil WON'T do?

Here are the facts you already know: Our ARCTIC MASS is 1/5 the size that it was as recent as 1980!
For years we have been feeling the changes, UNBEARABLY HOT SUMMERS, WEIRD AND DANGEROUS STORMS.

In recent years in America there's been HUNDREDS OF TORNADOS in January and February, when only a decade ago tornados were absolutely unheard of in winter and spring months.

LOOK OUT YOUR WINDOW RIGHT NOW, trees in NYC are budding, daffodils are poking out of the dirt, Washington Mall cherry trees have been budding early (It's February, not April).

LOOK IN THE DESKS OF SCHOOL CHILDREN! How many of them have inhalers in their desks? A large percentage, due to poor air quality from emissions causing the RISE IN ASTHMA.

Desperate attempts to get oil out of the ground such as fracking, has POISONED GROUND WATER, SOIL, AND DRINKING WATER resulting in CANCER CLUSTERS.

And by the way, aren't we hearing more water cooler conversations like this every day: "Gee, it seems like so many more people have cancer these days than a few years ago."

And those are just the facts YOU ALREADY KNOW!

I was first exposed to the global warming discussion via an NPR report in 1988, which sounded just like today's discussion.

I immediately gave up fossil fuels as much as possible, got rid of my car, and have enjoyed the extra time to finish my work on subway and Amtrak trips, and more important enjoy the calming downtime to read a good book or dreamily look at lighthouses on the Hudson or bald eagles and their nests which are fun to watch from the Empire Builder's observation cars. Plus walking and riding a bike brings me improved health and attitude.

Also GAVE UP PLASTICS, which are a large part of the poison petro-chemical industry. No toxic acrylic rugs, couches, or draperies in my home. no plastic bags from the grocery store. Bring my own washable/re-useable containers for take-out, it goes on. Almost all of the garbage in my home is COMPOSTABLE, not throw-away.

It's possible, It's fun, and really easy to try just one knew idea. it's important. it can catch on.
We have to make changes for us and for our children.

Feb. 19 2013 11:28 AM
Jf from Thhe future

The corperations know what they are doing. They are willfully destroying the earth in every way imaginable. How is this not treason?break up the conglomerates and have them shot so tjis never happens again.

Feb. 19 2013 11:24 AM
Amy from Manhattan

On LEDs, yes, the savings over time more than cover the initial cost, but many people (esp. in this economy!) can't afford to pay that up-front cost all at once. This has been a problem with a lot of new money-saving technologies for a long time. What I'd like to see is more businesses, & gov'ts., buying LED lighting. They use many more light bulbs than individuals do, so this would result in much greater reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (although, of course, it's also important for individuals to use eco-friendly lighting).

Noach, no, greenhouse gases (esp. CO2, the most common one, but not even methane) aren't associated w/cancer, asthma, etc. That's why it took a Supreme Court case to decide the EPA could regulate these gases. They do have some other serious effects, like acidification of oceans that leads to bleaching of corals & other impacts on sea life. The kinds of health effects you're asking about often come from other pollutants that are released along w/greenhouse gases, & environmentalists haven't ignored them--we've been working to control those long before global climate disruption became a major issue, & those efforts continue.

Rich_P & Smokey, environmentalists *are* working on other fronts, as well as climate change & the Keystone XL pipeline. I was at the rally on Sunday, & there were signs & chants about other environmental issues, which were also mentioned in many of the speeches before & after the march. The pipeline is an immediate issue right now because the decision whether to allow its construction is coming up very soon, & I think the impression that the rally was *only* about that is more a question of how the media covered it than of what happened at the rally itself.

Feb. 19 2013 11:15 AM

"In the end, Edison’s proudly free-standing Suburban Residence was hooked up to the grid, and neither his in-home wind-generated electricity plant nor his battery-powered vehicles ever reached the mass market. In 1931, not long before he died, the inventor told his friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone: 'I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.'”

Feb. 19 2013 11:14 AM

Micaberman, population is beyond our control rendering it a feckless stratagem. The US has already reduced its reproductive rate and imploring other countries to reduce their population would be fruitless.

Feb. 19 2013 11:09 AM

Although I agree with Bill Mckibbon, I am tired of envioronmentalists
not addressing the issue of overpopulation. Even if mankind switched
to renewable energy sources, that does not sove the problem of too
many people demanding a finite amount of earth's other resources. The
two issues are inseparable.

Feb. 19 2013 11:02 AM

@ 1kw/M^2 solar isolation, I think solar is ultimately the way to go. Even 30% efficiency would work for the average household. Moreover, the distribution simplicity is inherent in its design. All we need is more energy dense storage systems.

Feb. 19 2013 11:01 AM

RE: Thomas Edison quote

I was NOT a party to that conversation. Despite many reliable sources attributing that quote to Edison, I can't say for sure...

Feb. 19 2013 11:00 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

There is reason for hope:

Feb. 19 2013 10:59 AM
Donald Simon from Princeton NJ

Cheers for Smokey from LES and his comment about using Nuclear. France is 80% Nuclear. Hypocrytical Germany buys power from them and then pretends they can exist on solar and wind.

Feb. 19 2013 10:58 AM

"LOL" Chuzzlewit from Manhattan ~

He's "WHISPERING" because he and Barak Obama are conspiring against you.

Feb. 19 2013 10:57 AM

"We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature's inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. ... I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that."

Thomas Edison to Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, 1931

Feb. 19 2013 10:53 AM
John A

Bottom line is as follows:
Some people on comment boards you just have to learn to ignore.

Feb. 19 2013 10:53 AM

dboy, stop reading my mind. It's scary ;-)

Feb. 19 2013 10:52 AM


Feb. 19 2013 10:49 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Why is this guy WHISPERING?

Feb. 19 2013 10:49 AM

Rich_P ~

Just don't look.

"LOL" Chuzzlewit from Manhattan's race rage is really quite irrelevant.


Feb. 19 2013 10:48 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Bottom line is as follows: until science and technology somehow makes solar as cheap or cheaper than fossil fuels, not much is going to change.

Everything else, said and done,is just blah blah blah. This is a problem for science and technology to solve, and I do have faith it can be solved, but it will take time. WE need a solar-power Einstein to give us the solution.

Feb. 19 2013 10:48 AM
The Truth from Becky

Funny how everyone has their own agenda.

Feb. 19 2013 10:46 AM

My head is spinning, due to a certain somebody's incessant non sequiturs on this forum.

Feb. 19 2013 10:44 AM

Caller "MJ" ~



Feb. 19 2013 10:43 AM

Is there a reason why we're not building a refinery up north, so that we don't need a pipeline to Texas and can still refine Canada's oil for them???

Feb. 19 2013 10:39 AM
Jay F.

Unless you get China and India onboard with dealing with pollution - good luck with that, there is little hope in beating global warming.

Feb. 19 2013 10:39 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Brian ......

This wingnut has the chutzpah to use the term "knuckleheads".... LOL??!!

(No wonder he supported Obama.)

Feb. 19 2013 10:38 AM

Joe Nocera is scientifically illiterate but politically astute. His arguments are emblematic of that fact.

Feb. 19 2013 10:38 AM
Smokey from LES

Why don't you devote your efforts to getting us ON non-polluting energy rather than fighting oil, which we still need during the transition?

And non-polluting efficient dependable energy is probably third and fourth generation nuclear.

Feb. 19 2013 10:36 AM
John A

When I first bought CFLs they were around $60. I know they are dollars now, but the electricity saved pays for the LEDs, and they are long past the $60 point, more like $30 now. LOL, and I give them out for Christmas.

Feb. 19 2013 10:33 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

For an excellent cost breakdown and a simple table that succinctly shows relative energy costs see

Feb. 19 2013 10:12 AM

@ Noach, I agree with the idea of government investment in a long term R&D strategy. That said, this probably a bad time(economically), and congress is too dysfunctional. Moreover, many people are too scientifically illiterate to embrace the idea of a long term investment in science/technology that might not be cost effective to a private company in the short term.

Feb. 19 2013 10:09 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan


Except now by trains … yes, oil burning trains …. Burlington Northern Santa Fe trains owned by …SURPRISE… Obama BFF Warren Buffet.

Feb. 19 2013 10:02 AM

jgarbuz, the higher costs are typical of "newer" technologies. The price of alternative energy will indeed go down. Regarding the short term, you might be right about us producing more for now. I just fear that a spurt in non renewable resources will undermine the drive to develop the future technologies that will facilitate energy independence.

Feb. 19 2013 09:59 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Most sources of renewable energy, except for hydropower, are still more costly than fossil fuels (if the external costs to health and the environment continue to be ignored), and until that fact changes, international competition will cause demand for fossil fuels to continue to grow. So better that we produce and sell it, rather than having to buy it from abroad.

While the costs of alternatives are dropping quickly, the cost of solar is still more than twice as expensive, and mostly in up front costs that have to be financed. Those who can afford it, fine, but most still can't.

The idea of a global carbon tax has been kicked around, but the still-poor emerging economies will refuse to pay, saying the West caused most of the greenhouse gases to date, so they should pay. So a carbon tax isn't getting very far.

One bright spot. Populations are getting older, and old people consume less energy. The world population should peak out and start to decline before the end of the century. Perhaps energy needs will decline too, but that remains to be seen.

Feb. 19 2013 09:49 AM

Keystone is but a single data point in the larger issue of climate change and its effects. Indeed that includes shorter term economic impacts in addition to the infrared that's held in our atmosphere as a consequence of "excessive" greenhouse gases.

Feb. 19 2013 09:42 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

“ fudges the numbers again”

Uhh, about that protest….
LOL ....from yesterday on website “Watts Up With That?”

--- or --------

Here’s something from Huffington Post:

“Organizers billed the rally as the biggest climate protest in American history. But despite claims by organizers that 50,000 people were in attendance, the crowd appeared smaller, with one police officer in attendance unofficially pegging it at about 10,000 as it got underway.“

Feb. 19 2013 07:40 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

"Aren't there many other concerns over the Keystone XL Pipeline besides global warming?"

No, just stupid, luddite, left wing, knee-jerk, smug, politically specious brigandage from ersatz, self-proclaimed "independents" like you. Grow up, be a man, and stop denying that your daily arguments here are nothing but the usual "progressive" drool from just another left wing airhead.

I love the other line about yet another government program for LEDS - "subsidizing their cost" which will (LOL) "create jobs and benefit the economy". Oh, yea, we haven't done that before. Right out of Krugman's Tales of Circular Wishful Fantasy. What a hoot you lefties are!

Feb. 19 2013 07:02 AM
Noach (Independent Traditionalist) from Brooklyn

Please ask Mr. McKibben to address the following.

Even _if_ global warming were _not_ an issue, wouldn't there _still_ be a clear public health imperative in restricting green house emissions? Hasn't this form of pollution long been incontrovertibly linked to cancer, respiratory illness and any number of serious, adverse health conditions?

Might, therefore, the almost exclusive focus on global warming, as real and serious a threat as it appears to be, not be counterproductive? The amount of time and energy spent on arguing over it a red-herring that benefits opponents of greater regulation and restriction of carbon emissions?

Shouldn't we at least be drawing more attention, as well, to all of the _other_ detrimental effects of such pollution?

Feb. 19 2013 06:52 AM
Noach (Independent Traditionalist) from Brooklyn

Couldn't LED light bulbs (which consume as much as 50% less energy than CFLs, have a much longer lifespan and contain no mercury), help to reduce green house emissions considerably?

Isn't the one thing keeping LEDs from vastly greater adoption, however, their high initial cost? (Still much higher than CFLs)

What about a program of government investment in the development and production of LEDs, along with actively promoting their use and subsidizing their cost for business as well as household consumers?

In addition to lowering the cost of LEDs and increasing their adoption, wouldn't such a program also create jobs and benefit the economy?

Other than the fossil fuel industry, would there be any real losers?

Feb. 19 2013 06:09 AM
Noach (Independent Traditionalist) from Brooklyn

The heading for this segment of the show reads, "Climate Change March", while the synopsis at the top of the page narrows the topic down, specifically, to the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Aren't there many other concerns over the Keystone XL Pipeline besides global warming?

Feb. 19 2013 05:04 AM

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