This will be gutcheck time for the president. Scared by the fossil fuel industry and its electoral power, he’s given them most of what they wanted in his first term. But now we’ll find out if he actually gets the crisis that climate change has become. The first and purest test will be the Keystone Pipeline. He said a year ago it needed further study — that year was the warmest in American history, with one disaster after another. And it saw Canadian activists block plans for a Pacific pipeline. So now the fate of the tarsands rests largely on his shoulders — as James Hansen of NASA, his top federal climatologist said last year, tap it heavily and it’s “game over for the climate.”
Bill McKibben explained the catastrophic new math of climate change in a Q&A with us in July. He is the author of a dozen books about the environment, beginning with The End of Nature in 1989, regarded as the first book for a general audience on climate change. He is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org.