I had the pleasure of meeting lauded climate activist and author Bill McKibben this morning. McKibben is in New Zealand as part of a tour encouraging action on climate change, in the lead up to the big UN climate talks in Copenhagen in December.
He’s a good guy tall, frank and realistic about the distinct possibility of us failing in the quest to save ourselves.
‘We are up to the edge (success is) a long shot, but we do have a very narrow window of opportunity. This is our final exam; so far we’re failing, but we don’t have to put our pencils down quite yet.’
He’s also very frank about how backwards New Zealand is on the issue.
‘New Zealand is retrograde; you’re just not getting it like other countries are. You’re kind of like the US was up until a few months ago. And you’re not like Europe, where the question is â€˜how fast can we push this through?’ New Zealand needs to reboot. The conversation has to change .and quickly.’
It is such a delight when high-profile foreigners cotton on to the fact we’re luddites.
McKibben says without hesitation that the climate negotiations in December will be the most important in human history. He points out that the meeting will be too late to prevent global warming; rather what they’ll be talking about is whether we can avoid complete catastrophe.
But while acknowledging the geopolitical imperative for action, he also points out that the real negotiations are infact not between the countries of the world, but between humans and physics and chemistry ‘the problem being that physics and chemistry aren’t going to bargain.’
McKibben was one of the founding members of 350.org the significance of the name being that 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the limit for humanity.
‘350 is the magic number; the red line. Any more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and it’s not compatible with life on earth.”
For the record, New Zealand’s proposed stabilisation goal is for greenhouse gasses is no more than 450ppm a level that would mean the annihilation of many low lying states, including most of our Pacific neighbours.