Yes, I get it: McKibben thinks he is making hay with the Keystone XL issue -- and he certainly has made some -- and doesn't want to lose that. But that's no reason to fudge the facts.
He wrote about last weekend's Swart and Weaver article in Nature Climate Change -- the one that finds the carbon content of the "proven" Alberta tar sands will only raise average global temperatures by 0.03°C -- and he completely avoids mentioning their result. Completely.
In fact, much like Joseph Romm, he twists the article into implying it supports his established position -- when it does not. There isn't a single mention of the +0.03°C result in his article. Instead he bypasses it completely and moves beyond to report on the consequences of burning all of it -- which no one is currently talking about -- and of burning all available coal -- which we all accept would be disastrous.
A new study from a pair of British Columbia scientists shows that there's a lot of carbon in the tarsands -- but a lot more yet in the planet's coal deposits.Do you see any mention of the paper's main result? No, I don't either.
If you burned all the tarsands we know about now, you'd raise the planet's temperature more than half a degree -- i.e., half again as much as the global warming we've already seen, which has been enough to make the seas 30% more acid and cut Arctic sea ice 40%. But if you burned all the coal we know about it, the temperature would go up 15 degrees.
At a certain point, I suppose, it doesn't matter -- most scientists think anything more than two degrees Celsius puts us into a zone of extreme danger, and we're already halfway there. Fifteen degrees would be just gilding the lily. Still, it makes it clear that even if, as NASA's James Hansen has said, burning the planet's unconventional fuels like tarsands would mean it was "game over the for the climate," stopping that burning won't be enough. We also have to address the most obvious, conventional forms of energy -- coal, especially. It was the first kind of fossil fuel we learned to burn, 300 years ago. And we've got to kick the habit.
Sure, it's easy for McKibben or me or you to say we shouldn't burn all the tar sands or all the coal. But we have very, very good lives and get to fly all over the world to do what we want.
Do you think about carbon when you fly? Anywhere? No, neither do I.
I'd FOIA McKibben's travel schedule if I could. But 350.org is a private organization, so I can't. I know he sometimes tries to do video appearances instead of in-person lectures. I also know he recently flew to Corvallis, Oregon to give a lecture in person. And that he's been all over. McKibben has surely emitted far more carbon than he's "entitled" to, on the per-capita basis that would keep atmospheric CO2 levels from reaching "dangerous" levels. Of course, so have I (but not as much as McKibben). And so have you (but not as much, I suspect, as McKibben.))
Once activists get into a cause, you just can't trust them to accurately portray the facts, especially if the facts change against them. I wonder how much funding 350.org gets, anyway. Does anyone know? Have they ever revealed it?