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Climate change action ‘a fight’ with Big Oil, says McKibben

Climate change action ‘a fight’ with Big Oil, says McKibben

Climate change activists have to be prepared for a confrontation with oil companies that will "flat out lie", environmental leader Bill McKibben said yesterday.

McKibben, a professor of environmental journalism at Middlebury College and founder of the Pacific Climate Warriors, was speaking to the 'In the Eye of the Storm' conference from his office in Vermont, in the United States.

Noting how high the stakes were, he said there were "absolute survival risks in this century if we let the temperature go up even a little bit more”.

“Obviously if one degree [of warming] melts the Arctic, we don’t want to find out what 1.5 or two degrees would do.” The world “couldn’t have civilisations like we do today” if the world warmed by the near three degrees rise possible under the pledges made at last year's Paris climate conference.

McKibben also stressed the immorality of the oil industry and its influence in politics. Oil companies “will flat out lie,” he said, singling out Exxon for particular criticism. Despite having known about global warming 25 years ago, the firm had used that knowledge only to prepare its oil rigs for the rising sea level.

“We’re not engaged in an argument, we’re engaged in a fight … the fight is to see if we can rein in the power of that industry.” Four-fifths of the world’s current fossil fuel reserves must go unused if runaway climate change was to be avoided, McKibben said.

“I don’t know if we can stop climate change. There are scientists who say we can’t,” he added. Hope lay “in building big movements” that could break the back of the oil industry. But such an effort would require protests, civil disobedience, jail time, and “will require all of us.”

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