George Monibot on Al Gore

George Monbiot: “If We Don’t Deal with Climate Change We Condemn Hundreds of Millions of People to Death”

The British journalist and environmentalist discusses his new book “Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning.” George Monbiot says global warming is “the great moral issue of the 21st century.” [includes rush transcript]

JUAN GONZALEZ: What about the prior administration, the Clinton-Gore administration? Al Gore now, of course, is a virtual folk hero of those who support moving forward in a much more broad way on climate change or climate control. What did they do when they were in office?

GEORGE MONBIOT: Have you ever noticed how much better people are at governance once they’re out of office? I mean, with Gore and Clinton, it was just a series of massive missed opportunities. They knew what they had to do, but they just didn’t do it. And it has to be said that Gore’s speech at the Kyoto Conference in 1997 was one of the most disgraceful pieces of international diplomacy I’ve ever come across. George Bush could have made that speech. It was just full of deliberate confusions and evasions and elisions about what needed to be done about climate change.

And I’m afraid to say that the Clinton-Gore administration in some ways did more harm than the Bush administration, because while Bush has gutted the US response to climate change, Gore and Clinton gutted the international response to climate change. They made sure that the Kyoto Protocol was pretty well a dead letter. They destroyed it as an effective instrument. And so, they destroyed it for everyone.

AMY GOODMAN: George Monbiot, on the issue of a speech you recently gave, where you talked about the axis of evil: George Bush, John Howard of Australia, and Stephen Harper of Canada.

GEORGE MONBIOT: Yes, the axis of evil on climate change. These guys have got together to make sure that there is no effective international action now taken on climate change. OK, there wasn’t any being taken anyway, partly because of the US gutting of the Kyoto Protocol before, but —

AMY GOODMAN: How did Gore and Clinton gut it?

GEORGE MONBIOT: Well, they — I mean, it has to be said that, of course, they were being pushed very hard by Congress and by powerful industrial interests, so I can’t blame them entirely for what happened. But they introduced all these caveats and clauses and these get-out clauses, things like the clean development mechanism, which said you don’t have to change your carbon emissions at home, you just pay somebody else to do it. And they played up to the other nations which didn’t want to make serious commitments, and they made sure that even if Kyoto were to be implemented fully, which is not being implemented fully, it wouldn’t make any really significant difference to cutting carbon emissions. They knew that you had to go much, much further than Kyoto went, if we were to have that cut. And knowing that, they didn’t push it in the direction it needed to be going. In fact, they held it back.

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