Bill Clinton’s Message: ‘Saving The Planet Is Better Economics Than Burning It Up’

Clinton: “If you’re an American, the best thing you can do is to make it politically unacceptable for people to engage in denial. I mean, it makes us — we look like a joke, right? You can’t win the nomination of one of the major parties in our country if you admit that the scientists are right? That disqualifies you from doing it? You could really help us there. It’s really tragic because we need a debate in America, and in every country, between people who are a little bit to the right and people who are a little bit to the left about what the best way is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. What is the most economical way to do it? What will get more done quicker? There are all these things that in any other country would occupy a lot of space on the ideological spectrum from right to left, and we can’t have this conversation because you’ve got to deny it?”

John Wihbey has a good collection of Clinton quotes on climate at The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media, in his piece, “How President Clinton, ‘Explainer-in-Chief,’ Frames Climate Change.”

The quote above is from last year’s Clinton Global Initiative (9-21-11). Here’s another, from a talk at the London School of Economics (7-12-12):

“My strategy on [engaging deniers] is very simple. Some people who are climate skeptics are climate skeptics because it’s in their interest to be. They just want to preserve the old energy economy, and there’s not much I can do about that. But what I am trying to do, literally all the time, is to prove that saving the planet is better economics than burning it up. Not 10 or 20 or 50 years from now — [but] now. There are a lot of climate skeptics but their reasons are being chipped away…. There are a lot of people who have a different view. Their view is, ‘Look, this may be good, this may be bad. But God almighty the world is coming apart at the seams economically and we’ve got other fish to fry. We have to deal with other things.’ [For] those people, you must prove it is good economics to change the way we produce and pursue energy…. So what I do to try to overcome the climate skeptics is to figure out how to solve the financing problems, because fundamentally all the financing problems look alike. Whether you’re dealing with clean energy or energy efficiency, the costs are all up-front and the savings are all in the back….”

No question Clinton has the arithmetic right:

  • Intro to climate economics: Why even strong climate action has such a low total cost — one tenth of a penny on the dollar
  • Scientists find “net present value of climate change impacts” of $1240 TRILLION on current emissions path, making mitigation to under 450 ppm a must

One final quote, also from LSE this year:

“Every now and then I’ll give a speech on this … but I try not to give many speeches on this energy stuff, the environment. I just try to do one project after another. I figure if we just keep lining ‘em up and pushing ‘em down, and lining ‘em up and pushing ‘em down, at some point denial will no longer be an effective strategy. And that’s what I recommend to you: Do something, no matter how small it is.”

Hear! Hear!

35 Responses to Bill Clinton’s Message: ‘Saving The Planet Is Better Economics Than Burning It Up’

  1. Dan B says:

    Hooray Clinton!
    No gloom and doom just good old rolling up the sleeves and working in the right direction.

    For my little part(s) I persuaded a couple neighbors to replace their oil heat with ductless heat pumps. The $3,500 rebate didn’t hurt. They couldn’t be happier and crowed about oil prices going up 20% this winter. And last weekend a batch of us raised $18,000 for a local green jobs and healthy families non-profit that works with low-income and minority folks, like Green For All. Then we spread out over the neighborhood handing out 1,600 free CFL’s. And we signed up over 300 people for the mailing list. People’s response was extremely positive.

    And as the saying goes, “repeat, repeat, repeat”.

  2. Good on Bill Clinton.

    Australia is seeing a fall in carbon intensity since its carbon price commenced mid-year. There are some good graphics and a news clip on it at:

  3. Clinton’s a smart guy and very compelling. That said, the people we are dealing with here are neanderthals who will use every dirty trick in the book. Yes, it will help if we can call them out and shame them. But we have to look at what’s producing the neanderthals. And that’s the oil company money. We have to look at what’s bought out one political party and maybe a quarter of the other. And that’s oil company money. If you’re going to change the political dialogue on global warming in this country, you have to hit the oil, gas, and coal company profit stream. You have to hit them where it hurts most. You have to hit them by cutting off their political contributions, by marking them, by cutting them off.

    It’s clear these companies are fighting a war against the world’s future. A political war, a war of denial, a war of dominance and a war of removal of the alternatives. They have made it clear they will do everything they can not to change and so we must take them down at the knees and this will require much more direct tactics than simple shaming.

    From the bottom to the top we need an ongoing an concerted resistance to the fossil fuel company agenda.

  4. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Once something decisive is done, it is noticeable just how the quickly the denial fades away. Since our carbon price came into operation the noise has quietened down and each climate science report on the radio is no longer accompanied by the former ‘quack quack’, ME

  5. Paul Magnus says:

    US presidential debate…. what climate change, meh!

  6. Paul Magnus says:

    Bravo Billy Boy…

  7. Paul Magnus says:

    Pretty much all BC service unions and more stand in solidarity against the Tar Sands and their pipelines….

  8. Paul Magnus says:

    Line in the Sands shared a link…

    seven major unions, including the Canadian Energy and Paper workers Union, and the BC Federation of Teachers are supporting the sit-in.

    Line in the Sands

    Defend Our Coast: Coastal First Nations Call on Thousands of Members to Join Peaceful Act of Civil
    This October, I am joining people from across the country in Victoria to defend …See More

  9. Paul Magnus says:

    The tide is turning. The lines are becoming clear! We are not going to have these pipelines in BC!

    And its looking very uncertain about the keystone XL link now that Texas has started the blockade.

    In fact I think the tide is turning for fossil fuel use. People are waking up to whats going on.

    The Tar Sands development will begin to ramp down in the near future. It might even be abandon by its backers if conditions are right. Though this is not a good thing.

    It is clear that oil industries are going to have to do some writing off big time of these sort of assets.

    Governments have an important a role to play here in insuring that this goes smoothly.

  10. Paul Magnus says:

    Amazing. B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union just endorsed the upcoming #defendourcoast action in #Victoria! @bcgeu

  11. Spike says:

    Good report at last on UK news about the Greenland ice sheet and relevance of Arctic changes to US and Europe. Part 2 due tonight:

  12. Daushi says:

    Ignorance is bliss! climate skeptics are honestly people who haven’t been properly informed on the changes that are evidently occurring in the globes climatic system. Climate change education is key in stopping its impact, and the only way that is possible is to present the every day person with facts that they can understand, instead of bombarding them with scientific information they cannot begin to comprehend.

    Another thing that worries me and many others is the the current U.S elections. Candidates such as Romney, may change the fate of dealing with climate change. If Romney is elected into presidency, best believe he is going to do everything in his power to convince U.S citizens that climate change is just another scam, and this could have detrimental consequences, especially since the United States is ranked one of the highest carbon emitting countries.

    *we need to bred awareness as fast and effectively as possible, before its too late*

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Obviously you do not frequent the S-bends and sumps of the Murdoch sewer, nor the Stygian depths of talk-back radio. Do you know, ME, that Barry Jones was the first talk-back host on Australian radio? From BOJ to Alan Jones and the other detritus. The Descent of Man.

  14. Ozonator says:

    Y’all are optimists. The governor of Jindalstan is scouting out locations to rule the state from in Iowa, Oklahoma, and Alaska when we slip into the muck, BP oil, and EssoKochs’ pre-EPA waste. The rest of the extremists would be happy to let the world blow up as long as the money machine gives them hot food, no speed zones, and little blue pills. And when 100% turns into 47%, “Audience at tea party debate cheers leaving uninsured to die” (By Rachel Rose Hartman | The Ticket;, 9/13/11). 

  15. Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks for the heartening news from beautiful British Columbia, Paul, we can use it. Now, if you can only stop the clearcutting…

    Obama is going to allow Keystone after the election. We’ll find out then what Americans are made of, since government and media are hopeless.

  16. YoungZee says:

    Well, I think he has a point at some parts, but I don’t think the world is ready for immediate, dramatic change. Not while the economy itself is dependent on the exact companies that are ‘ruining the climate’ and burning up the planet. Mitigation methods have already been put in place of course, but there is only so much mitigation one can do before the cost of mitigation itself becomes detrimental to the economy. So, my point is, sometimes it’s not denial that you’re seeing, but rather different logic and understanding as to what’s best.

  17. Raul M. says:

    Well it is off topic; but, on utube there was a fellow that showed how to burn a diamond. Now burning a diamond used to be an impossible action. Diamonds are made of carbon right. Humm, some things about how carbon will behave are not widely known.

  18. John McCormick says:

    Horray, Dan B.!

  19. Ken Barrows says:

    If by “better economics” he means GDP growth, then he is part of the problem, not the solution. Sure, if we could, say, halve our environmental impact and double world GDP in 20 years, then go for it. But we cannot. Repeat, we cannot. If you think we can, you may be more interested in protecting your lifestyle.

  20. Paul Magnus says:

    That would be nice. All my energy is focused on GW/OA… as that helps the woods too :)

    I dont know if you have read Tzeporah Berman’s new book… This Crazy Time

    I know you would enjoy.

  21. Mike Roddy says:

    I agree. Clinton has become an excellent voice for the people, but has been shy about taking on fossil fuels. He would be best positioned to do it.

  22. nice!…sums it up neatly.

  23. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Surely you must have noticed the difference Mulga? There is a hard core but generally much quieter. It helps that the ACCC is exposing scams on the power bills, ME

  24. Merrelyn Emery says:

    That logic and understanding is based on a separation of environment and economy which does not exist in reality. Without adequate mitigation, you won’t have an economy, ME

  25. Shodo says:

    we are going to have dramatic change whether we are ready or not. The only question is whether it will consist of starving and then roasting, or dramatic voluntary lifestyle changes and a bit of humility. I’m voting for voluntary. Leading a walk through the Midwest next summer to help communicate about that.

  26. Cristina Seelye says:

    Education is key. The new generations are growing with an awareness that we didn’t have. Stubborn people in denial won’t change their mind just like old crooked trees don’t change shape. My kids have transformed us into recycling freaks… in a good way. My older one is an innate ecologist and wants to become a Marine Biologist. My older one wants to be an Engineer and I’m sure he will be a big contributor to the survival of Earth.

  27. John Abreau says:

    The comment about “burning a diamond used to be impossible”….

    as a 9-year-old kid in the 1970’s, I read stories about alchemists accidentally burning diamonds that date back to the Middle Ages. I also recall detective stories from 60 years ago where the detective solves the mystery by proving that the missing diamonds caught fire and burned when the safecracker blew the safe open.

    No scientist (or educated person who actually took the time to think it through) ever claimed that diamonds cannot burn.

  28. Bumblebee says:

    I believe Bill Clinton is a great example for other leaders in America and the rest of the world. Even though he might be somewhat shy about discussing climate change, at least he is speaking up. It is inspirational to have a respected leader like himself fight for our planet’s well being.

    It is a disgrace that humans are destroying the earth for financial gain. Climate change is real. It has been proven over and over again. The individuals who choose to ignore it is simply narrow-minded, irresponsible and greedy. The situation with climate change at the moment paints the picture of the human condition. Humans like to flourish now and tend to forget about tomorrow. If we don’t ensure ourselves a future, what use does it have to be wealthy now?

    This is why it is so refreshing to see influential people like Clinton make a stand for the future.

  29. Debi daniels says:

    Yes, everyone do one step. For me it is an education campaign. It started with the truth about the ongoing disaster at Fukushima, but is now including more and more climate change. The bad part is that this summer and fall I watched the northern boreal forest all around me stress and burn. I grow trees for a living, and if what I saw here is happening all over the northern boreal forest we are in deep doo doo. If it all dies its 700 Pg od carbon when it decomposes in three yes. That is what… 200 years of emissions, GLOBAL emissions all at once. Even my yellow transparent apples are red this year. Too much uv light from ozone hole. Every species of tree burned. And I can’t seem to get anyone to give a darn…it’s so depressing.

  30. Derek says:

    The guy was President for eight years and now he gets it? Good for him, I guess….

  31. Lee says:

    Climate change is no longer an abstract concept. Evidence that this threat is real is visible worldwide already. It is true that the monetary cost for mitigating the effects of such is very high but not as much as the future cost to adapt (in years to come) will be if no action is taken now. Thus, preserving the old energy economy might not be the best for your savings account nor for the environment. Instead, it leads to relevant and future negative effects on the sustainability, biodiversity, food security and many other factors.

    The fact is that the earth has been to extreme changes in climate before and has suffered other mass extinctions in past. But the next one is being caused by anthropological activity. It might be true that we have reached a point where we do not have the power to stop it from happening; however, we still can slow down the process.

  32. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Great message by popular past US President Bill Clinton.

    Dr.A>Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  33. Chris Taylor says:

    So, here’s the proof that it’s happening today and will hit us hard sooner than you think:

    and here’s the simple solution:

  34. Elizabeth Leila L'Abate says:

    Clinton’s refusing to act on Global Warming early, even then the statistics were CLEAR, (And Al Gore CERTAINLY knew all about it) has lead us to almost irreversible climate catastrophe…and his free trade agreements, NAFTA and GATT, are largely responsible for the wholesale exportation of American manufacturing jobs. His allowing bank de-regulation to pass without vetoing it was largely responsible for the financial crisis we are in…. His economic sanctions and continual bombing of Iraq without declaring war made Bush’s full-out war on Iraq possible without huge American casualties, but killed an estimated 1 million Iraqis, including starving hundreds of thousands Iraqi children…NOW, maybe, if he CAN bring more attention and focus to the Global Warming Crisis, he MIGHT do some good….

  35. LNguyen says:

    Everyone seems to pointing at the only oil guys for our climate change problems. I think there needs to be an overall action from all to help save our planet. We don’t need to bring anyone to their knees to save our planet. We need them to be on the side of also making good money with alternative renewable energy.

    As an individual, we could be less dependent on oil like drive less, car pool, buy gas efficient cars or electrical cars.

    Better yet we can try to get off the power grid. See if we can limit our carbon footprint. Consumers can steer for change.