Five Questions for Bill McKibben On the Paris Climate Agreement

Activist Bill McKibben was a visible presence during the climate conference in Paris, urging for strong action. Yale Environment 360 caught up with McKibben, the founder of, after an agreement was reached and asked him five questions.

Bill McKibben
e360 Five Questions

1. What do you think was the most important outcome of the Paris talks?

Probably the 1.5-2 degree target. The world’s leaders have said what they’re aiming for, so I guess we better take them at their word for now – though noting that their actual plans would warm the planet 3.5 degrees. 

2. Do you think the activist campaigns by and others had a real impact on what was agreed on?

Copenhagen failed because there was no movement that could hold leaders accountable. Obama could come home with nothing and pay no political price. That’s no longer the case — a strong movement has started to change the zeitgeist around climate.

3. What should be the focus of climate activism campaigns going forward?

Pace, speed, velocity: If we go at the rate that the world’s leaders find comfortable, we’ll overheat the planet long before we make the necessary transition off fossil fuel. At, we’ll be working hard to keep fossil fuels in the ground. In May, we’ll have massive demonstrations at many of the world’s biggest carbon deposits. And I think it’s key as well that we continue to understand the role Exxon played in all of this.

4. What signal does the Paris agreement send to the world’s business community about future investment in fossil fuels?

That investors should follow the smart money that’s already exiting fossil fuels. 

5. Did Paris leave you with any optimism about the future for climate? 

I think that while it didn’t save the planet, it may have saved the chance to save it – that is, it didn’t foreclose the possibility. Actually getting anywhere will now require massive organizing to hold leaders to their promises.