Rolling Stone disses top climate change contributor by swooning over Justin Trudeau

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      I didn't want to write about Justin Trudeau's appearance on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine this week.

      Sure, it might stimulate some U.S. tourists to come to Canada and perhaps even some investment from south of the border.

      And I don't buy the phony Conservative spin that this magazine cover will enrage the mercurial Donald Trump to drive a stake through U.S. trade with Canada.

      But there's one aspect of this story that has gone unnoticed in the Canadian media.

      And that's Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner's decision to go with the Trudeau cover even though Wenner's most important editorial contributor, cofounder Bill McKibben, warned the world against doing precisely this type of thing in April.

      McKibben's most recent Rolling Stone piece was published in June. 

      "How to Tell If Your Reps Are Serious About Climate Change" pointed out that it's not enough for elected officials to say they believe in climate science.

      "Physics cares about how much carbon is in the atmosphere," McKibben wrote. "The time for encouraging messages of support for the climate is over—we need action."

      At the time, McKibben declared that there are "three simple criteria for determining whether your local politicians are serious enough to pass the climate test".

      1. They are committed to converting to 100 percent renewable energy.

      2. They will work to keep remaining fossil fuels in the ground.

      3. They understand natural gas could be the most dangerous fuel of all.

      Trudeau fails on all three measures.

      He supports the Keystone XL, Enbridge Line 3, and Trans Mountain expansion project (a.k.a. Kinder Morgan pipeline).

      They will all lock the world into decades of higher fossil-fuel consumption and more greenhouse gas emissions.

      Rolling Stone contributor and cofounder Bill McKibben has urged the world to stop swooning over Justin Trudeau.
      Steve Liptay

      Scientists have warned for years that rising greenhouse gas emissions cause longer and more intense forest fire seasons, floods, and droughts, as well as stronger hurricanes, storm surges that harm agricultural production, and mass migration.

      Trudeau's government also gave the green light to the Pacific NorthWest LNG plant, which was killed this week due to persistently low liquefied natural gas prices in Asia. The prime minister clearly doesn't have a problem with fracking natural gas and all those fugitive greenhouse gas emissions that this entails.

      And unlike Vancouver and Victoria city councils, Trudeau has not articulated a goal of switching to 100 percent renewable energy, even though new technologies have made this highly feasible.

      In Trudeau's defence, the federal government has talked about eliminating coal-fired electricity by 2030.

      However, this has occurred as Ottawa is ensuring that Alberta oil production will increase.

      It's why McKibben wrote an article in the Guardian in April with the following headline: "Stop swooning over Justin Trudeau. The man is a disaster for the planet".

      "Look all you want, in fact—he sure is cute, the planet’s only sovereign leader who appears to have recently quit a boy band," McKibben wrote. "And he’s mastered so beautifully the politics of inclusion: compassionate to immigrants, insistent on including women at every level of government. Give him great credit where it’s deserved: in lots of ways he’s the anti-Trump, and it’s no wonder Canadians swooned when he took over.

      "But when it comes to the defining issue of our day, climate change, he’s a brother to the old orange guy in Washington," McKibben wrote.

      The article pointed out that Trudeau received a standing ovation when he spoke to U.S. oil executives in Houston, Texas.

      According to McKibben, Trudeau's determination to market tar-sands oil means that Canada "is claiming the right to sell the oil that will use up a third of the earth's remaining carbon budget".

      "Trump is a creep and a danger and unpleasant to look at," McKibben wrote in the Guardian, "but at least he's not a stunning hypocrite."

      Last year, Justin Trudeau gave the green light to Kinder Morgan's pipeline project, which will triple oil shipments through its Trans Mountain system.

      So now, an important vehicle for transmitting McKibben's insights to Americans, Rolling Stone magazine, has joined others in swooning over Trudeau.

      We'll likely never know what deals were made between Rolling Stone and Trudeau's communications people to secure the interview.

      I do know this: I searched the article for the words "climate change" and they didn't come up once.

      Celebrities routinely give access to media outlets in return for puff pieces that sell on newsstands.

      It happens with the Royal family, Lady Gaga, Tom Cruise, and, now apparently, our prime minister. 

      A publication that can be proud of its coverage of climate change has prostrated itself with a toadying profile of Trudeau.

      You might say, "so what?"

      But for those who appreciate the role that Rolling Stone has played in advancing the divestment movement on college and university campuses, it's a serious betrayal. 

      It wouldn't be such a big deal if this was done by Vanity Fair, Esquire, or GQ. They've only paid lip service to climate change, notwithstanding how many times Leonardo DiCaprio has appeared on their covers.

      Trudeau's people are no doubt delighted that he's received full hagiographical treatment in the one popular U.S. magazine with decent coverage of climate change. It's likely why he talked to Rolling Stone over the others, which probably also want him on their covers.

      Rolling Stone's publisher, Wenner, is likely thrilled that people are talking about his publication again.

      But those who recognize the grave threat of rising greenhouse gas emissions, such as McKibben, fully comprehend why this article has done the world a disservice.

      It's sent a message to the fossil fuel industry that if they can find a photogenic and sympathetic-sounding western political leader who utters all the right words about refugees and the LGBT community, they can mine as much carbon as they want.

      And their political golden boy will be celebrated by the very magazine that publishes McKibben's devastating articles.