John Oliver on climate change: ‘The current situation of carbon is critical’

14 May 2019

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The Last Week Tonight host focused on climate change, stressing the importance of radical intervention

John Oliver has turned his focus to climate change in an urgent new episode of Last Week Tonight, referring to the situation as “critical”.

Oliver started his monologue by poking fun at the recycling ideas people present when it comes to saving the planet but then quickly took a serious turn. “These days, we’re inundated with new terrifying headlines on a regular basis,” he told his audience, citing the UN landmark study which stated that if carbon emissions remained steady, catastrophic environmental events will not only be inevitable but also more frequent.

Oliver then narrowed his scope to dissect the Green New Deal, the non-binding resolution put forth by Congress newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “If you know nothing else about the Green New Deal, you now know that’s everyone’s talking about it and it was booed at a Trump rally, therefore it is a. famous and b. probably good.” He also mentioned that the Senate voted the Green New Deal down six weeks ago but that it is still at the forefront because of the bad press surrounding it, mostly from Republicans and conservative media.

Conservative media have attacked the Green New Deal, claiming it wants to eliminate cows and airplane travel. Oliver clarified that these ideas do not appear in the brief legislation: “The whole Green New Deal is just 14 pages long. That is seven pages shorter than the menu for the Cheesecake Factory.” What the Green New Deal does do, however, is set out aggressive goals such as achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, meeting 100% of the country’s power demand through renewable energy, and creating millions of new jobs. Conservatives have been attacking it because of jokes put forth in an early press release, a mistake acknowledged by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Even so, Oliver corrected the idea of where cow methane comes from: “Most cow methane comes from them belching, not farting, and if you only remember one fact from tonight’s show, please don’t let it be that one.”

Although there are many solutions to the problem of climate change, Oliver chose to focus on carbon pricing to let his audience “watch the rerun of Game of Thrones, so that you can see what garbage from craft services they’ve hidden as an Easter egg this week!” The host tried to impress upon his audience the severity of carbon: “The current situation of carbon is critical. Carbon emissions are, by far, the largest source of greenhouse gases. Yet, right now, it’s basically free to pollute the air with carbon dioxide …” He then noted this was strange: “We’ve universally agreed that polluting is bad and yet, it’s free to do it. When you litter, you pay a fine. When you drive above the speed limit, you pay a fine. When you steal 400 hamsters from PetSmart, tie them to a sled and race through the streets on a hamster sleigh, you pay a fine. Is that fine worth it? Of course it is! But you do pay it!”

Oliver the discussed two ways that carbon pricing could be introduced: cap and trade or carbon tax. For the latter, “the problem there is mostly the word tax which has become a dirty word in politics”. He chose Canada’s carbon tax rollout as an example, where the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, slipped and called it a tax to conservative boos from his parliament. “If you’re a politician, you just can’t say the word ‘tax’ in the same way that if you’re an actor, you can’t say the word ‘Macbeth’, and if you’re president of the United States, you can’t say the word ‘origins’,” said Oliver, poking fun at Trump’s difficulty with a simple word. In response to Trudeau’s ‘tax’ slip-up, one Canadian conservative came forth with poetic rebuttal, in an attempt to repudiate the pricing, to which Oliver deadpanned: “Fire.” “Look, I don’t care where you stand on this issue, no one wants to hear a rhyme about carbon taxes from anybody, let alone some guy who looks like he got his entire wardrobe from Express John Oliver.” But he acknowledged the fight for carbon pricing was hard in Canada and in the United States, the last time it was on the table 10 years ago, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia took a rifle bullet to the legislation in a video. “That may seem idiotic to you because it is,” joked Oliver.

“The Green New Deal has succeeded in getting people talking but that won’t mean anything unless that talk now turns to actions and putting a price on carbon could potentially be one of them, although, let me reiterate it will not be enough on its own by a long shot. We’re gonna need a lot of different policies working in tandem and we have to take action right now,” said Oliver.

Source: The Guardian