Mr. Obama Goes to Copenhagen


The good news: President Obama has agreed to attend the Copenhagen climate treaty negotiations. That is certainly far more visible a show of presidential support for international efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions than we have seen before. At the same time, the Administration announced that a slew of cabinet members would also be attending the negotiations.

The less-good news: He is presently planning to attend for just one day, Dec. 9, on his way to Oslo to pick up the Nobel Peace Prize. He has not yet committed to returning for any of the rest of the discussions, including the final few days when other world leaders will be in attendance.

The good news: He hasn't ruled out returning, either.

The good news: The president announced that he was committing his administration to a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The less-good news: That target, of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, or roughly 5.5 percent below 1990 levels, is substantially less than many researchers believe necessary, and less than, for example, the European Commission has pledged to make.

The good news: The president doesn't want to stop there. According to the official White House press release, "In light of the President's goal to reduce emissions 83 percent by 2050, the

expected pathway set forth in this pending legislation would entail a

30 percent reduction below 2005 levels in 2025 and a 42 percent reduction below 2005

in 2030."

The less-good news: With Obama or without him, Copenhagen will not produce a formal, binding agreement – although it should provide the foundation for such an agreement in 2010.

The even-less-good news: At a time when scientists have repeatedly stressed that climate change is outstripping even the most pessimistic models, fewer Americans actually believe anthropogenic climate change is happening, and some seem to genuinely believe that a few hacked, out-of-context emails somehow prove that the thousands upon thousands of pages of scientific literature showing that the climate is changing as a result of greenhouse gas emissions is all just one big conspiracy.

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