Climate calamity

Obama again comes home empty-handed from Copenhagen

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He came, he saw, he disappointed," wrote Mark Hertsgaard of Vanity Fair of President Barack Obama's visit to the U.N. summit on climate change in Copenhagen.

Mr. Obama had to leave the summit early because what turned out to be the biggest blizzard since 1932 was bearing down on Washington. Before boarding Air Force One, the president hailed an "accord" worked out among the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa as an "unprecedented breakthrough."

Both global warmists and skeptics knew it was neither.

The nonbinding agreement set a goal of holding global temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, but didn't say how. It sorta kinda pledged from rich countries $100 billion a year (by 2020) to help poor nations adapt to climate change -- but didn't say who would pay how much, or who would get the money and under what conditions.

The German magazine Der Spiegel described the deal as "limpid," and declared that "Copenhagen was an all-out failure."

"This toothless declaration, being spun by the United States as a historic success, reflects contempt for the multilateral process and we expect more from our Nobel Prize-winning president," said Kate Horner of Friends of the Earth.

"This deal ... is nothing short of climate change skepticism in action," said Lumumba Di-Aping, chief negotiator for the Group of 77 developing nations.

Those skeptical of the theory of anthropogenic global warming happily agreed.

"The whole exercise looks more and more like the Woody Allen joke about trying to find a framework to turn a concept into an idea," said Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute.

That Copenhagen would fail was a foregone conclusion because neither China, the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide, nor India would agree to restrictions on CO2 emissions which would cripple their economies.

But apparently nobody told that to Mr. Obama, who violated once again the first rule of summits: Heads of state don't show up unless a deal is in place.

You'd think Mr. Obama would have learned that from his last visit to Copenhagen. He went there in October to win the 2016 Olympics for Chicago and came home with empty hands and egg on his face.

In Copenhagen this time, the president undermined both his own reputation and the slim prospects a meaningful agreement could be reached.

Mr. Hertsgaard described the president's speech to the delegates from 192 nations as "surprisingly lackluster."

"Obama's speech disappoints and fuels frustration in Copenhagen," said the Guardian, a left-wing British newspaper.

"His eight minutes of remarks signaled a global train wreck," said David Corn of Mother Jones magazine.

Mr. Obama was a loser in Copenhagen. So were the greenies who wanted a binding agreement.

"I expect 20 or 30 years from now, environmentalists will look back on global warming as the issue that ate their movement alive, and Copenhagen as the turning point," Mr. Hayward said.

But the biggest loser was the United Nations.

"Copenhagen was the last-chance saloon not for the planet, which does not need saving, but for the U.N.'s world-government wannabes," said Lord Christopher Monckton. "The eco-Nazis' attempt at a global coup d'etat has failed, and no such attempt is likely to succeed again."

Viscount Monckton is a prominent skeptic of man-made climate change. But his conclusion was shared by many true believers.

"The best chances of reining in emissions of greenhouse gases and avoiding dangerous climate change is to stamp a big green R.I.P. over the sprawling U.N. process that the Copenhagen talks were part of," wrote Sharon Begley, science reporter for Newsweek.

"The chaotic Copenhagen summit showed up the United Nation's shortcomings more clearly than ever," agreed Der Spiegel.

"The U.N. process can no longer be the central focus of global efforts to confront climate change," wrote Michael Levi in the liberal Webzine Slate.

Both Ms. Begley and Der Spiegel recommended following an approach of voluntary regional accords first proposed by George W. Bush, an approach also favored by Harvard economist Robert Stavins.

For Mr. Obama, that had to be the unkindest cut of all.


Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette and The (Toledo) Blade ( jkelly@post-gazette.com , 412 263-1476).


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