Monday, December 21, 2009

You go Obama

The verdict is still out on the Copenhagen summit. Did we save the planet? Did Obama win a political victory? Or was it a shambles showing that international consensus is impossible on such a complex issue, never mind the exhortations that Armageddon was at hand?

Environmentalists, particularly the well organized European green NGOS, as well as poorer nations in line to bear the brunt of the worst effects of climate change in the next 50 to 100 years, took the position that only verifiable and legally binding commitments from the world's worst polluters that would ensure warming limited to 2 degrees centigrade by the century's end would do. For them Copenhagen was absolutely the last chance to square things before time runs out on our efforts to turn things around. I worked for Friends of the Earth in the early nineties, and I know the painstaking work that is involved in arriving at consensus positions for these negotiations. The line is always maintained to the bitter end and anything less is accounted as failure. But in the real world, democracy is messy and involves continual compromise and refinement, and from this perspective, I think there is great reason for rejoicing from the outcome in Copenhagen, and more proof of Obama's prescient and dexterous hand at achieving the best possible outcome at any given moment. In almost a year we've gone from a decade of impasse and dangerous drift, with the United States seemingly stuck with its head in the sand perpetually on this issue, to an agreement with the leading generator of carbon - China, along with emerging economic and regional political giants India, Brazil and South Africa on the need to cap and bring down CO2 to safe levels in the atmosphere, for making funds available to poorer nations for climate change adaptations,
and on establishing international verification of measures to maintain a level playing field in the world economy. This is a huge step forward for the foundations of a sustainable global economy and for advancing the adoption of a cap and trade regime by the US Congress in the coming year. Dinosaurs like Oklahoma Republican James Inhoffe, who travelled to Copenhagen to spread his absurd version that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by renegade scientists on the world to secure funding for their projects, have been appropriately sidelined. Talk about drinking the Kool Aid, only in his case it must have been the same vat of white lightning shared with Merle Haggard before he sang I'm Proud to be an Oakie from Muskogee. With his popularity in the polls sinking, it is ironic that Obama is turning lemons into lemonade all around the block; as usual, the media soaked American public is lagging behind the reality of the situation, or at least the poll numbers are.
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