While San Diego was Richard Nixon's favorite city for political reasons, Copenhagen, may be Barack Obama's worst. For it is the capital of Denmark where Obama's last-minute pitch for Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympics fell on deaf ears earlier this year. Today's the "sky is falling" plea to 193 nations for a global climate warming pact most likely will suffer a similar fate.
Obama holds a poker hand the other players read. The joker is held by his own Senate which appears unlikely 1) to pass its own climate change bill any where near the one passed in the House, and 2) to ratify a treaty even if one is smoked out in Copenhagen.
In language a fifth grader can understand, poisons coughed into the air by carbon-producing fuels from vehicles and factories can only be reduced by universal cooperation. Doing it alone -- or unilaterally in grown-up words -- won't accomplish anything.
The biggest stumbling block in Copenhagen has been resistance by China and some other rapidly-developing nations for reduction standard verification. No one trusts one another, especially the United States based on its record during the Bush administration.
The second hang-up is the cost. One proposal has wealthy nations paying $10 billion dollars annually until 2020 -- about 20 to 30% of the total costs absorbed by the U.S. -- to third world countries to help them achieve their goals in reducing pollution. From 2020 to 2050 the cost would be $100 billion annually.
The president is trying to take the lead but it is too late and not enough people and nation's are following.
Obama in his speech to the world leaders today said their collective will to address global warming "hangs in the balance."
"We are running short on time, and at this point the question is whether we will move forward together or split apart, whether we prefer posturing to action," Obama said. "We are ready to get this done today, but there has to be movement on all sides."
Whether it's health care, rushing troops into Afghanistan when they're not ready or climate change, Obama always is in a hurry-up crises mode, it seems. He's right, of course, but in all cases the pushers and shovers outside his control are dragging their feet.
Before his arrival in Copenhagen, The Washington Post says it obtained a draft text of a basic agreement of general goals.
It provides a way for industrialized nations to commit "aggregate reductions of greenhouse gases" by 2020 and allows for this number to be judged based on both a 1990 baseline--which the European Union has insisted is the most meaningful date--and a 2005 baseline, which the United States, Japan and other developed countries have endorsed. The draft text includes all the near-term emission-cut pledges that industrial countries have made and would establish a 2050 target for reducing worldwide greenhouse gas emissions that would include all countries.
India, along with China the world's second biggest polluter, is reluctant to even commit to emission reduction, according to French president Nicholas Sarkozy.
While it may make environmental advocates feel good, the Obama administration's goal of reducing emissions unilaterally through the Environmental Protection Agency and other regulatory bureaucracies.not only will accomplish nothing on the global scope of things but politically dilute their bargaining power with other nations.
In an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, two lawyers who both served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, write:
Unilateral action may well be the right option in cases in which the United States itself, given sufficient commitment and will, can achieve a particular goal. In the case of global climate change, however, the United States can do nothing that is in the least effective without the agreement and participation of all of the other major carbon-emitting economies, including Europe, India and China. Until all are on board, unilateral cuts will simply make the American people poorer, with no benefit to anyone but our foreign competitors.
The next time someone tells you "It's all or nothing," think global warming.
Seldom in the history of mankind has there been a proposal so altruistic for the common good and fraught with paranoia and parochial economic interests. It's a green issue, all right, but in this case the color of money and not saving the rain forests nor taking a deep breath without choking nor watching Manhatten under 10 feet of water.