All sides of the fiery global warming debate agree on one thing: this week's Copenhagen summit won't meet its goals. (See a guide to conference's warring factions). Hoping to spur the summit to some agreement, President Obama is offering to cut U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions by roughly 17 percent by 2030, and 83 percent by 2050. Is that doable or just plain delusional? (Watch a report about hopes for the Copenhagen summit)
Obama's goal is preposterous: Barack Obama understands the "histrionics" required in climate change debates, says George Will in The Washington Post. His promise to cut emissions by 83 percent before 2050 would take the U.S. back to 1910 levels, "when there were 92 million Americans. But there will be 420 million Americans in 2050, so Obama's promise [actually] means that per capita emissions then will [have to be] what they were in 1875. That. Will. Not. Happen."
"The climate-change travesty"
Besides, Congress won't pass such legislation: Though Obama is clearly trying to satisfy the European demand for targets, says RedOrbit, he knows that "the realization of these benchmark figures are entirely contingent on approval by Congress." (A similar bill is stuck in the Senate.) Obama’s chief climate policy adviser, Carol Browner, "has already conceded that the President’s proposed curbs 'will inevitably have to be readjusted.'" Obama is taking a great political risk here.
"Obama Likely To Struggle With Climate Change Promises"
The goals are reachable, if Obama's gamble works: By declaring an ambitious American target, says Senator John Kerry, as quoted in the New York Times, “the president has...[laid] the groundwork for a broad political consensus at Copenhagen that will strip climate obstructionists here at home of their most persistent charge, that the United States shouldn’t act if other countries won’t join with us.”
"Obama to Go to Copenhagen With Emissions Target"
Obama's fantasies are exactly what Copenhagen needs: Obama's projections are part of an "attitude that says that climate protection promises are always good," says the conservative newspaper Die Welt, as quoted in Spiegel. "The lower the reduction goals are —50, 80, 90, why not 100 percent! — the better the climate protection promises are. Whether this is realistic is of only secondary importance. And today, let's not spoil the mood..."
"A Small Sign of Hope' from Obama"
Lies are the last thing Copenhagen needs: The world doesn't need another show of politicians expressing rhetorical commitments to climate protection, says the left-leaning newpaper Die Tageszeitung, also quoted in Spiegel, "It needs concrete efforts. Over the next two weeks, we will learn whether politicians have understood the difference between the two. And it's something whose effects we'll be able to feel in the decades to come."
"A Small Sign of Hope' from Obama"
SEE THE WEEK'S LATEST ON CLIMATE CHANGE:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- America created the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? Meet the ISIS 'truthers'
- How American businessmen are ruining American business — and the U.S. economy
- The Obama era is over. The presidency continues.
- Russia's giant spy ship was a high-tech disaster waiting to happen
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- On ISIS, neocons and liberal hawks have a 'boy who cried wolf' problem
- How Harry Houdini escaped death
- Fall movie guide: All the films you should see in September
- 10 things you need to know today: September 2, 2014
- The 10 best networking tips for people who hate networking
Subscribe to the Week