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Was Copenhagen a failure?
Obama salvaged a last-minute agreement at the U.N. climate summit. But commentators wonder if it means anything
Obama address the Copenhagen climate conference.
Obama address the Copenhagen climate conference.
Corbis
T

here was drama until the end at the Copenhagen climate summit, with world leaders — including President Obama — frantically negotiating late into the evening last Friday. In the end, nearly all of the 193 nations in attendance "grudgingly" signed onto an agreement whose key elements include a goal to keep global temperature rise under two degrees Celsius, $100 billion in aid from industrialized countries to the developing world, and a concession from China (in principle, anyway) to allow outside verification of its carbon emissions. Still, the result fell far short of most expectations. Was Copenhagen a failure? (Watch a report about Climategate's impact on Copenhagen)

What a disaster — goodbye, world: "So that's it," says Johann Hari at Huffington Post. "The world's worst polluters" are simply going to continue "cooking" the planet "in defiance of all the scientific warnings." Rather than choosing any of the ideas floating around Copenhagen that would have actually prevented catastrophic climate change, our politicians "have chosen inertia and low taxes and oil money today over survival tomorrow."
"They didn't seal the deal; They sealed the coffin"

It's a smashing success!: The agreement that Obama helped forge was a "home run," said Mark Helmke, a top staffer to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), as quoted by the NY Times. The agreement makes China "accountable" while simultaneously moving "India, Brazil and South Africa" into much more prominent positions on the world stage. Moreover, the deal does that, while also managing to satisfy the Europeans.
"Obama negotiates 'Copenhagen accord' with Senate climate fight in mind"

It doesn't accomplish anything — thank goodness: Despite all the sound and fury surrounding Obama's "personal intercession" at the summit, the event has produced only "an agreement to continue talking," says the Wall Street Journal's editorial board. But it could have been worse given that the conference was simply an exercise in developing countries "exploiting the West's carbon guilt" for excessively generous aid packages. We can be greatful that the emptiness of agreement means "less tangible harm" to U.S. interests.
"Copenhagen's lesson in limits"

All things considered, a modest success: The deal is "anticlimactic," to be sure, says the German Marshall Fund Blog. But it is a "major achievement" when considered against "the very real possibility" that the talks could have collapsed entirely. Not only does it keep the U.N. negotiations process "alive" — it is "the first time major emitters...have agreed to cooperate to limit global warming to 2 degrees."
"Copenhagen nights"

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SEE MORE OPINION BRIEFS ON THIS TOPIC:
Obama's Copenhagen delusions?
Does Climategate kill Copenhagen?

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