Energy & Environment

The Big Question: Will Obama get a climate deal in Copenhagen?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

After President Barack Obama's speech, will global leaders sign on to a workable climate change deal?

Ronald Walters, professor of Politics at the University of Maryland, said:

The real stimulus for an agreement on climate change is not President Obama's speech, but the nature of the negotiations with China and the developing countries.  The latter have a righteous cause in their demand for sufficient economic resources to comply with whatever agreement is reached, but they must agree to monitoring and other elements as a quid pro quo from the US and other developed countries.  With the added recalcitrance of China, this looks very much like the health care legislative conflict with conservative pols on one side and progressives on the other -- and it is possible to make the same bet that the progressives (the developing countries) will eventually fold and accept some kind of a deal.  The basic question is when such a deal will materialize and it doesn't look at this point like it will emerge from Copenhagen.

Bernie Quigley, Pundits Blog Contributor, said:

I think not. This could be an historic occasion, but one of global theater rather than climate change. The meeting of President Obama and China's Prime Minister is key here to the rising century and the question is, 'Who will lead and who will follow?' The rest is chorus.

Richard S. Lindzen, atmospheric physicist and professor at MIT, said:

I'm pretty sure that they will sign something. Workable? I doubt it. Mischievous? Certainly.

Peter Navarro, professor of Economics and Public Policy at U.C. Irvine, said:

The “Copenhagen Discord” will end with more platitudes than workable policy because of why most marriages end — irreconcilable differences. It’s a vicious dilemma because by the time that the effects of climate change are bad enough to move politics and policy and the science is clear enough, it will likely be too late to effect change.

What we need here is a total rethink of the problem. The leading “solution” — cap-and-trade — is just plain stupid because it does more to breed carbon speculation than reduce emissions. The simplest way for the U.S. to protect itself without unilateral disarmament is to impose a carbon tax and apply it to imports as well. This would bring China right into the game because China emits far more carbon emissions to produce a unit of most manufactured goods than does the U.S. Such a carbon tax would also help our oil import dependence problem.

Hal Lewis, professor at UC Santa Barbara, said:

Since the word "workable" is in the question, the answer is no, but that word is in the eye of the beholder. I find it appalling that Obama, a supposedly intelligent man, allows himself to be suckered by his Science Advisor, and has apparently never heard that most of the so-called science behind the global warming frenzy is fraudulent. I'll bet that no one has told Obama of ClimateGate.

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy Research, said:

One can only hope that there is something big going on behind the scenes at Copenhagen because what is visible to the public is very far from a serious agreement. The talk of $100 billion to developing countries is nice, but everyone knows that this is almost nothing. That is money spent out over the course of a decade (i.e., $10 billion a year) and it will take a variety of forms other than pure aid. This is just a small fraction of what is actually needed in terms of the flow of capital to developing countries.

Of course if we leave the loon tune land of the Washington media and go to real-world economics, it is possible to devise policies whereby developing countries can both grow and reduce in emissions. Before the financial industry became so politically powerful economists used to say that capital should flow from rich countries to poor countries as a normal process.

The bubble-driven growth of the last two decades has reversed this policy. However, if we did go back to traditional economics, we would be setting up structures that would facilitate the flow of capital from the United States to developing countries to finance their adoption of clean technologies. This flow would be a mix of loans and aid. (Yes, we do have to pay people for wrecking their environment. For the folks who have problems with this concept, we can turn their lawns into waste dumps.)

Anyhow, this process can both generate jobs in the U.S. and foster growth in the developing world. But, we have to be prepared to push for biggest changes than appear to be on the table. If what we get is what is on the table, then the best contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions would be to agree to stop having meetings like those at Copenhagen.

Dick Morris, Pundits Blog contributor, said

China will not accept adequAte verification measures bit Obama will cave in and sign anyway. But the deal will fall apart in congress

Alan I. Abramowitz, professor of Political Science at Emory University, said:

They'll sign a deal of some sort. Whether it's workable or not remains to be seen.

William Happer, physicist and professor at Princeton University, said:

The best response would be to do nothing at Copenhagen and to go home to tend to real problems.

As Climategate has made abundantly clear, the alarm about climate change has no scientific basis. Instead it has been deliberately created to further many agendas, from religious belief, to support for research and bureaucratic empires, to massive trading profits.   Many scientists like me have known for a long time that increasing CO2 in the atmosphere is not an emergency. EPA notwithstanding, CO2 is not a pollutant but is essential for plant growth. Over the geological history of the earth, the CO2 levels in the atmosphere have averaged three or four times higher than present levels, and life flourished abundantly. Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere is probably a good thing, and many agronomists estimate that about 15% of current crop yields can be attributed to the higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere now.

Increasingly accurate data, especially from satellites, show that CO2 has a much smaller effect on temperature than is claimed on the basis of elaborate computer models.  As measured by satellites, the earth’s temperature has not changed in ten years, and it has probably decreased slightly. The oceans, too, have not warmed. All of the computer models predicted a significant temperature increases. If this were normal science, for example, the results of the clinical trial of a new drug, the gross divergence between prediction and observation would be enough to reject the hypothesis that CO2 will cause dangerous warming.   But those who stand to profit at Copenhagen are doing their best to keep the stampede going.  If not stopped, this will take the world over an economic cliff with no benefit, and probably damage, to the environment.

Justin Raimondo, editorial director of, said:

Forget Obama's speech, it was Hugo Chavez's orationi that brought the assembled climate-change faithful to their feet. As one Australian newspaper reports:

"When he said the process in Copenhagen was 'not democratic, it is not inclusive, but isn’t that the reality of our world, the world is really and imperial dictatorship…down with imperial dictatorships' he got a rousing round of applause.

"When he said there was a 'silent and terrible ghost in the room' and that ghost was called capitalism, the applause was deafening.

"But then he wound up to his grand conclusion – 20 minutes after his 5 minute speaking time was supposed to have ended and after quoting everyone from Karl Marx to Jesus Christ - 'our revolution seeks to help all people…socialism, the other ghost that is probably wandering around this room, that’s the way to save the planet, capitalism is the road to hell....let’s fight against capitalism and make it obey us.' He won a standing ovation."

The "developing" countries want a "deal" whereby they don't have to do anything, and the West must shut down its industries, go "green," and kowtow to the likes of the little Marxist caudillo.

The outcome is easy to predict: no deal.

John Feehery, Pundits Blog contributor, said

I have no idea, but I do know that either way, the politics are bad for Obama. If he does get a deal, working class americans are going to wonder why the president is cutting deals that will increase their taxes, increase their energy bills and cost american jobs. If he doesn't get a deal, he once again has failed to get what he wants from the international community.

John F. McManus, president of The John Birch Society, said:

The president's speech in Copenhagen was actually overshadowed by comments given by Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe. Predicting in Copenhagen that "nothing binding will come out" of the conference, Inhofe said he had traveled to the Danish capital to assure the representatives of the 192 other nations that "the United States is not going to pass cap-and-trade," the measure sought by radical environmentalists in and out of the U.S. Congress. If the U.S. is not going to cave in to the demands of Al Gore and his worldwide group of followers, the speech by the president was meaningless. It is meaningless, of course, only if the U.S. Constitution is honored. As for a "workable climate deal" being agreed to by the global leaders, who knows what they will attempt? Perhaps they will also try to mandate that water shall henceforth flow uphill.


We need to put a personal face on Copenhagen (Rep. Shelley Moore Capito)

As the festivities in Copenhagen got underway last week, there was no shortage of enthusiasm from those pushing for new regulations, new caps and new taxes – all in the name of saving the planet.

With EPA Administrator Jackson officially unveiled her agency’s endangerment finding, commentators were quick to point out that this was the proverbial stick that was supposed to bully Congress into finally giving the President what he wants.

Yet – as all this unfolds – I can’t help but think about what this will all mean to mining communities in my state of West Virginia, or in Kentucky or Wyoming or other energy-producing communities across our nation.


Copenhagen’s threat to U.S. sovereignty (Rep. Doug Lamborn)

In the next few days President Obama will venture to Copenhagen, Denmark to attend the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which began last week. One of the discussed goals of this conference is the creation of a universal climate change treaty.

I am concerned that any job-killing, cap-and-tax style treaty could seriously harm American families, small businesses, and American sovereignty. Our economy is facing a skyrocketing national debt and 10 percent unemployment. The United States must reject any attempt by international bureaucrats to stifle economic growth with a massive energy tax or by huge transfers of wealth from the U.S. to other countries.


The benefits of the Renewable Energy Environmental Research Act of 2009 (Sen. Mark Begich)

As Congress begins to grapple with climate and energy issues designed to create jobs and transition the nation towards a clean energy economy, increasing domestic renewable energy generation will be critical. Existing climate-energy proposals in the House and Senate are missing an important component: who is responsible for the science, data, and environmental predictions that the growing renewable energy sector will rely on to power this technology?   Making the decision where to invest in renewable energy infrastructure requires weather, water, and climate information. 

Coming from Alaska, which suffers the nation’s highest energy costs and boasts more coastline than the rest of the country put together, I have introduced a bill with Sen. Olympia Snowe to address this problem. The Renewable Energy Environmental Research Act of 2009 directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to establish a comprehensive research, prediction, and environmental information program to support renewable energy, particularly related to ocean energy.


Memo to Copenhagen: Commentary is misinformed—China’s commitment is significant

China’s pledge to reduce its carbon intensity by 45 percent by 2020 has been met with praise and criticism. I believe the critics have it wrong, and show in this paper that their criticism lacks knowledge and context. Their error is no minor academic skirmish: their criticism provides cover for the opponents of climate change action in the United States, and risks blocking effective climate action.

The Chinese commitment target is a strong one by any measure. No developing country in economic history—other than post-Mao China—has cut its energy-related greenhouse gas emissions growth so deeply for so long. For a developing country to legally bind itself to achieve such a target is surprising, and reflects China’s fear of climate change.

Criticism of the Chinese goal stems in part from the fact that it allows Chinese per capita emissions to continue to grow. The Chinese government argues that China is a developing country where energy services are low and hundreds of millions of people continue to lead hardscrabble lives. Today, Americans produce four times more carbon dioxide per person than the Chinese. President Obama supports a U.S. reduction of its current emissions by almost 20 percent by 2020. If China implements its Copenhagen commitment and the United States implements President Obama’s target, U.S. per capita emissions would still be double those of China in 2020.1  It is dishonest to use China as an excuse for the United States not to take action.


Former Bush insiders still influence climate change debate

Copenhagen is the stage this week for world leaders convening at the United Nations’ climate change conference.  But no matter what happens there, big political fights loom ahead here on the issue.

Although the administration of President George W. Bush has come and gone, central figures from the Bush climate team continue to shape the debate — only now these individuals openly represent the oil, gas, mining and other energy interests.  CREW has profiled many of them in its newly released report, Smoke Screen: How Bush Insiders Distorted — And Still Influence — America’s Debate Over Climate Change.

Some officials have gone full circle, leaving an energy industry job to join the Bush White House and then returning to the energy sector.

In Smoke Screen, CREW reveals that at least 22 former Bush-era climate officials have moved into lobbying or government relations, 14 of whom are registered lobbyists.


Can Congress keep America storm resistant?

2009’s North Atlantic Hurricane season has thankfully just come to a close without a major U.S. disaster.  Consider the facts: no truly large storms made landfall in the United States, and, for the first year in at least a decade, not a single American family lost its home to hurricane damage.  While most early season forecasts called for between 4 and 7 significant named storms, only three ever formed in the Atlantic. 

But the almost storm-free conditions won’t last.  Nearly all meteorologists agree that we are now in a decades-long period of heavy hurricane activity.  Many scientists also think that global climate change will increase the severity of storms, amplify storm surge as sea level rises, and possibly increase the overall number of storms forming on average each year.  In short, nobody should believe that a single placid season should be a reason to celebrate.

While our two organizations have often approached a variety of issues as polar opposites this is one area where we can truly agree:  many of the problems with hurricanes stem from deliberate government action.  Many people moved into hurricane zones because governments encouraged them to buy buildings there, often providing the infrastructure that makes it possible.  Governments at all levels should look long and hard before they offer a dime of taxpayer assistance—roads, schools, power lines or anything else--for any new development that doesn’t sit well away from likely hurricane impact areas.


Cap-and-Tax bad for farmers, rural America (Rep. Frank Lucas)

We like to say that we have the safest, most abundant, most affordable food and fiber supply in the world.  But this isn’t just a boastful expression, it is a reality.  Our farmers and ranchers are responsible for feeding folks living in our country and throughout the world.

But, cap and tax legislation threatens that safe, abundant and affordable food and fiber supply.  The agriculture industry, as we know it, will not survive under the heavy burdens of a cap and tax policy.

This week the Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy, and Research held two important hearings to learn more about the economic impact of climate change legislation.  Despite the fact that the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the Waxman-Markey climate change bill last June – a bill that I voted against—this is only the second time Members of the Agriculture Committee have had the opportunity to explore specifically the economic impact of climate change legislation on the agriculture sector.


Climategate should be in Copenhagen agenda (Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner)

Next week, diplomats and politicians from across the world will invade Copenhagen, Denmark for U.N. climate change talks that were supposed to be the culmination of years of international negotiations over a treaty designed to replace the unsuccessful Kyoto treaty, which failed to produce any reduction in greenhouse gases.

Fortunately for taxpayers, the United States never ratified Kyoto, and President Obama and other world leaders have already said that the U.S. will not agree to a repeat of the failed treaty.

Unfortunately, these talks won’t address the concern that many in the U.S. now have about the scientific integrity and transparency of climate studies. Last week, global warming alarmists were rocked by the release of a trove of e-mail correspondence - known by many as ClimateGate - from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England.


‘Climategate’ sparks Luetkemeyer call for investigation, sparks interest in legislation (Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer)

Four months ago, I introduced legislation, H.R. 3129, to prevent the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change from bilking taxpayers out of nearly $13 million for research on man-made global warming. Despite scathing attacks from some liberal media outlets and special interest groups, I stuck by this legislation and pushed for others to sponsor it. In the wake of the “Climategate” scandal I have called for an investigation into the recently revealed emails showing that scientists for the same UN group suppressed scientific evidence and manipulated data in order to silence opposing views. I recently joined with my colleagues from the Oversight and Government Reform Committee in calling for an investigation into the “Climategate” emails obtained covertly from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit in the United Kingdom. The scientists exposed in the emails have for years been influential in driving the worldwide alarm over man-made global warming, including through the role they play providing key sets of data used by the IPCC to draw up its reports they claim prove man-made global warming.

With the UN Climate Change Conference convening in Copenhagen this week, the time to investigate is now because the “Climategate” emails seem to indicate that the same scientists who were sending data to the UN climate panel were suppressing scientific evidence and manipulating data that was used in part as justification for liberals to pass cap-and-trade legislation.