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 Antiwar.com, 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.


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

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

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

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

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