Obama Going to Copenhagen: Will He Have an Impact?

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Resolving months of speculation, the White House has announced that President Obama will attend international talks on climate change in Copenhagen. Given that world leaders have already shot down hopes of a binding accord, how will Obama's presence affect climate change negotiations? Here are the first reactions from the opinion world on how this fits in to the bigger picture:

  • Helpful  The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen points out that many had been hoping for the president's presence in Copenhagen, and that, while "the larger plans for the Copenhagen meeting have already been scaled back a bit ... Obama's in-person lobbying efforts will give the talks a boost, and signal to the world that the United States intends to lead."
  • Mixed Bag  Over at The Wall Street Journal, Keith Johnson notes that the carbon cuts Obama will be suggesting are, while consistent with the numbers currently being tossed around in Congress, much lower than many environmentalists and other countries might wish. He also writes that Obama's presence "probably won’t by itself be enough to resolve the biggest issues surrounding the summit, expectations for which have already been scaled back in recent weeks." The big issues, he reminds readers, are how much developing countries will be willing to cut back on emissions, and how much developed countries are willing to pay to help it happen.
  • President Decides to Lead, translates Politico's Ben Smith--but he doesn't mean internationally, which is the usual comment; the "move," he argues, "puts the president a bit closer to leading, rather than following, Congress."
  • Risky Both Ways  Jim Tankersley at The Swamp writes that Obama's "absence ... could have brought serious repercussions abroad," since " many nations are already blaming the dim prospects for a legally binding treaty in Copenhagen on the United States' failure to adopt emissions limits." But deciding to go is risky too: the energy and climate bill is languishing in the Senate, "critics figure to pounce if [Obama] fails to lead the world to a climate agreement," and "Republicans in particular" will recall his earlier trip to Copenhagen--the failed bid for Chicago in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
  • Makes 'ClimateGate' Even More Relevant  The Atlantic's Megan McArdle, a climate change believer herself, points to recent buzz over a set of leaked e-mails from the Climate Research Unit in the U.K. which suggested that global warming predictions had been exaggerated.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.