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World leaders have publicly shot down hopes of any binding action on global warming at the Copenhagen talks next month. Pundits and global warming activists alike are predictably frustrated. But the wheels of optimism are already turning to find the upside in the climate change delay. A handful of green commentators think that lowered expectations could allow President Obama to attend the Copenhagen summit, and that extra time could allow America time to pass domestic legislation. So is the definite lack of agreement ahead in Copenhagen actually a good thing?


  • Now Obama Can Go to Copenhagen The news, says the progressive Matt Yglesias, "makes for a bad headline," but it "it counts as good news." Skeptical? "This is born out by the fact," offers Yglesias as evidence, "that neither environmental groups nor the Danish government is upset." By lowering the expectations, actually, everyone has won. "The Danes would like ... to host a conference that counts as a success. And greens relaize [sic] that high expectations would be counterproductive." Meanwhile, "in the United States, the collapse of talks aimed at an international agreement would be yet another excuse for risk-averse senators to avoid voting for a tough climate bill. In the developing world, U.S. inaction would become another reason to avoid emissions reductions." For Obama, attending is now easier, as "a failure is now off the table."
  • Now the U.S. Will Pass Climate Legislation Joe Romm, green blogger, points out that everyone already knew that a binding agreement wouldn't happen; it could never have happened--it wasn't politically feasible, particularly in the U.S. But now, he says, far from having American legislation collapse when the Copenhagen talks proved relatively unproductive, "it will be obvious when the Senate takes up the bill up in the winter that the rest of the world is prepared to act--that every major country in the world has come to the table with serious targets and/or serious commitments to change their greenhouse gas emissions trajectories. Every country but ours, that is." Why does that matter? "Even John McCain," writes Joe Romm, will care about "their role in history."
  • ...But the U.S. Threatens to Derail Action, AgainĀ  Not everyone is happy. Joss Garman, British Greenpeace activist, is appalled by Obama's backpedaling on global warming, and writes in the Guardian that "as Copenhagen offers the best chance we've ever had of agreeing a deal to beat climate change, its going to be crucial that Gordon Brown and other European leaders now face down America's 'no we can't' attitude."
  • Explaining the Divided Reactions Ben Jervey at the GOOD blog has noticed the "rather remarkable rift" that "has opened" among climate activists; he says it's a division between "those who adhere to the scientific reality versus those who defer to a political one." On the scientific side, "the cause for outrage is clear. Every month we delay taking strong action, the worse the problem gets, the greater the misery spreads, and the more land and lives will be lost." Yet it is equally clear that, politically speaking, clearing certain hurdles requires careful strategizing. Here's the problem: "How such political pragmatism fairs against the cold, indifferent realities of science is another question altogether."

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