Heading Into Copenhagen, a Late Surge of Optimism

Despite doubts for a binding deal, some pundits are oddly optimistic for the climate talks

This article is from the archive of our partner .

The much-anticipated UN climate-change summit in Copenhagen is upon us. Between the abandonment of a binding agreement earlier this month and backlash from the leaked "Climategate" e-mails, pundits have been pessimistic about the possibilities for progress in these multilateral talks. But at the eleventh hour heading into the summit, opinion appears to be shifting. With President Obama's change of plans--he now intends to drop by the end of the conference instead of the beginning, perhaps lending more momentum to the talks--some observers are beginning to see openings for a preliminary deal at the least. Here are the predictions:

  • Possible 'Interim Deal' The New York Times editorial board writes that, while "nobody should expect a planet-saving agreement ... the talks were in real danger of blowing up not long ago," and "now there is a good chance for at least an interim deal": the U.S. and China, "the world's two biggest emitters, have promised to reduce or slow their emissions and their two leaders have agreed to attend." The interim deal remains tricky: President Obama would have to get support from Congress.
  • Is Obama Bailing? Roger Simon of Pajamas Media wonders if President Obama's decision to show up at the end of the conference rather than at the beginning has less to do with wanting "to give his blessing and impetus to the decision itself," and perhaps more to do with wishing to hedge his bets: "Could it be that by pushing back his appearance Obama was just buying time so that, if things go really awry, he doesn't have to show up at all?"
  • 5 (or 15) Things to Watch For Publications Time, Newsweek, and Politico have each put out a "5 things to watch for" list for Copenhagen. Common elements: whether developed countries will help finance developing countries' adaptation to climate change and carbon cuts; whether there will be an REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) agreement to help tropical developing countries preserve rainforests; how the U.S., India, and China will behave regarding emissions cuts; and how President Obama's end-of-negotiations visit will affect the talks. For Time, Bryan Walsh also adds that the "two-step approach"--first an international agreement, followed by domestic legislation, will be tested. Politico's Lisa Lerer points to the importance of the U.S. Congress's willingness to commit to international targets. Meanwhile, Newsweek's Daniel Stone brings up the subject of "ClimateGate"--the leaked climate scientist e-mails.
  • I Am Optimistic! This is Paul Krugman's declaration, although he admits that he might be "naïve." He thinks the president's change of plans "suggests that the White House expects real progress." He is also encouraged by signs of seriousness from China. Krugman, a global-warming believer, isn't all sunshine and rainbows, though:
Of course, if things go well in Copenhagen, the usual suspects will go wild. We'll hear cries that the whole notion of global warming is a hoax perpetrated by a vast scientific conspiracy, as demonstrated by stolen e-mail messages that show--well, actually all they show is that scientists are human, but never mind. We'll also, however, hear cries that climate-change policies will destroy jobs and growth.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.