The World Asseses What Happened At Copenhagen

Conference generally seen as failure, but it may help Obama

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It’s possible, suggests some media outlets, that the United Nations isn’t set up to produce the powerful, binding commitment among nations needed to fight global warming. Their proof lies in the shattered hopes of the two-week Copenhagen climate conference that ended Saturday with an agreement so weak that nations are bound only to "take note" of it.

To underscore the agreement’s fragility, carbon markets in Europe were slumping today, and analysts were pessimistic about the near-term future.

But, while the conference produced little more on the world stage than agenda items for future international negotiations, The New York Times believes it may have given President Barack Obama a boost at home with climate legislation in Congress. Bloomberg chimes in with a similar take.

Legislators, especially hard-core Republicans, are pleased that President Obama wrung concessions from China and India that allow outside verification of their efforts to limit and cutback greenhouse gas emissions. The lawmakers fear that the United States would be at a competitive disadvantage if the U.S. imposed expensive restrictions that aren’t matched by other major countries.

The environmental community offers a variety of responses to the Copenhagen process at The Copenhagen News Collaborative. One of the most cogent came from Bill McKibben, who was there:

The best guess from the modelers at Climate Interactive was that the proposals various countries were making might yield a world 6 or 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, and with a carbon concentration of 770 ppm. That’s hot…

For a very comprehensive survey of what newspaper editorials are saying about the conference, check out what Grist has compiled.

From 2006–2014, Terry was managing editor for Earthjustice's blog, online monthly newsletter and print Earthjustice Quarterly Magazine.