Saturday, October 3, 2009

Why Obama Really, Really Needs to Go To Cop-15 Now

Oct 09 With President Obama's failure to secure the Olympics for Chicago, a bunch of the blogosphere -- including even the NYT -- is abuzz with beltway-style speculation that a return to Copenhagen for COP-15 is now "too risky," that the President has now blown his political capital and will show himself weak by going to a summit that probably cannot, at this point, produce a major treaty.

This speculation all seems to me to be a gross misreading of the situation. Most knowledgeable observers haven't expected to see a comprehensive treaty signed at COP-15 for some time now. Instead, the point of this meeting is to reframe the issue, ramping up global awareness of the need to act quickly, laying out the outlines of a new treaty, and hammering out some of the bilateral agreements needed to make the thing work. Simply by showing up, Obama adds weight to this reframing. And he's smart enough to be able to explain that to the American people (whether the beltway media's smart enough to understand the actual situation remains to be seen).

On a domestic policy front, I've long argued that the biggest reason the President needs to go to Copenhagen has absolutely nothing to do with getting a treaty signed: he needs to go so that he can focus the attention of the nation on climate change, and teach the American people about the dangers we face and the opportunities responding to climate change can bring. The only people who will hate this are the people who are already the avowed enemy of the President and all he stands for, and frankly, who cares about making them happy?
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