Originally published by Grist
What should we learn from the dual disappointment of Copenhagen and Cancun? The climate policy war isn’t over, but those who are fighting to cut global emissions haven’t won the last few rounds. The decisive defeat in this latest battle, however, did not occur at an international conference. Rather, it took place in Washington, D.C.
Although the Kyoto Protocol tried to prove otherwise, there isn’t any hope of a meaningful climate agreement without the participation of the United States. With one-fifth of the planet’s emissions and a big share of the global ability to pay for mitigation and adaptation, the world’s surviving superpower has to be on board if negotiations are going to go anywhere. (In an ideal, or even sensible, world, the United States would take the lead on climate protection.)
The enormous advance build-up of expectations for Copenhagen reflected the fact that it would be the first world climate summit after George W. Bush left the White House. It was true that a post-Bush administration was necessary for climate progress; unfortunately, it was not sufficient. In the two years when President Obama and the Democrats were strongest, they were unable to pass even a weak, compromised climate bill. Now the momentum in Washington is shifting back toward science-deniers, who plan to hold more hearings on the possibility that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the global scientific consensus are a gigantic fraud.