President Obama gave a short speech at the UN climate summit today, and it was, well… it was a bummer.
At a time when the world needed bold leadership perhaps more than ever, we didn't get it from the very guy who was elected because he promised exactly that.
The talks aren't over, of course. Maybe he's behind closed doors at the negotiations right now working some magic. But his speech certainly didn't give me any hope that that's what he came to do.
Update: We're hearing reports (unconfirmed) that Obama and China's Premier Wen Jiabao are in closed-door meetings right now trying to hammer something out. Call the US climate envoy right now and let them know that you support Obama taking bold, decisive action and showing some leadership: 202-647-9873. Leave a message if no one answers. Go here for a suggested script.
Obama didn’t put anything new on the table in terms of US emissions targets, commitments to help the developing world deal with the effects of global warming, or other US actions to ensure these talks result in anything resembling a fair and ambitious deal.
The full video of his 10 minute address can be viewed here, text here.
Obama’s speech took place one day after a leaked document from the UN Secretariat showed that the commitments on the table at Copenhagen would leave us with a "gigaton gap" leading to at least 550 parts per million of CO2 equivalent in our atmosphere and an average world temperature rise of 3 degrees Celsius (about 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) or more.
There's a reason we talk about "350" and not "550." The science is clear that levels of climate pollution at 550 or higher put us into a danger zone where feedback loops kick in (burning of Boreal forests, melting of tundra, etc.), making catastrophic climate change a reality and dooming millions of people in least-developed countries around the world to suffer the ever-worsening impacts of climate change even though they did little to nothing to create the problem.
Instead of change we can believe in, we’re getting climate change the whole world will be forced to live with. So, not to be flippant, but, like I said before: Bummer.
Our executive director, Phil Radford, had this to say:
The world was waiting for the spirit of yes we can, but all we got was my way or the highway. Read the rest of Phil's response here.
President Obama can still save Copenhagen by doing what he called on other leaders to do and give some ground by increasing his commitment to cut global warming pollution. But as it is he crossed an ocean to tell the world he has nothing new to offer, then he said take it or leave it.