Opinion Obama Has Failed the World on Climate Change

Greenpeace activists in Hong Kong urge Obama to take a stand on climate change.

Greenpeace activists in Hong Kong urge Obama to take a stand on climate change.

By Christian Schwägerl

Part 2: Americans Do Not Look Beyond Their Own Borders

Obama's priorities are wrong. Copenhagen is not just any old summit -- it is the long-awaited climax of many years of negotiations, negotiations whose failure was only averted at the last minute at the Bali summit two years ago. Industry and energy companies around the world will use the results of the Copenhagen summit as a benchmark when planning their investments for the coming years and decades.

Obama was quite happy to make the trip to Copenhagen in October to support his hometown Chicago's bid to host the Olympic Games. But he is currently leaving open the question of whether he will come to the Danish capital in December for the UN Climate Change Conference. In doing so, he has given other world leaders the signal that they do not need to attend. If the Copenhagen summit, which energy strategists and environmentalists have been preparing for two years, is a failure, then it will mainly be Obama's fault.

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Photo Gallery: Greenland's Vanishing Ice Sheet

Admittedly, the Europeans have been slow to make concrete pledges of the billions of euros that are needed to help developing countries combat climate change, but at least they are prepared to make significant CO2 reductions of up to 30 percent, relative to 1990 levels, by 2020. The US, however, is dragging its feet, preferring tactics to strategy -- just as was the case under George W. Bush.

Dreamt Up by Hollywood

For most Americans, the world beyond the US's borders is nothing more than an irritating nuisance. For this reason, arguments based on appeals about drowning Bangladeshis, starving Africans and flooded islands in Indonesia have little effect. In Hollywood, the United States has an industry that continually pushes the materialistic ideal of Western prosperity to billions of people around the world, while at the same time bombarding them with apocalyptic visions in the form of disaster movies.

Many Americans clearly also believe that real climate change is just something dreamt up by the entertainment industry.

Obama has proven himself to be unable to put an end to the lies that modern American society is based on. He is unable to overcome the entrenched lobbyists of the oil and coal industries and make the reality clear to his compatriots: They are the worst energy wasters on the planet -- and are thus, indirectly, a major threat to world peace in the 21st century. Although they do not enjoy a higher quality of life than Europeans, Americans consume twice as much fossil fuel per capita. Their cars are too big, their homes are not energy-efficient, and they have yet to focus their talents for innovation away from trivial entertainment gadgets and toward renewable energy-technologies.

The Main Culprit

It may seem arrogant to take the Americans to task to such a degree. But at least in Europe, many are willing to question their own lifestyle and to look at events beyond their own borders.

The Copenhagen summit, which is just three weeks away, is not lost yet. But if the worst-case scenario becomes reality at Copenhagen and at the follow-up conferences -- if, in other words, world leaders ignore the findings of the global scientific community -- then the US will find itself in a very uncomfortable position. America will be seen as the primary culprit of global warming -- and this after the US, with its rampant real estate speculation, has given us a global economic crisis that has not only destroyed assets, but pushed 100 million people worldwide into hunger. With that kind of track record, the US hardly has a claim any more to the leadership of the Western world -- let alone a Nobel Peace Prize for its leader.

A world of flooded coasts, dried-up rivers and disappearing rainforests will lead to massive refugee movements and conflict. The Nobel Committee should postpone the award ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize from Dec. 10 to Dec. 20. Only if Obama has achieved a convincing deal at the Copenhagen conference will there be a real reason to honor him.


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