No, Copenhagen is not dead. Quite the reverse — prospects for a global deal have never been better.

The usually savvy Mother Jones reporter, David Corn, has published a flawed analysis, “Is Copenhagen dead” (original here, repost here).

The media has a herd mentality when it comes to reporting on all things presidential — either you’re up or you’re down.  Indeed, the media likes to build up politicians and then tear them down.  So it is with Obama now.

Compounding that, the media likes a simple story, either great success or great failure.   Since the media (mis)perceives that both domestic and international climate action are on a down swing, even more piling on is inevitable.  Then again, some in the media believe temperatures are on the down swing, so what the frac do they know?

For eight years, Cheney-Bush not only muzzled climate scientists and blocked domestic action, they actively worked behind the sciences to kill any international deal.  It takes a lot of effort to unpoison a well.  And we’ve only had the possibility of serious international negotiations since January.  Anyone who thought there would be a final deal, signed and sealed in December, a mere 11 months later, wasn’t paying attention to recent history and doesn’t appreciate the nature of international negotiations.

The fact is, the news from China, India, Japan, and this country is far more positive toward the possibility of agreement than it has been for a decade or longer.  This is, finally, the one brief shining moment for action.

Does that mean there will be an ultimate deal that begins in Copenhagen?  Not at all.  The forces of denial and delay in this country in particular are strong and may still kill domestic action, which would in turn make a global deal very, very hard to achieve.

But I remain confident that Obama can and will deliver a domestic bill and an international agreement.   Since Corn based his misanalysis on a column coathored by the CEO of CAP, I’ll let John Podesta have the final word with his reply, “Poised For Progress At The U.N. Climate Summit In Copenhagen“:

While Mother Jones’ David Corn is an excellent reporter, he is a lousy tealeaf reader. Mr. Corn misread a recent article by Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Nobel Peace Prize winner, and myself in advance of the G20 summit, incorrectly concluding our purpose was to downplay expectations on behalf of the Administration. Mr. Corn’s interpretation of our piece is inaccurate. Dr. Pachauri, one of the world’s foremost advocates for strong global action on climate change, and I both recognize that significant challenges remain in advance of the U.N. summit in December. But we are confident that the international community is poised to make substantial progress on climate change in Copenhagen, and that the U.S. is now in a position to exercise renewed leadership in pursuit of a best-case climate scenario.The purpose of our September 23 piece was to emphasize the importance of climate change in advance of the G20 meetings and encourage the world’s top emitters to seize an important opportunity to take concrete steps to move forward in advance of December’s summit. It is not news that the divide between the unwieldy groups of developed and developing countries have stalled climate talks in the past and that they are drifting again. It is, however, noteworthy that major emitters have recently utilized new channels “” the Administration’s Major Economies Forum, for example, as well as the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue “” to lay the groundwork for a new climate agreement in Copenhagen. We think this is an important development and should be pursued whenever opportunities, like this week’s summit, arise. Our piece urged leaders at the G20 to pursue concrete actions prior to Copenhagen on issues such as financing arrangements, technology cooperation, and deforestation prevention to increase the chances of success in December.

Even in the midst of global economic crisis, climate change has remained at the top of the agenda both in the United States and in key countries around the world. There is broad consensus that the effects of climate change are not only real, but will be devastating to developed and developing countries alike if the international community fails to agree on a global emissions reduction strategy soon. The road ahead is not without obstacles, which our piece pointed out. But the fate of Copenhagen is far from sealed “” and it is my strong belief that the Obama Administration is committed to doing all it can to lead the world into a low-carbon, clean energy future.

14 Responses to No, Copenhagen is not dead. Quite the reverse — prospects for a global deal have never been better.

  1. I too believe there is some hope for agreement, with China and India stepping up. The main problem is us. The House-passed bill calls for only 4% in emission cuts from 1990 levels (17% from 2005). By not ratifying Kyoto we’ve been drifting along since 1990 and doing nothing about our own excessive emissions. We’re still the bad guy here. We need to cut more and be willing to help fund low-carbon economies in developing nations.

  2. There have been significant changes in the global negotiations for the next climate deal over the past one year. Developing countries like India, China and South Africa are now considering domestic emission reduction laws. However, the deal at Copenhagen will depend on what commitment US makes. Also, President Obama’s China visit in November could also spring up some pleasant surprises.

    Even if a core climate deal is not reached during the Copenhagen talks there is high possibility that deals regarding REDD credits and reforms in CDM can be reached.

    Technology transfer and financial aid remain the major issues blocking a formal deal. The US Climate Change bill also has some provisions for financial aid to developing & poor countries so once the bill is passed there could be some clarity to the issue.

    Most probably, the COP 15 talks will achieve much more than what most of us think.

  3. paulm says:

    How are we going to afford to adapt to this relentless onslaught of Global Heating….

    Flooding in the Southeast

    Philippines battles flood chaos – Manila under water.

    Turky swept away in flash floods

    Extreme weather batters Australia

    Fires in Queensland, flood warnings in Victoria, a foot of snow in the mountains and Sydney’s biggest dust storm in living memory – this is Australia.

  4. David B. Benson says:

    Bigger cuts are not that hard to accomplish. Joe ROmm writes frequently about energy effciency so I’ll emphasize another matter.

    State utility commisions are requiring heavily increased emmisions controls on coal burners for relicensing. This is very expensive! Recently the TVA annouced plans to shut down four coal burners and convert a fifth to a wood burner to avoid spending one billion dollars on emissions controls. I’ll gues that the four being shut down will be replaced by an equivalent capacity from combined cycle gast turbines; that eliminates 60% of fossil carbon emissions orom four plants and 100% from the wood burner.

    Do that to all the approximately 670 coal burners in the US and US carbon dioxide emissions drop to only three quaters of the current rate; a 25% cut right there.

  5. From Peru says:

    JR: The main problem are China and India. In a recent article,, is explained than even with extreme cuts from the developed world, the world will still get 3ºC hotter. One of the scientist of the UNEP report said:

    “We are headed toward very serious changes in our planet,” said Achim Steiner, head of the U.N.’s environment program, which issued the update on Thursday.

    Even if the developed world cuts its emissions by 80% and the developing world cuts theirs in half by 2050, as some experts propose, the world is still facing a 3 °F (1.7 °C) increase by the end of the century, said Robert Corell, a prominent U.S. climate scientist who helped oversee the update.”

    A very grim prospect…

    A few words about India. INDIA IS IN VERY BIG TROUBLE:

    1)Increasingly hit by extreme weather: extreme drought of record flooding. The Indian Monsoon is in serious risk of passing in few decades (or even less) a “tipping point” where it collapses, transforming the most densely populated area after China into a desert.

    2)The Himalayas are the fastest warming area after the Arctic and WAIS , with the fastest glacier melting rates outside polar regions. Some estimates of present rate of melting (that is if the climate doesn’t warm any more)say that in 40 years the glaciers will disappear completely. Remember, on the top of a weakened monsoon there will no dry season river discharge(that is, near zero water in dry season).

    So, the Indian subcontinent is one of the hardest hit areas by climate change. A lot of this in domestic change, that is , not greenhouse effect but regional climate change by sulfate and soot aerosols(that is ,the so-called “global dimming”).

    What is the response from India’s government? (Asiatimes)

    ” ‘Brown clouds’ stir Asian conspiracy storm (Nov 25, 2008)
    MUMBAI – A controversial United Nations report claiming “atmospheric brown clouds” generated by Asia are harming the world’s climate, agriculture and health has created a storm of controversy in India, which has slammed it as part of Western pressure on Asia’s efforts to counter global warming.

    The brown cloud was more pointedly called the “Asian brown cloud” in an earlier United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report in 2002, before protests from India and China led it to be changed to the politically-correct “atmospheric brown cloud”.
    The Indian government has also unceremoniously trashed the UN report, pointing fingers at UNEP’s credibility, with India’s Science and Technology minister Kapil Sibal describing the latest brown cloud report as “propaganda,” according to a Press Trust of India news agency article from November 21.

    This is even worse: (financial times)

    ” India widens climate rift with west(July 23 2009)

    A split between rich and poor nations in the run-up to climate-change talks widened on Thursday.India rejected key scientific findings on global warming, while the European Union called for more action by developing states on greenhouse gas emissions.

    Jairam Ramesh, the Indian environment minister, accused the developed world of needlessly raising alarm over melting Himalayan glaciers. He dismissed scientists’ predictions that Himalayan glaciers might disappear within 40 years as a result of global warming.
    Mr Ramesh said the rate of retreat of glaciers in the Himalayas varied from a “couple of centimetres a year to a couple of metres”, but that this was a natural process that had taken place occurred over the centuries. Some were, in fact, growing, he said.

    Mr Ramesh on Friday reiterated that India would not accept emissions caps to held curb global warming, Bloomberg reported. “The world has nothing to fear from India’s development … An artifical cap is not desirable and not even necessary as we haven’t been responsible for emissions in the first place,” he said.”

    What a shame for the Indian People! Pray God for that such People crush the government Party in the next elections!

    And for the world, what doi you think about a country that:

    1) Is the second most populated in the world, but transformed in a desert will have a massive famine that will collapse its population(that is , hundreds of millions deaths)
    2) Nuclear power, with his missiles pointing to Pakistan, that will be hit equally by the catastrophe
    3) Separatist movements, that did bombings and killings for independence
    4) NAXALITE INSURGENTS(MAOISTS) SEVERELY AFFECTING 1/3 OF THE COUNTRY, that is , India is facing nothing less than a civil war (or People’s War, as the Naxalites call it). This is a class/caste struggle , fueled by misery and the remaing semi-feudal system of castes (remeber my poist about Nepal civil war between Maoists and the Absolutist monarchy that ended in 2006 with the surrender of the King?)

    So, if India’s Government Party (the party of Gandhi who will be surely ashamed for that if he were still alive) fails to stop the disaster, it will have to stood on trial to his People (that is , the ones that will survive the famine).

  6. Maibam says:

    There was no talk on developing world’s effect on climate change till few years back. So, why is so much noise today? I fail to understand the reason for the noise. Now, even if the developing world cuts its emissions does anyone think that the world would be free from this global warming.

    No one in the world thinks that the sun is expanding so it is having an effect on the temperature of the earth. Global warming is not only due to increased rate of emissions there are other factors too.

    Yes every country in the world has to cut down emissions but not at the expense of developing an economy like developed US, the mother of all problems.

    What would be rational behind cutting down emissions for a poor country like India whose 25% population lives in poverty. India has the right to develop itself. When a billion strong Indian population doesn’t get a permanent representation at UNSC why should the world bother when there would be drought in India?

    Yes, Indian politicians may be wrong in rubbishing all those findings from international agencies but what they are doing is just to keep the momentum of growth moving. Consider their acts as India’s struggle for survival at the world stage.

    May be the world fears that one day India would take the center stage and would rule over the world. And that’s what they fear. After polluting the world for more than 200 years the developed world comes and tells that we were wrong as we polluted the world. Now let us fix it.

    Today it is climate change tomorrow it might be water pollution and till this day the developed world haven’t stopped it’s mentality of subjugating other nations for their advantage. e.g.

    Be true to yourself and don’t act double standards. For the time being mend your own machine and then talk to the world on climate change or any other issue.

  7. Stephan says:

    I think a clear point of view about Copenhagen can only be made after it has actually happened. There are so many contradicting sources at the moment about the success or failure from Copenhagen that the view isn’t clear anymore.

    However, we all should put our shoulders under it and make it a positive item to talk about rather than a negative one. We can actually make a difference in Copenhagen!

    For more info on the environment, have a look at this Green News.

  8. From Peru says:

    I am also in one of the so-called “developing” nations, Peru (see my name).

    The truth is that this is NOT a choice between environment or development. The same system and practices that are at the roots of pollution are also the main drivers of poverty:

    A system based in massive exploitation of natural resources and human workpower by a small number of entrepreneurs, i.e capitalism.

    Capitalism works by exploiting those resources and selling the resulting product. The money obtained(the so-called capital) is then used to improve the industrial or commercial facility to obtain then more money. This means that the propietaries of those enterprises(if they done a good job)accumulate wealth. A fraction of that wealth is given to workers, so they can buy the final products of the enterprises.

    This system creates an increasimngly wealth divergences between entrepreneurs and workers. As the workers cannot buy products with their tiny salaries, they are driven to buy things with money they not have, i.e paying with credit.But then divergences only escalate until an economic collapse make clear that capitalistic development is intrinsically unsustainable.

    So capitalistic development brings both poverty and ecological damage, and wealth to small groups of people. A hard ecological politics will not hinder development, to the contrary, State intervention will re-distribute wealth and avoid damages to the environment.

    Regulation and redistribution are necessary to development. In history, the period of more economic growth, the so-called post-WWII economic boom, was the result of a mixed economy, partly private partly statal. The richest nations, like Norway, Sweden and Finland are also

  9. From Peru says:

    … (I press enter accidentally)

    are also nations that have Socialist governments(Don’t confuse them with the Stalinist regimes in USSR Empire, where workers were exploited by an avid burocratic class that boldly and falsely called themselves “communists”).

    India has had an explosive development in the main cities, but the conditions of the poorest people(specually in the rural areas) have not improved at all and because of pollution they are now worse than before.

    If India wants a true development, severe environmental and social regulations are absolutely needed.

    Clean development brings jobs in the US. The rest of the world is not different (but can differ in the mode, for example, in an agricole countries the green innovations should apply to agricultural practices )

  10. Steve says:


    Corn is speaking of the prospects of achieving a “comprehensive climate change agreement” at Copenhagen that will lead to a serious reduction in emissions. I don’t believe we will see that in Copenhagen, and that in this sense, the Copenhagen that many environmentalists are hoping for is dead. This is not a bad thing. Expectations have been far too high for Copenhagen to begin with. It is not as if nations will stop working proactively to implement coordinated global action addressing climate change if nations aren’t all able to sign the same document in December. Yet these are the expectations that have been created by people like Yvo De Boer and Ban Ki-Moon who have been acting like Copenhagen is humanity’s last chance to avoid Armageddon. You may have moved passed this frame, but it still exists as the dominant frame among many players in this debate. And if this is the dominant frame, then yes, Copenhagen is dead. That doesn’t mean there won’t be progress.

    What’s needed is a healthy dose of realism, and a deep breath, which is something I’m hoping you can provide for your readers on this blog.

  11. Rick Covert says:


    It’s even worse in the so-called “alternative media”. For example Amy Goodman interviewed, who else, but Andy Revkin of the New York Times on Democracy Now as the climate policy expert in spite of the fact that he has published on several occasions serious errors in fact regarding the climate bill and global warming.

  12. Methinks you must be privy to information that you’re not sharing with us.

    Obama’s allies on climate change in the EU are discouraged by these developments (according to The Guardian, which I assume you’ve seen).

    The countries that don’t want Obama to succeed — and are actively trying to sabotage the deal — are thrilled by the delay. Just two days ago, Prime Minster Harper — who went to a donut shop instead of attending the UN Summit on Tuesday — said this: “I would cite what President Obama said to us at our meetings and that is that while Copenhagen is a very important meeting we should not view it as a make or break on climate change,” he said. “It will be a step, an ongoing step, in an important world process to deal with this critical issue.”

    I’m agnostic on the issue. If we can get a better deal next year, then so be it. But so far, we only have US assertions that this is so, and no indication from several very important stakeholders anything will change next year.

  13. Anonymous says:

    6 Maibam: Fine. And when 1 billion Indians die of starvation, we shouldn’t lift a finger then either. It is your funeral. So we should never have sent food aid to India over the past 60 years. Don’t cry for food aid when the drought hits because there won’t be any food here either. If you want to live, you are going to have to get a new attitude along with most other people. And Indians also need a new attitude on marriage age and number of children per family. The rest of the planet is not yours to overpopulate.

    Remember the bacteria in the beaker of sugar water experiment: Growth is exponential until the population crashes to zero. The Earth is not infinite in size. There will be a population crash.

  14. Sloane says:

    Poverty, over-population, global resource management, health and education, these are REAL global problems. Climate is the least of my worries…