McKibben uninspired by Obama
COPENHAGEN — I watched Barack Obama from the back of a drafty warehouse, which the U.N. has repurposed as the holding tank for all the NGOs they kicked out of the Bella Center. Great idea, except they didn’t manage to hook up Internet. So now I’m at a nearby coffeeshop monitoring the end of the conference — or the world depending on how you view it.
It’s been a curious day. Number one question has been: Why is your name scrawled all over those leaked bombshell documents? (Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace today called it the “most important piece of paper in the world.”) I still have no idea, but of course it matters not at all. What matters is that those papers show that the drama here today is largely greasepaint stuff.
Obama’s speech wasn’t much of a speech. It was basically “take it or leave it” without even the slightest hint that perhaps U.S. history — and the current state of U.S. politics — has put the planet in a tight spot. Nothing new on offer, though by repeating his 17 percent cut, I’m guessing he’s leaving himself room to go to 20 percent. He’s still aiming for two degrees, which we now know in U.N. language means “three degrees.” These numbers are in Celsius, and converted to Fahrenheit they mean killer heatwaves and droughts, a world free of ice, sea levels rising into geologic time, and a lot more fun of the same kind.
If you’re a small, vulnerable, poor country the numbers mean find somewhere else to live.
It didn’t sound like it was Obama’s final speech. He’s going to have to twist arms to get agreement on this package. He’s clearly not trying to convince the poor countries, confident they can be either quashed or ignored. China is his target — they need to be “monitored.” Probably negotiators can work out some kind of patch to cover the various gaping holes in the draft agreement, though at the moment the seams are showing. A copy of the draft agreement circulating in the hall right now calls for “X reductions” by “Y year” which is not exactly reassuring. There are rumors Obama may have to spend the night to get something done.
If it works, look for many congratulations for his brave intervention. Look for physics to continue operating.