This week’s New York Climate Change Bonanza has come to an end. It’s always a good thing when powerful people hold high-profile event after high-profile event dedicated to amplifying the profile of the climate change crisis and then solving it, as they did this week with the U.N.’s climate summit and the Clinton Global Initiative. But there’s still the question of efficacy.

On Monday, for instance, I sat and watched as literally dozens of world leaders — who had flown in from around the globe to spend five minutes on an international stage — called for global action on climate change. They hailed mostly from countries that have contributed a pittance to the near-critical mass of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and yet that will suffer the worst of the effects. Many hadn’t had much of a voice until that moment — and when they finally spoke, it fell for the most part upon deaf ears.

George W. Bush, of course, thumbed his nose at the summit, then held his own.

The Clinton Global Initiative, by contrast, was not so quiet. Most of the commitments made by industry were impressive, as was the rhetoric trumpeted by climate activists. But if the United States government believes it doesn’t have to answer to an international body like the U.N., it certainly doesn’t have to answer to Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Brad Pitt, and former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair.

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What I saw this week put the climate challenge in stark terms. Al Gore and Bill Clinton and Angela Merkel — the Spartan warriors of the climate-change fight — are well intentioned and hard-working and pretty effective at what they do. But they’re still at a disadvantage. The other side has its lobbyists, too.

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