If the UN's 2009 Climate Change Conference (Copenhagen) had reaffirmed the Kyoto Accord, or committed the world to saving Tuvalu, or promised to limit temperature rises to 1-2 degrees C, it would have been a disaster for humanity.
Instead we saw desperate back stabbing, dodging and weaving. That's a good thing.
No, I haven't turned into a Republican. The rise of China made the Kyoto accord absurd; affirming it would have a been a form of mockery. Similarly saving Tuvalu would require Americans to make radical lifestyle changes this month, and China to shut down its development. Not going to happen, so that kind of commitment would be a promise to do nothing.
We can't save Tuvalu.
A trillion dollars to offset the harm global warming causes developing nations? From the country that reelected George Bush? Puh-lease.
We've gotten about as much as humanity can produce. Colin Blakemore, a neuroscientist writing for The Guardian, put it well (emphases mine) ...
.... Copenhagen may mark a turning point in human nature, when the global village acquired a global mind.The leaders at Copenhagen, by and large, took the science of climate change seriously -- even though it's saying things they don't want to hear, and that their citizens often disbelieve.
What we have just witnessed is delegates from 192 countries talking about making sacrifices, slowing their development, constraining their industry, taxing their citizens, in a collective bid to stifle climate change. Those nations included virtually every race, every religion, every style of government – from monarchy to dictatorship, from constitutional democracy to communism.
For the past 5,000 years, agreements between nations have been determined by military or economic power, by political ideology or religious dogma. What Copenhagen has established, even if the final agreement fudges and procrastinates, is that a new force is at work in international diplomacy. A force that does not speak in terms of faith and conviction, that is not even absolutely certain about what it has to say. That force is science....
... In his first major speech after winning the presidential election, Barack Obama said of the value of science: "It's about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it's inconvenient – especially when it's inconvenient." And in his inaugural address, he promised "to restore science to its rightful place". Even with its flaws, what Copenhagen suggests is that the rightful place of science is at the heart of policy for a threatened world. The oceans are already rising. Either we sink, separately, or swim, together.
That won't be enough to save Tuvalu, but it's more than I expected. The game is far from done.
Update 12/20/o9: Similar perspective, from the NYT
Update 12/22/09: A relatively neutral observer tells us that China's goal was to sabotage the meeting and that Obama did yeoman's work: "I saw Obama fighting desperately to salvage a deal, and the Chinese delegate saying "no", over and over again..."