Climate Chill

Is Barack Obama a hater? I found myself pondering this question as I read an opinion piece in today's Washington Post comparing the leadership of our President with that of Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives. Of the two, who is offering the world true leadership on Climate Change?
One, Nasheed, is leading the fight. The other, as we saw last weekend when he announced that there would be no new treaty anytime soon, is only half in the battle. They both may go to the U.N.-sponsored climate conference in Copenhagen next month, but Nasheed will be there to say: Seize the moment. And if Obama makes it, he will be there to spin, to say, no doubt elegantly: Chill.
The author of the op-ed, Bill McKibben, comes from my hometown of Lexington, Mass, so I view him fondly as a leader in the Warming Movement. His organization, 350.org, refers to lower levels of atmospheric gases that are now favored as a target by the Climate Crowd, as opposed to the 450 ppm that was previously the vogue. He writes that Nasheed has moved with great energy on putting his nation on the responsible track.
Contrast that with Obama. He too has acted; in fact, he's done more than his three predecessors combined. He's taken admirable steps on automobile fuel economy, put stimulus money into green job plans and surrounded himself with an excellent cast of scientific advisers. But doing more than George W. Bush on global warming is like doing more than George Wallace on racial healing. It gives you political cover, but the melting arctic ice is unimpressed.
Ouch. My hometownmate is comparing Barack to George Wallace. Is this fair? Obama is treating the death of the planet with the same calm he brings to all fights. Slow and steady on the critical things (socialized medicine), cave to political realities - while making nice statements - for everything else. Climate Change falls into the latter group. I guess Bill is right - if you don't love life enough to put the planet first, that would make you a first class hater.
So it's not good news that, internationally, Obama's spokesmen have stuck to the 450 ppm/2 degree target, calling it consensus science when it no longer is. And it's not good news domestically that Obama turned climate legislation over to Congress to produce, slotting it behind health care on his list of priorities.
Why would Obama be holding back on switching over to the tougher Save the Planet Threshold?
Obama's excuse is that the Senate won't sign tough climate legislation, so there's no use pushing for it. But that's conceding the game without taking a shot -- he hasn't done any of the things Nasheed has tried to rally his nation and other nations.
Making matters worse is that fact that Obama has depleted his resources on the Public Option - his cupboard of political capital is looking bare before he's even started job one - saving the planet!
A mediocre health-care bill is one thing; you can probably come back in a generation and make it stronger. People may suffer in the meantime, but the problem won't become logarithmically worse. The climate, on the other hand, is full of traps and tipping points -- let it get warm enough to melt the permafrost that locks away vast supplies of methane, and no future president will be able to control the heating.
It's not reasonable to suggest that the president is a skeptic, is it? Wouldn't that would be like saying, two years ago, that Obama wasn't serious when he promised he'd systematically remove all of our troops from Iraq, one to two brigades a month upon taking office, without regard for circumstances on the ground. On the other hand, the president also made promises about Climate Change.
"Once I take office, you can be sure that the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations and help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change. Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high."
Delay is not an option, but Obama is blowing off Copenhagen. If he's not a skeptic, then he must be... a hater.