After our big climate march here over the weekend, our President came to New York yesterday, supposedly to deal with other world leaders to solve the "climate crisis" and save the planet. The New York Times tells the story today in a big front page article headlined "Obama Presses Chinese to Move to Curb Warming."
President Obama, emboldened by his use of executive powers to fight climate change at home, challenged China on Tuesday to make the same effort to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions and join a worldwide campaign to curb global warming. Declaring that the United States and China — the world’s two largest economies and largest polluters — bear a “special responsibility to lead,” Mr. Obama said, “That’s what big nations have to do.”
Could this whole thing have been more embarrassing? President Xi of China (number one emitter of so-called "greenhouse gases") did not show up. Neither did new Prime Minister Modi of India (number 3 emitter). Same for Putin of Russia (number 4 emitter); Putin is a climate skeptic (this guy is no dummy, unlike others mentioned in this post). Merkel of Germany (number 6 emitter and first in the EU)? Absent. (Here is a list from Wikipedia of total and per capita emissions by country.)
In countries with smaller populations but high per capita emissions, we have Australia, the champion of per capita emissions. Its Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, did not attend. Neither did Stephen Harper of Canada, number 3 in per capita emissions after Australia and the U.S. Oh, Australia just repealed its carbon tax. And Canada? They are madly developing their tar sands reserves, and planning to ship the oil by pipeline to the Pacific for export to Asia, since Obama will not approve the Keystone pipeline.
Of leaders of the top emitters besides Obama, only Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan (number 5) attended. He said that Japan "is considering making an appropriate contribution" to a so-called Green Climate Fund. That's powerful Shinzo! Definitely don't try to pin him down on any specific amounts. Also, he discreetly declined to mention that Japan shut down all 48 of its nuclear reactors after the 2011 earthquake and replaced all of that power with hydrocarbons. Currently, they have set no timetable for restarting the nukes.
It seems that the New York Times style manual prescribes that despite the ridiculousness of the situation, it must be treated in the Grey Lady with the utmost seriousness. The article by Mark Landler and Coral Davenport doesn't show even a touch of humor. For example, they have extensive quotes from a guy named Zhang Gaoli, the Chinese flunky sent to stand in for Xi. In one such quote, Zhang says that "his country would try to reach a peak level of carbon emissions 'as early as possible.'" Don't crack a smile! Do you realize how that came out, Zhang? The guy may need to do some work on understanding the nuances of the English language.
Any reasonable press coverage would treat this as the huge embarrassment that it is, but we don't have that kind of press. And even if the only sarcasm that Obama must endure is from the Manhattan Contrarian, why would he do even that? Well, the answer is simple: This is not really about getting international agreements to save the planet. It's about raising money to keep the Democratic Party in power in Washington for another election cycle.
Don't believe me? You won't find this in the Times, but according to an article today in the Guardian,
After a day of set-piece speeches by leaders including Barack Obama that yielded little in the way of new commitments, world leaders were supposed to meet over dinner to discuss climate change, and engage in “soft diplomacy” to iron out differences ahead of crunch negotiations on a new global climate agreement.
And who didn't show up for that one? Barack Obama. He was "a few blocks away [from the dinner] at a party in the Waldorf-Astoria." Raising money, of course.