|Climate-Change and the Decline of American Leadership|
|Tuesday, 29 September 2009 10:48 | Written by Justin Pot | Blog Entry|
December's climate-change talks in Copenhagen will seek to set clear goals on how nations are going to offset climate change, so many speeches by world leaders in the UN last week referred to the problem and a given nation's proposed solutions. The Economist argues that Obama's speech had nothing specific to say on the issue despite high-floating rhetoric, and also argues the American president was upstaged by China's President Hu Jinato, who outlined how China has and will continue to reduce its carbon output per Gross Domestic Product (GDP); that is, lowering the ratio of carbon emitted relative to the overall size of China's economy.
Obama is unable to say too much specifically about action on climate change, however, as the bill that will change US policy on the issue is being held up in the Senate. The Houston Chronicle goes so far as to report the bill might not even make it out of the Senate in time for the December talks because the healthcare bill has been given a higher priority by the Obama administration.
America's inability to get anything concrete done on the climate-change issue after Obama's election is disappointing US allies in Europe. It also marks the unofficial decline of America's global leadership despite Obama's popularity on that continent. Reflecting global frustration with Obama's lack of action, the Guardian, a major British paper, printed a column calling him impotent, and the New York Times says European leaders now believe the United States lacks the political will to effectively offset climate change.
It could well be that we Americans simply lack the discipline and perserverance that Europeans have shown on the issue. A recent Thomas L. Friedman column claims that for all our national rhetoric during wars on the importance of enduring hardships to overcome adversity, we are very squeamish—wimpy, even—about instituting world-saving policies that require We The People to endure even minimal discomfort. Taxing gas to offset climate change, for example, would be a small sacrifice that could make a big impact—but is also a policy that would have a difficult time getting through Congress.
What do you think? Is the United States’ lack of concrete goals on climate change—compared to China's detailed plan—a symbol of the decline of American leadership? Let's start a discussion in the comments below.