After eight years of the Bush presidency, several wars, a national health care crisis, a housing bubble burst, and one global economic crisis, it is clear that the United States needs to rebuild our reputation abroad. And no, Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is not enough. It’s a step in the right direction, but President Barack Obama must do more in order to gain the respect of the international community. An important first move is committing to attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark in December.
In 1997 the United States refused to adopt the Kyoto Protocol and has lost standing with the United Nations and the global climate movement ever since. The main reason cited for the refusal to sign onto the agreement was that the Kyoto Protocol did not require emissions reductions from India or China, two emerging, industrializing economies. This time around, India and China have stated that they would agree to emissions reductions standards if the United States were to do the same, which is quite a bold statement and invitation to our president.
The United States is one of the most technologically advanced and wealthiest countries in the world and therefore should be providing leadership on climate change. Yet we lag behind the rest of the developed world by miles. We are the largest energy consumer both in terms of total use and per capita consumption, most of which is derived from fossil fuels. Compared to Europe, Japan and China our public transportation system is dismal and we continue to rely on carbon spewing internal combustion engines. None of this does our international reputation any favors. Which is why President Obama needs to show the world that the United States is committed to addressing climate change by going to Copenhagen.
Americans are urging President Obama to attend the talks in Copenhagen. Several other high level United States officials are attending, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senator John Kerry. So it’s not a question of whether the United States government will be present or not, it’s a question of whether President Obama is committed to providing leadership and addressing anthropogenic climate change. President Obama, I will be in Copenhagen as a delegate of the Sierra Student Coalition; will I see you there?
-Chelsea Howard-Foley, ‘11