Obama Calls Harper’s Bluff

(image from Greenpeace campaign against Harper)

There are both high hopes and tensions as the climate talks got under way in Copenhagen this week. Leading up to the summit, the stolen email saga provided fodder for climate science skeptics, and Canada’s Prime Minister – a staunch defender of his home province’s right to develop its massive tar sands – has become the Darth Vader of the G8.

The Harper government’s insistence that Canada’s actions will be determined by the U.S. policy appeared, at first, to be a fail safe abdication of responsibility, especially given the United States’ poor environmental record under President Bush and President Obama’s reluctance to even appear in Copenhagen. But Obama’s eventual decision to attend the conference, and then the recent news that he would make more than a cursorary appearance, may give concerned Canadians some hope that Harper could now be forced to make a bigger commitment to act. If Obama decides to put some serious chips on the table, Harper’s “follow the U.S.” bluff will be blown.

In Canada, Greenpeace protest banners were unfurled on the parliament buildings in Ottawa to mark the start of the conference, and a new poll showed that most Canadians disagree with Stephen Harper’s environmental policies and want Canada to take a leading role. Nevertheless, skepticism still occupied the minds of many, including Environmental Law Professor Michael M’Gonigle, who feels the root of the problem — excess consumption — is still not being addressed. The Canadian Government’s role since the 1970s, and the great potential for Canada to be a global leader in the development of a green economy, is also candidly discussed by David Suzuki.

For more information and daily updates from Copenhagen, see Denmark’s official conference website. The N.Y. Times also has in depth daily conference news and background information, including a breakdown of who’s who (and their competing interests) at the conference, and a timeline of the evolution of climate science over the past two centuries and the historical attempts to reach global agreements.

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