Obama: Take It Or Leave It

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Nearly two decades after writing a book that popularized the term “global warming,” MoJo contributing writer Bill McKibben founded 350.org. He is chronicling his journey into organizing with a series of columns about the global climate summit in Copenhagen. You can find the others here. Check out MoJo’s live stream of collaborative Copenhagen coverage here.

I watched Barack Obama from the back of a drafty warehouse that the United Nations has repurposed as the holding tank for all the NGOs kicked out of the Bella Center. Great idea, except that they didn’t manage to hook up Internet. So now I’m at a nearby coffeeshop monitoring the end of the conference, or world, depending on how you view it.

It’s been a curious day. Number one question has been: why is your name scrawled all over those leaked bombshell documents (Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace today called it the “most important piece of paper in the world.”) I still have no idea, but of course it matters not at all. What matters is that those papers show that the drama here today is largely greasepaint stuff.

Obama’s speech wasn’t much of a speech—basically, ‘take it or leave it,’ without even the slightest hint that perhaps US history, and the current state of US politics, have put the planet in a tight spot. Nothing new on offer—though by repeating his 17 percent cut, I’m guessing he’s leaving himself room to go to 20 percent. He’s still aiming for two degrees, which we now know in UN language means “three degrees.” These numbers are in Celsius, and put into Fahrenheit they mean: killer heatwaves and droughts, a world free of ice, sea levels rising into geologic time, and a lot more fun of the same kind.

And if you’re a small, vulnerable, poor country they mean: out of business. Find somewhere else to live.

It didn’t sound like it was Obama’s final speech. He’s going to have to twist arms to get agreement to this package—he’s clearly not trying to convince the poor countries, confident they can be either quashed or ignored. China is his target—it needs to be “monitored.” Probably they can work out some kind of patch to cover the various gaping holes, though at the moment the seams are showing (a copy of the draft agreement circulating in the hall right now calls for “X reductions” by “Y year” which is not exactly reassuring). There are rumors Obama may have to spend the night to get something done.

If it works, look for many congratulations for his brave intervention. Look for physics to continue operating. 

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate