Monday, 16 November 2009

Copenhagen, Barack Obama, and Global Economics

"Obama damps hopes for final treaty on climate change at Copenhagen"


The week starts with yet more global procrastination.

This blog has had a critical, but hopeful attitude towards Barack Obama's global policies. The global economics observation that the 2007-2009 crisis was an evidence of the failure of pre-existing institutions led to the expectation of a global economic policy framework emerging in earnest. (The view of this blog is that what we have seen so far as recovery is the result of a set of random policy measures, mere stabs in the dark. And in any case, the jury is still out on whether there really is a recovery out there.) Thus the obvious need for global economic policy institutions accompanied the even more obvious need for global environmental institutions.

It shouldn’t have been a far fetched assumption that the newly elected global-citizen-looking, not exactly ignorant US president would be a good candidate to lead the way. This weekend’s disappointing news about scaling down the Copenhagen ambition is the latest reminder of his failure to match these expectations.

The sad truth is that the carbon, or in general the global warming trouble is the easy problem. Or, at least, it should be. In the case of the carbon imbalance, we seem to understand what goes on. We know what should be done, and it would be our global leaders' job to sort the burden sharing out. Clearly, they are failing.

This is very bad news for the global problems that have much less straightforward solutions than the carbon trouble. The easier of these will be the future economic instability. For even if the price of the current inaction will be a trough way deeper than what we have seen now, the effect will be only temporary. Not so in the case of the global ecological crisis. By the time the human societies will be impacted enough to register the catastrophe, the long term damage will be done and irreversible. If the global society is unable to sort out such a -- relatively -- clear cut problem as carbon emissions, there is no hope for the more complicated and less understood dangers.

Barack Obama commented that

"we should not make the perfect the enemy of the good"

Which is a good soundbite. The trouble is that the truthful sentence should have been something like this: by scaling down the Copenhagen agreement we might manage not to make the barely-acceptable-already-far-too-late measure the enemy of the disastrous inaction.


  1. maybe this will all turn out ok. of course Obama has let us down (again) but i am not sure that the green movement can be driven by big national government-level moves. maybe this will make people angry and worried enough to figure out some other way of doing things.

  2. A global level extra-legal governance solution? How would that come about you think?