Environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben of 350.org voiced his disapproval. Writing for Grist, McKibben summarized what Obama accomplished:
He blew up the United Nations. The idea that there's a world community that means something has disappeared tonight. The clear point is, you poor nations can spout off all you want on questions like human rights or the role of women or fighting polio or handling refugees. But when you get too close to the center of things that count--the fossil fuel that's at the center of our economy--you can forget about it. We're not interested. You're a bother, and when you sink beneath the waves we don't want to hear much about it. The dearest hope of the American right for fifty years was essentially realized because in the end coal is at the center of America's economy. We already did this with war and peace, and now we've done it with global warming. What exactly is the point of the U.N. now?
He formed a league of super-polluters, and would-be super-polluters. China, the U.S., and India don't want anyone controlling their use of coal in any meaningful way. It is a coalition of foxes who will together govern the henhouse. It is no accident that the targets are weak to nonexistent. We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves with targets, he said. Indeed. And now imagine what this agreement will look like with the next Republican president.
He demonstrated the kind of firmness and resolve that Americans like to see. It will play well politically at home and that will be the worst part of the deal. Having spurned Europe and the poor countries of the world, he will reap domestic political benefit. George Bush couldn't have done this--the reaction would have been too great. Obama has taken the mandate that progressives worked their hearts out to give him, and used it to gut the ideas that progressives have held most dear. The ice caps won't be the only things we lose with this deal.
McKibben's sentiment was echoed by Britain's leading climate writer, George Monbiot, who wrote:
Even before this new farce began it was starting to look as if it might be too late to prevent two or more degrees of global warming. The nation states, pursuing their own interests, have each been passing the parcel of responsibility since they decided to take action in 1992.
We have now lost 17 precious years; possibly the only years in which climate breakdown could have been prevented. This has not happened by accident: it is the result of a systematic campaign of sabotage by certain states, which has been driven and promoted by the energy industries. This idiocy has been aided and abetted by the nations characterized, until now, as the good guys: those which have made firm commitments, only to invalidate them with loopholes, false accounting and outsourcing. In all cases immediate self-interest has trumped the long-term welfare of humankind. Corporate profits and political expediency have proved to be more urgent concerns than either the natural world or human civilization. Our political systems are incapable of discharging the main function of government: to protect us from each other.
Goodbye Africa, goodbye south Asia; goodbye glaciers and sea ice, coral reefs and rainforest; it was nice knowing you, not that we really cared. The governments which moved so swiftly to save the banks have bickered and filibustered while the biosphere burns.
The next meeting of parties is scheduled for November 2010 in Mexico City, but it's unclear if a binding agreement will be put in place then. Friday's agreement set a goal of 2015.