This is necessarily a subjective answer, but I’d say the United States and China have probably had the roughest experiences going into (and coming out of) the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. The US and China, as two of the world’s top generators of greenhouse gases, both have a tremendous amount at stake in climate change policy, and they arguably have the most to lose. Both US President Barack Obama and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao are navigating politically treacherous waters when it comes to climate change. Obama is already under fire from conservatives in the US Congress on issues such as health care reform and the economy, and with many conservative politicians asserting bluntly that they don’t even think global warming is real, the political will for the US to achieve a comprehensive policy and announce real greenhouse gas emission reduction targets at Copenhagen just wasn’t there. Similarly, the Chinese premier is dealing with hard-liners in the Communist Party who think that global warming is an imperialist plot designed to curb China’s economic growth and influence in the world, so they’re not likely to take well to hard emissions targets either. Without the cooperation of US and China, and probably the European Union, Russia and India as well, any coordinated worldwide effort to mitigate climate change is probably hopeless. Thus, the US and China have much of the heavy lifting to do in order to make this happen. If a deal is reached in the future–and there will be many other climate change summits in the coming years–it’s likely that the rest of the world will fall into place and we can move forward to combat global warming.
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