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Obama Should Go to Copenhagen

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In 2007, within hours of his swearing in ceremony as Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd traveled to Bali to drop in on the United Nation's global conference on climate change. Rudd's presence and his affirmation of Australia's alignment with conference goals made headlines around the world.

President Obama should do the same thing. He should travel to Copenhagen, not simply because the whole world IS watching, but because nearly 20,000 delegates from 193 countries have been waiting since 1997 for the U.S. to align its climate change goals with the rest of the world.

Two years ago, when I blogged the UN conference in Bali, I was continuously reporting on road blocks that the United States and Bush Administration delegates were using to derail the decision-making process.

My blog was syndicated in print and on radio. At one point, in a telephone interview, I was challenged: "Is the U.S. really being an obstructionist on climate change?" My response was "Yes, at every turn." This behind-the-scenes story was being ignored by most news media, until it became too obvious to ignore.

On the final day of negotiations, when it was clear that delegates from 192 countries would not get the leadership they needed from the U.S., a well-spoken young delegate from Papua New Guinea stood up and faced the U.S. delegates across the room. His charge that the U.S. had tried to obstruct the process at every turn was cheered by most delegates.

Yes, Obama must go to Copenhagen, to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. His sheer presence and an inspiring speech on why such an agreement is needed will make headlines around the world. A skeptical public needs to hear reasons why we need to care about the Earth.

Obama needs to remind us that unless we take personal action to reduce our use of fossil fuels, unless we learn to consume less of everything, we will have forfeited the greatest opportunity of a lifetime to do something truly heroic.

Here in Colorado, scientists warn that within six years, most pine forests in the state -- now under attack by pine beetles -- will be dead. Aspen trees, linked to one another underground, forming perhaps the largest living organism on Earth, are also failing. Invasive insects, it seems, are following rising temperatures into the forests.

If crisis offers an opportunity for rapid change, then Copenhagen is an opportunity that is ripe for Obama's global leadership.