photo: Joshua Debner via flickr.
Like, I imagine, everyone in the world not privy to the inner workings of the Nobel Prize selection process this year, when I learned that President Obama had been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize I was, well, confused. While it is certainly true that Obama has reengaged the United States with the international community in a way not seen in many years, and has shown strong rhetorical leadership on many issues directly and indirectly tied to world peace, I couldn't help but wonder if this was all a bit too soon? Given For His Work in Reengaging With International Community
In awarding him the prize, the Nobel Prize committee said that the award was given for his work in the past year.
Obama has as president created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play.
Furthermore, President Obama's work in attempting to create a nuclear weapon-free world were singled out -- whether he's actually done anything concrete in that regard seems not to matter.
...And For What He Might Yet Do
As Lou Klareves aptly puts it over at the Huffington Post,
No matter how you look at it, President Obama did not receive this award because he brought peace to some place in the world (the way previous recipients like Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela did).
President Obama is this year's Nobel laureate not because of peace but because of promise.
Rebuke of Bush-Cheney Administration...
Sure, after eight years of the neocon cowboy 'diplomacy' of Bush-Cheney, even admitting that there was such a thing as international community and multilateral diplomacy is a huge step. And, compared to his predecessor, the Obama administration's stance on environmental issues broadly and climate change in specific couldn't been greener.
But still, I have to agree with Kate Sheppard over at Mother Jones: When it comes to climate change I'm a bit surprised at the credit he's getting.
Yes, yes, his position is far better than George Bush's, but it's not radically different than any the majority of other leaders in the developed world, with no strong pledge on emission reductions. OK, you can argue, as the Secretary of Energy has done, that truly deep cuts aren't politically achievable in the US right now. But from my perspective that doesn't cut it. Not at all: The planet doesn't care about politically achievable.
The Pressure's Really On to Lead on Climate
Which brings me back to the title of this post: President Obama, what are you going to do now when it comes to the environment? After all, even hard-headed national security types, including the CIA, say climate change is a threat to national security and world peace.
As Climate Progress points out, Obama has already said he'd personally attend the COP15 climate talks if he's invited -- and considering the presentation of the Peace Prize is on December 10th in Oslo (right at the start of the talks for those without their calendars handy) this really can be seen as a de facto invitation. So, show up in Copenhagen already.
...And Make a Strong Emission Reduction Pledge
That's the symbolic part. More practically, much stronger leadership on climate change is needed, in the form of scientifically-based emission reduction targets (if Norway can make 40% cuts by 2020, why not the US if not just a lack of political will?) most prominently.
If there's anything that will break the deadlock between negotiators from developed and developing nations at this point, it's genuinely strong, even provocative, action from national leaders.
You've already given the US and the world hope Mr President, now give us satisfaction. Satisfaction in knowing that you're personally willing to stand up to those domestic and international climate change deniers and foot-draggers and do what science, people and the planet requires.
Global Climate Change
Obama's UN Climate Speech Lacked Details to Lead World Forward: McKibben
President Obama, Please Live Up to Your Climate Change Rhetoric & Truly Lead!
Germany Leads, US Still Brings Up the Rear: G8 Nations' Climate Change Performance Ranking Released