It's not enough for Barack Obama to negotiate a climate change deal with China. It's Earth that matters, not China. However the approach Obama is taking virtually guarantees we're all going to fail in the fight against global warming. From The New Republic:
It's been a long year--Barack Obama has faced, in rough order, John McCain, global financial collapse, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Blue Dogs, the Progressive Caucus, the Gang of Six, Glenn Beck, Representative Joe Wilson (R-Hissy), and the third of Republicans convinced he was born somewhere else. Of course, minus the birth certificates, roughly the same has been true for Hu Jintao and Nicolas Sarkozy, for Angela Merkel and Manmohan Singh. That's what politics is--a series of challenges, which are rarely won or lost completely. You get part of what you wanted (everyone with health insurance), and maybe you leave other stuff for another day (the public option). That's why we call politics the pursuit of the possible.
And it's why the next big issue on the agenda is totally, scarily different. Assuming that the health care fracas eventually ends, Washington will tackle the president's other great priority for his administration--energy and climate. The House has already approved the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, and a Senate version is expected at month's end. Even if Congress drags its feet, Obama will visit China in mid-November to likely conclude a bilateral pact that will set the stage for the huge Copenhagen climate conference in December. It promises to be one more big fight.
But, throughout the process, as industry and environmentalists, Chinese and Indians, Americans and Europeans push and prod each other, another more important negotiation will be going on behind the scenes. That negotiation features human beings--led more by Obama than anyone else on the planet--against physics and chemistry. It's not going to be enough to strike a deal with Beijing or Delhi, to meet in the middle on some mutually plausible scheme. A deal has to be struck with the climate itself, and the climate is unlikely to haggle.
The logic is inescapable. Unless you negotiate within a "never exceed" emissions framework, all you'll accomplish is to negotiate yourself right past a tipping point where the planet's natural carbon dioxide and methane emission mechanisms are triggered. If you don't negotiate to stay well within that threshold, your negotiations are disastrous to the point of potentially lethal.