The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Green Herring Obama Takes Hollande on Green Unicorn Hunt

President Obama is playing host to French President François Hollande this week, and the two heads of state have made climate change one of the key topics of the visit. The two discussed international action on the contentious issue in an op-ed in Monday’s Washington Post:

As we work toward next year’s climate conference in Paris, we continue to urge all nations to join us in pursuit of an ambitious and inclusive global agreement that reduces greenhouse gas emissions through concrete actions. The climate summit organized by the U.N. secretary general this September will give us the opportunity to reaffirm our ambitions for the climate conference in Paris.

It’s hard to think of a less fruitful challenge for the two embattled heads of state to tackle than renewing hopes of a Global Climate Treaty. That effort has been getting less and less likely over time, not more—the inevitable result of a wide gap in perceived responsibility for the problem and uncertainty about the kind, magnitude, and pace of the effects of a changing climate. It’s not hard to see why the world’s countries haven’t hammered out a binding deal yet.

Ironically, both the United States and France are in some ways already well positioned as green leaders, though the greens certainly don’t put it this way. France is heavily reliant on virtually zero-carbon emission energy production: nuclear power. Unlike Germany, France didn’t run scared from nuclear in the wake of Fukushima, and it’s better off for it. America meanwhile has managed to green its economy thanks in large part to the shale boom, which has displaced a significant amount of carbon-intensive coal in the national energy mix.

The GCT is dead, but that doesn’t mean Hollande and Obama don’t have a green leg to stand on between them. Fracking and nuclear may not earn the plaudits that the regular, and regularly fruitless, climate conferences do from environmentalists, but they’re a much better bet for Gaia.

Published on February 12, 2014 8:53 am
  • TommyTwo

    As that handsome devil TommyTwo commented just yesterday: “But we don’t want to deal with such atavistic realpolitik, we want to deal with matters such as national health plans, climate change, and peace processes! Why is Putin being such a meanie? It isn’t fair!”

  • Andrew Allison

    Un désespoirs! US CO2 emissions are at levels last seen a generation ago, France’s emissions per capita are a third of those of the US thanks to nuclear power production. Neither country needs to go on a CO2 Unicorn hunt.