At the tail end of a miserable year for President Obama, he has scored a gain on the most stagnant political debate this century. Climate change.
Domestic politics is a presidential graveyard since the mid terms put republicans in charge of the Senate as well as the House. Unlike Bill Clinton, Obama cannot use US military action for political advantage. His foolish withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 allowed the ISIS cancer to grow out of the carcinogenic Syrian civil war.
It is probable that a few trade agreements, like the Trans-Pacific-Partnership-Agreement, will tolerably round out his legacy. But it’s not the stuff Mt Rushmore’s are made of. A very pleasant surprise then to discover this week that the US and China have agreed to cut carbon emissions by a quarter by 2025, and cap carbon emissions by 2030 respectively.
Then Obama arrived in Brisbane for the G20 and warned of the dangers of ignoring the threat of global warming. Over the muffled objections of the Australian Abbott government, whose strategy for dealing with climate change is to find the nearest pillow and scream defiance into it, Obama has had climate change added to the final communique, with an urging for member nations to take material action.
This is not the breakthrough the environmentalists seek, and it shouldn’t be overstated. But it is significant in that China is on board. The last Time magazine featured an analysis of Chinese president Xi Jinping, who is regarded as the most powerful Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping. If he agrees to something, he can move all of China behind it. Unlike the managerial and thoroughly blank former president Hu Jintao. Much of Obama’s final two years in office could be spent zooming about in airforce one on the diplomatic circuit. Foreign policy is the one area an American president has almost undisputed authority. Given Obama’s tact and charm in dealing with foreign leaders, he should play to his strengths in the last quarter.