Today President Obama meets with other world leaders in Copenhagen, Denmark for a meeting on climate change. This meeting come on the heels of the discovery of hacked e-mails at the University of East Anglia which bring a part of the research on the effects and causes of global warming into question. While asking such questions is always important in good science, there is no reason to doubt such a tremendous area of research because of the intellectual laziness and dishonesty of three scientists.
This morning 56 papers in 45 countries publish a joint editorial which declares climate change a profound emergency. Low lying countries like the Maldives look warily to the tides. When home is an island just a few feet above sea level, taking action on climate change is more than a moral issue - it is survival. The Maldives are not alone, most of the world's population lives close to coastlines and near sea level. After the now famous images from Hurricane Katrina, it shouldn't be hard to imagine meters of water covering the streets of New York, Norfolk, Houston, and Boston.
The president's participation in Copenhagen presents the possibility for real international action on climate change. In 1997 the United States chose to opt out of the Kyoto protocols which set targets for reducing carbon emissions by 2012. Many onlookers doubt that any real policy change will come out of the Copenhagen meeting. However, the world's largest emitters are all participating. Even more hopeful is that two of the highest profile polluters not involved with Kyoto, The US and China, are coming to Copenhagen with significant proposals in hand to reduce and regulate their own emissions. This suggests that there may be real cooperative action taken across international and ideological lines to stop the human contribution to global warming.