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December 23, 2009 at 4:40 PM

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The Copenhagen climate hand shake

Posted by Marisa Willis

Don’t let the water run. Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Close the door behind you so you don’t let the heat out — All things most of us have heard from our parents (in my family, my dad was the Therm-o-stat hall monitor) since an early age.

So if these common energy-savings tips were engraved into our malleable young minds, why is it still so difficult for most of us to grasp the urgency of a major climate consensus?

President Obama just returned from Copenhagen, Denmark from a 193-country climate summit. The main topic discussed? Innovative ways to combat climate change and prevent Earth’s temperature from rising more than 2 degrees (Celsius) by 2050.

In the end, Obama, along with leaders from China, India, Brazil and South Africa vowed to decrease CO2 emissions and greenhouse gases, and provide $30 billion of emergency aid over the next three years to help poorer nations do the same.

What these so-called progressive leaders signed (the accord was only three pages long with 12 paragraphs), however, was by no means a binding agreement. The “Copenhagen Accord” is a political contract, not a legal contract.

Essentially, it’s a hand shake. A cross-my-heart-hope-die promise that could be broken without too much repercussions.

Though Obama’s intentions seen honest and good, I understand why environmentalists — ahem, Al Gore — are taking the news as a slap in the face.

Obama called the deal “an unprecedented breakthrough.”

Great. Excellent. But I think the world population expects and deserves more. Do you remembering hearing about the lengths Gov. Chris Gregoire and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton went to attend the summit? What do our local leaders think of the outcome?

Globally, even in greeny Northwest, we could have really used an environmental kick in the pants. World leaders had the opportunity to transform into real role models worth writing home about, but I think their resolutions came up short.

We don’t even honor basic energy-saving tips from our childhood — many don’t even turn off the lights when leaving our Seattle offices at night. I recently drove through downtown Seattle at 10 p.m. one night, and was astounded at the overbearing, yellow glow of overhead florescent lights, not being used.

Don’t get me wrong, hybrid cars and solar-paneled roofs are great for those who can afford them, but maybe we should go back to our elementary basics and reduce, reuse and recycle. The climate summit’s outcome has made me wonder: Did we bite off more than we can chew?

I feel as if Obama went to Copenhagen, and all we got was this lousy peace sign T-shirt, that’s not even manufactured environmentally friendly.

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