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Headlines from the last day of COP-15–Don’t be fooled

12/18/09

Early Saturday morning—hours after COP-15 was scheduled to end and when Obama gave his final speech—Alex and I perused the brandings that different media outlets had placed on the climate change summit.  Let’s just say they gave us a few laughs.

Activists have been calling for a fair, ambitious, and binding treaty in Copenhagen.  At the end of COP-15, we have none of those things, so I think it is fair to call the meeting unsuccessful (in the kindest words).  You wouldn’t get that impression from most of the headlines out there so don’t be fooled.

Yahoo’s headline was by far the most egregious:  “Obama says ‘unprecedented’ deal reached on climate.”  We thought there was a lot of precedent for doing nothing.  USA Today also put good news in the big letters:  “Obama: ‘Meaningful’ deal reached on climate.”  The Wall Street Journal—“Leaders Strike Climate Deal”—and The Washington Post—“World Leaders Reach Deal on Climate Change” (no link)—were also fairly positive.  The Los Angeles Times was a little more reserved, but you would still probably conclude success:  “Tentative deal reached to curb climate change”.  Both NPR—“U.S., China Reach Tentative Climate Compromise”—and BBC—“Key Powers Reach Compromise at Climate Summit”—at least warn us that the so-called deal was not perfect.

Other sources seemed to get it.  Fox News had probably the most straightforward header:  “Obama Announces Non-Binding Climate Agreement, Progress Will ‘Take Some Time.’”  The New York Times also chose not to sugarcoat things:  “Climate Deal Announced, but Falls Short of Expectations.”  UK sources were reserved as well; The Guardian bolds “Low targets, goals dropped: Copenhagen ends in failure,” and The London Times pronounces “Copenhagen deadlock wrapped up as emissions deal.”  Al Jazeera—from the Middle East—also hit spot-on:  “Copenhagen ‘drops climate deadline.’”  TIME Magazine ponders:  “Drama at the Copenhagen Summit: Deal or No Deal?”  This is a good question to ask since nobody really knows the details at the moment.

I’m not sure what you could gather from NewWeek’s headline.  It doesn’t comment on the actual result; instead it just gives commentary:  “Why the End of Copenhagen is Good.”  The article should at least be interesting.

Other regional papers such as The Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, The Seattle Times, The Boston Globe let the U.N. meetings slip through the cracks.  You can’t really blame them though.  Even CNN failed to get a story up.  Instead they led off with the chilly weather:  “Major Winter Storm Slamming East Coast” (no link).

Hopefully, the real, un-spun story—the one that does not try to characterize Copenhagen as a success—will be the ones with the most airtime in the near future.

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