Some Call Copenhagen a Failure, but Maybe It's Just a Beginning

The Copenhagen climate summit may not be quite the failure some are saying.

It brought into sharp focus a crisis unprecedented in human history.

And on a single day -- Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009 -- it presented an historic spectacle.

One after another, most of the 120-plus heads of state or government here each declared at the podium in their own way that the climate crisis is grave -- quite possibly threatening civilization itself by mid century if humanity doesn't change behavior.

VIDEO: Bill Blakemores Update from Copenhagen Climate Conference

Presidents and prime ministers, almost all delivered the same sharp news. They moved way beyond the science and affirmed ownership of the psychologically painful knowledge that global warming is above all a story about national and global security -- increasingly a threat to civil society as temperatures rise and oceans acidify.

The great majority of earth's heads of state or government were delivering this news clearly and succinctly all on one day and as if with one voice. But, agreed on the simple problem, they found the solution devilishly complex, as of course it is.

The unfolding and accelerating climate crisis came with no instruction book.

VIDEO: David Axelrod, Sens. Dick Durbin and Jon Kyl

Lasse Milbo, the taxi driver who brought me back to the convention center Saturday morning ("They call me Taxi Lasse -- or just Lars"), a voluble man who declared that he likes to take a humorous approach to things because "it's good for the health," asked me a reasonable question:

"Why is it that when they have these big conferences about global warming they fly everybody from all over the world, drive them around in limos, and all emitting tons of CO2 into the air -- and with a lot of police escorts, helicopters, fighter jets...?"

I thought about it.

"Well, we aren't ready yet," I said. "Teleconferencing is getting pretty good -- but we aren't ready yet to have the world's leaders stay home but meet on some super multi-screen all at once and hash out a global crisis."

VIDEO: Obama heads to Copenhagen to find a compromise in the global warming stalemate.

Then I added: "And there's nothing like the leaders themselves actually getting together, flesh and blood, and engaging with each other's anguish directly and personally -- close enough for pheromones. It makes it real human. Really real."

Taxi Lasse enjoyed that answer.

He also told me wonders about his taxi, a Mercedes E-Class 220 CDI diesel: "Particle filters, recirculation of the exhaust, and a two-way catalytic converter. It's got all the stuff -- not a puff of black smoke, and more environment-friendly than Toyota Prius!"

He spoke with pride of Denmark's global leadership-by-example as a virtually carbon-neutral country.

Some Call Copenhagen a Failure, but Maybe It's Just a Beginning

"We do our best," he said modestly, and dropped me off at the fast-emptying Bella Center, a ghost town now by comparison to the previous days' swirling masses of thousands of delegates, journalists, NGO reps and activists.

No more than a hundred fellow professional journalists from around the world were still at work on wrap-up stories.

On the monitors you could see delegates over in the great hall still debating the controversial "Copenhagen Accord," though by early afternoon they would wrap up and issue the final Accord draft, which the great majority would sign on to, but by no means all.

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