Climate change: Will the U.S. be a leader or a laggard at Copenhagen conference?

The U.S. has an appointment with history. The upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, slated for December, represents an opportunity for the U.S. to urge the world into taking serious action on climate change -- and reclaim America's leadership role in world affairs, a role that has taken a beating of late. Or the U.S. could retreat from that leadership opportunity, sink back into bickering over short-term domestic disputes, and continue what seems to be an ever-increasing slide into paper-tiger status.

That's the worry of former Irish prime minister John Bruton, now the European Union's ambassador to the U.S. Calling for action on New York radio station WNYC last week, Bruton called America's overconsumption of fossil fuels and dependence on unfriendly countries a national security issue. His remarks echoed those of Energy Secretary Steve Chu, who, when he was director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, urged the U.S. to take the long view on climate change and to take action:


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