Obama Optimism

I always enjoy Gwynne Dyer’s commentary on world affairs, but do not read nearly enough of it. Very few Canadian newspapers print columns by this Canadian-born journalist. Exceptions include Dyer’s hometown newspaper, the St. John’s Telegram, as well as The Hamilton Spectator and Guelph Mercury.

Dyer’s lengthy year-end column combines a review of events in most corners of the world with forward-looking comments on several global issues. I was particularly interested to read his take on Barack Obama’s incoming administration:

For a time – possibly a quite extended period of time – Obama will be free to do what he thinks is right, and to justify it in terms of the crisis. His cabinet and other high-level appointments suggest that he will make few initiatives in foreign policy, limiting himself perhaps to speeding up the timetable for withdrawing American troops from Iraq that has already been forced on President Bush, but that domestic affairs will see a whirlwind of change.

Health care, education and welfare are all areas where Obama can and probably will push through reforms that have been stalled for several decades, but it has become increasingly clear in recent weeks that environment – climate change, to be specific – will be the area to see the most radical policy changes. The United States, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, is about to switch from being the main obstacle to global action to being its chief proponent.

So there’s a bit of unadulterated hope.

This optimistic but plausible assessment is notable coming from Dyer, who applies a healthy dollop of cynicism to most issues.

My only quibble is that China has in fact surpassed the US as “the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.” However, the US is still by far the world’s largest consumer market, so an American carbon tariff could do much to reduce worldwide emissions.


  • per capita the US is by far the largest emitter. And to me that is a more accurate assessment vehicle, as it is the lifestyle change that a good majority of the world seems to be clamouring for that needs to have a rethinking and redesign.

  • Quibble for your quibble. Dyer isn’t necessarily wrong in still asserting that the US is “the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.” because such statements need more clarification.

    I think with China, you are referring to the countries respective annual rate of greenhouse gas emissions. However, in terms of absolute greenhouse gas concentrations currently in the atmosphere that have been emitted by those respective countries… the US will remain to be the world leader in GHG emissions in that respect for still some time.

  • I subscribe the a Google News Alert for Gwynne Dyer to get his columns, and occasional letters to the editor about his columns. His columns also appear on his website, but it is only updated once a month or so.

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