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Even a Nobel Prize winner can't bluff China

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen on December 18, 2009.

The Chinese, who've been negotiating for a heck of a lot longer than the United States has been on the map, are fully aware of President Barack Obama's stunning political weakness at the end of his first year in office.

They also understand, as does Canada, the inconvenient truth that Bill Clinton and Al Gore did not even attempt to have the Kyoto Protocol ratified by the U.S. Senate - and there's no assurance this time either, as can be seen in the protracted debate over health care.

And, as the chief banker of the United States, they will understand that the mega-billions Hillary Clinton put on the table yesterday were pure fluff, intended primarily to divide the Group of 77 in advance of the President's arrival in Copenhagen.

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In the circumstances, if you were negotiating for China and in Premier Wen Jiabao's shoes, would you make any important or irreversible concessions in Copenhagen?

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Update The Washington Post has just posted on its website the results of its latest poll conducted jointly with ABC News:

"Most [of those surveyed]oppose a widely floated proposal in which the United States and other industrialized countries would contribute $10 billion a year to help developing countries pay for reducing the amount of greenhouse gases they release. Overall, 57 per cent of those polled oppose this idea; 39 per cent support it. Most Republicans (74 per cent) and independents (58 per cent) are against this proposal, while a small majority of Democrats (54 per cent) are supportive.

At the same time, there's growing negativity toward the president's handling of the broader global warming issue. Around the 100-day mark of Obama's presidency, 61 percent approved of the way he was dealing with the issue. Approval slumped to 54 per cent in June and to 45 per cent in the new poll.

The drop in Obama's ratings has been driven by a steep slump among political independents, who went from 62 per cent positive in April to 36 per cent now.

Scientists themselves also come in for more negative assessments in the poll, with four in 10 Americans now saying that they place little or no trust in what scientists have to say about the environment."

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(Photo: The U.S. President speaks today in Copenhagen. Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

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