Canada's environment minister Catherine McKenna is being pilloried this week, quite rightly, for a tweet welcoming two Paris-accord holdouts into the COP23 club of climate virtuosity: "Canada salutes Nicaragua and Syria for joining on to the Paris Agreement!" McKenna has since disavowed the tweet, but her critics' point stands. Those presently congregated in Bonn to save the planet are so delighted that Donald Trump remains the last Paris holdout that they are willing to embrace even Bashar al Assad as a fellow traveler. As Rex Murphy so memorably wondered, "Has he pledged to cut back on the gas attack emissions?"
The real story coming out of Bonn is related to McKenna's faux pas, and has everything to do with the optics of "climate action" and the less-visible contortions of world leaders. In the words of famed NASA climate scientist James Hansen, who is attending COP23, Donald Trump's climate denialism is immaterial because the Paris accord is "completely hopeless" in any case. "It was already hopeless with the preceding [Obama] government, which pretended that it was solving the problem but was taking only baby steps. It allowed the building of tar sands pipelines, the development of fracking to get more gas out of the ground, tar shale being developed in North Dakota, drilling in the deep ocean, drilling in the Arctic." Meanwhile, in Germany itself—where tens of thousands of eco-protesters have taken to the streets to demand "Revolution, Not Pollution"—77 coal-powered generating stations remain on the grid, greenhouse-gas emissions are rising, and the country is likely to miss its 2020 emissions target. This harsh reality will not prevent Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron from concluding COP23 with a joint address—where they, too, with any luck, will take thinly veiled pot shots at the American president and welcome the Syrian dictator into the elect.