If the US doesn’t get this right before November’s climate summit, it’ll severely limit the country’s power to influence global climate action.

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration cofounded by The Nation and Columbia Journalism Review to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

In November, world leaders will meet in Glasgow, Scotland, for a summit that will go a long way toward determining whether humanity preserves a livable planet. At COP26, the follow-up to the 2015 climate summit that gave us the Paris Agreement, countries are expected to revisit and update plans to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Together, leaders will either agree to dramatically reduce fossil fuel use, or they will fail to, further exposing humanity to the rising tide of climate destruction.

Given the monumental importance of COP26, it’s not unreasonable to imagine journalists covering the run-up to the summit as they would the run-up to a major election: reporters everywhere pressing leaders on their diplomatic preparations, commentators trading predictions on nightly news programs, newsrooms retooling their entire staffs to support wall-to-wall coverage. None of that is happening, and that’s a problem. But this article is about a different omission by the press.

Whether COP26 ends in success depends in large part on whether the United States’ delegation arrives in Glasgow with a credible plan. As the world’s largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases, the US is reasonably expected to enact its share of transformational climate action. America is also the world’s largest economy; with other large economies, including China and India, still reliant on fossil fuels to drive growth, the world is unlikely to strengthen emissions-reduction targets to the levels necessary unless the US is in a position to cajole, compel, and barter with its peers, as nations must at meetings like this.

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