To help Obama win a Senate vote on emission caps, she needs to have China take action on global warming, too.
Hillary Clinton chose Asia, particularly China, for her maiden voyage next week as secretary of State. While the most urgent issue is Beijing's help to end a global recession, Mrs. Clinton's more planet-saving goal is to enlist China to set curbs on its carbon emissions. Without that, President Obama may not be able to win enough Senate votes for a cap on US greenhouse gases.
As the world's two largest emitters, China and the US will set the pace this year among all nations in make-or-break negotiations for a post-Kyoto treaty on global warming. The talks end this December with a summit in Copenhagen.
If the world is to make a commitment to fight climate change, each of these giant polluters needs to know the other will jump into the same chilly pool of obligatory curbs on their tailpipes and smokestacks.
But if China isn't making much of a sacrifice, many US senators, especially those from coal states, may not support CO2 cuts or a treaty seen as reducing US competitiveness. China says it and other developing countries deserve to be allowed to pollute for a while to catch up to modern standards.
Mrs. Clinton must break this standoff. The bleak future that each country faces in a warming planet isn't all that different. And working together on climate change might even draw them closer.