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Friedman: Copenhagen a U.S.-China Power Struggle

The climate conference in Copenhagen has essentially boiled down to a power struggle between the U.S. and China, with the possibility of reaching a meaningful compromise hanging in the balance.

"In this case, I'm just not sure if a deal is really possible. There's a lot of circles here, circles within circles, but the circle that's in the middle of the whole thing has the United States and China. And these two powers, very wary of each other, each desperate not to have a deal here that will give strategic and economic advantage to the other," New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman told CBS' "The Early Show" Friday.

President Barack Obama arrived in Copenhagen Friday for the final day of the summit, telling fellow world leaders it wasn't too late to act "boldly and decisively in the face of a common threat."

After meeting with Chinese premier Wen Jibao, the White House reported a in the talks but it remains to be seen if the two nations can come to an agreement on transparency over reducing carbon emissions.

"The Chinese have basically said 'We promise not to go over the speed limit, but we want no police, no courts, no stoplights, no real transparency on their carbon emissions,'" said Friedman. "And President Obama is saying, 'If you think I can get that through the U.S. Congress - that China promises to be good on carbon - well, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.'"

Friedman thinks there are positives to be gained from the meetings, even if the U.S. and China are unable to settle their differences.

"The good news is that countries all over the world have really started what I like to call the earth race. We had a space race back in the '60s who could be the first to put a man on the moon … What we have now [is] … 'Who can build the most clean technologies so men and women can stay here on earth?' And that's a race that many countries can win."