Afternoon nap and 85-car convoy at COP26: The optic challenge of Joe Biden's climate image

The US president was seen appearing to snooze on the first day of crucial COP26 climate talks. Credit: Twitter/Zach Purser Brown

The Earth is in peril, the world’s power brokers have been called to action and arguably the most powerful of them all was caught dozing off.

Not great optics for the US President and just the kind of thing Joe Biden and his team are keen to avoid.

At 78, his stamina and fitness are always under scrutiny. Fitness and fitness for office ripe territory for his critics.

To be fair he has run to a gruelling schedule. He delayed leaving Washington as he tried to force through his infrastructure and social spending bills, he arrived in Rome in the early hours of Friday morning, then it was off to the Vatican, followed by two days of meetings, speeches and a press conference.

After dawn mass he left Rome this morning, heading straight for the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

Most of us will have succumbed to such a mid-afternoon slump before, but this is another one of the off-script moments that have a habit of becoming a talking point when they involve the president.

A maskless Boris Johnson was also pictured appearing to doze off during the summit. Credit: PA

Since the tumble up the steps of Airforce One in March he is clearly anxious to avoid anything that takes the focus from the message to the man himself.

Getting out of the car at the Vatican he was moving so gingerly it looked as if the footage has been slowed down.

It’s also clear on this trip his team have sought to reign in his unscripted moments.

He doesn’t answer so many questions shouted by journalists after what had been viewed as a successful G7 ended up being hijacked by a spat with a journalist he later apologised to.

None of these things are huge deals in themselves, but put together in a political climate as polarised as America, these days they carry a weight.

They’re bad for the optics… a bit like an 85-vehicle convoy to get to talks on how to tackle climate change.