12 October 2021

The New York Times: “John Kerry’s Sales Pitch to Save the Planet”

Portrait of John Kerry, the US presidential envoy for climate
I think most of the problems on Earth are caused by human beings, said John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy. And if we cause them, we ought to be able to solve them or prevent them. Al Drago for The New York Times

I deeply believe that this is a major crisis for our world, he said, as he relaxed in his hotel suite after a battery of meetings with Indian ministers and business leaders. And this is a moment where we have a chance to do something about it. And who can say no to a president of the United States who asks you to do that at this particular moment in time.

The wind is not at his back.

His trip last week ended without a commitment from India, the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitting country, that it would raise its ambitions to fight climate change. He ended a recent trip to China, the top emitter, similarly empty-handed. Brazil, which plans to continue burning coal for the next 30 years and where deforestation of the Amazon is a major contributor to climate change, skipped a virtual climate meeting convened by Mr. Biden last week.

Lisa Friedman

Unfortunately for John Kerry’s crucial mission, in international politics as in most aspects of life facts matter more than words and intentions. And facts speak against him at every step of the way: the United States is by far the largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases, but has done little to lead the world towards workable solutions. Instead, US lawmakers have constantly delayed and watered down these issues, incentivized by generous lobbying from the oil industry. As I write this, Biden’s modest climate agenda is stuck in Congress, opposed by members of his own Democratic party! And the same Congress has absolutely no issue approving, year after year, substantially higher military budgets.

How are other countries and leaders expected to trust promises from the current administration when Donald Trump may well return as US President in 2024? How are we expected to take seriously a country where followers of one party are gobbling up horse drugs to avoid getting a vaccine, while representatives of the other party are accusing horses of racism?!

Update: Some additional reporting about one of the senators resisting tighter regulations on fossil fuels – and more evidence that the American political system runs on corruption, for the benefit of big corporations, not for its citizens:

But Mr. Manchin is also closely associated with the fossil fuel industry. His beloved West Virginia is second in coal and seventh in natural gas production among the 50 states. In the current election cycle, Mr. Manchin has received more campaign donations from the oil, coal and gas industries than any other senator, according to data compiled by OpenSecrets, a research organization that tracks political spending.

He profits personally from polluting industries: He owns stock valued at between $1 million and $5 million in Enersystems Inc., a coal brokerage firm which he founded in 1988. He gave control of the firm to his son, Joseph, after he was elected West Virginia secretary of state in 2000. Last year, Mr. Manchin made $491,949 in dividends from his Enersystems stock, according to his Senate financial disclosure report.

It says something fascinating about our politics that we’re going to have a representative of fossil fuel interests crafting the policy that reduces our emissions from fossil fuels, said Joseph Aldy, who helped craft former President Barack Obama’s climate change bill and now teaches at Harvard.

Coral Davenport

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