Obama To Name Climate Hawk John Kerry Secretary Of State

In the first serious indication Obama will focus on climate change in his second term, the President will nominate Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to be Secretary of State, media outlets report.

Kerry is one of the Senate’s leading climate hawks who has said he believes that climate change is the “biggest long term threat” to national security.

Of course, team Obama is known for effectively muzzling the most ardent of climate hawks. Back in February 2009, for instance, Energy Secretary and Nobelist Steven Chu said “Wake up,” America, “we’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California.” But one hardly hears such language from him these days. Same goes for science advisor and one-time climate hawk John Holdren.

Kerry, however, seems far less likely to be muzzled. Indeed, in a speech this summer on the Senate floor, he slammed the U.S. political discussion as a “conspiracy of silence … a story of disgraceful denial, back-pedaling, and delay that has brought us perilously close to a climate change catastrophe.” He called it:

a silence that empowers misinformation and mythology to grow where science and truth should prevail. It is a conspiracy that has not just stalled, but demonized any constructive effort to put America in a position to lead the world on this issue….

Climate change is one of two or three of the most serious threats our country now faces, if not the most serious, and the silence that has enveloped a once robust debate is staggering for its irresponsibility….

I hope and pray colleagues commit to transformative change in our politics. I hope we confront the conspiracy of silence head-on and allow complacence to yield to common sense, and narrow interests to bend to the common good. Future generations are counting on us.

One would certainly expect Kerry to not merely use his position to speak out on the issue but also to push both domestic and international action. He was after all coauthor, with Senators  Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), of broad climate legislation in 2009 and 2010 (that withered like our wheat crop in a Dust Bowl as Obama tended to other matters, like health care).

National Journal reports:

“No senator since Al Gore knows as much about the science and diplomacy of climate change as Kerry,” said David Goldwyn, an international energy consultant who served as Clinton’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs. “He would not only put climate change in the top five issues he raises with every country, but he would probably rethink our entire diplomatic approach to the issue.”

Climate hawks should be enthusiastic supporters of this nomination, which is expected to sail through the U.S. Senate (in part because Republicans want Scott Brown to have another shot at a Massachusetts Senate seat).

I’m not sure Kerry could become Secretary of State fast enough to influence the Keystone XL pipeline decision, but it is hard to believe he would not have raised this issue with the President, since a go-ahead decision would immediately undercut the Administration’s credibility on the climate issue both at home and abroad.

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37 Responses to Obama To Name Climate Hawk John Kerry Secretary Of State

  1. prokaryotes says:

    A very wise decision!

  2. prokaryotes says:

    A Secretary John Kerry Would Elevate Climate Issues

    “No senator since Al Gore knows as much about the science and diplomacy of climate change as Kerry,” said David Goldwyn, an international energy consultant who served as Clinton’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs. “He would not only put climate change in the top five issues he raises with every country, but he would probably rethink our entire diplomatic approach to the issue.”

  3. prokaryotes says:

    Oops, Joe already posted this :)

  4. Here’s hoping. It’s a second-term presidency in a go-for-broke situation. It’s the time to do it, but very tricky to get serious without provoking a backlash that shows up in the next election.

    But of course it’s a risk Kerry and Obama should take. Let Chu loose. We’ve wasted all the time we can waste.

  5. Telzey Amberdon says:

    It’s a good news/bad news thing, guys. The Republicans have been very unsubtle about pushing for Kerry as Sec of State so they could go for his vacated seat and get Scott Brown back in there as Senator, like an albatross around the neck of poor freshman Senator Elizabeth Warren. The Dems better run someone really terrific and dedicated against Brown for Kerry’s seat, people may vote for the odious Brown just because he’s someone they recognize. Warren cleaned his clock, they need someone to do this again.

  6. There are some possibilities here. As strange as it sounds, it is not too early to think about who will succeed Obama in the White House. Climate change will continue to manifest, and could be recognized as the serious threat that it is by the general public before the next election. And Kerry isn’t too old to to run against . . . Ryan?

    Any response to climate change will require a progressive ramping up of energy applications, biosequestration and some adaption measures. Assuming anything resembling an appropriate response is begun by the Obama administration, it must be continued and strengthened in decades to come. I was thinking/hoping that Al Gore might give it another shot, but in lieu of that, Kerry might be a good choice

  7. Omega Centauri says:

    Hard for me to think of this an other than an unacceptably high risk of an own-goal. I don’t think of Sec-of-State as an office that can push climate action, particularly coming from the chief knuckle-dragger nation. First we have to get domestic political/regulatory action going, then maybe we have some possibility of trying to influence others. I see this as putting a AGW warrior out-to-pasture, than as giving him more power to pursue the good fight.

  8. Bighorn says:

    Ughhh, do y’all remember how Obama bragged that his administration developed more fossil fuel than any other administration in US history? Hmmm, so John Kerry is going to save the world from climate change? That’s like appointing Herman Muster as the defense secretary! Wait, they almost actually did that!

  9. Mike Roddy says:

    Kerry will be a much better Secretary of State than Hillary, and would be a better President than either her or Obama.

    The only problem is that the Secretary of State portfolio includes a lot more peacekeeping, Middle East shuttles etc than climate negotiations. Obama will have to authorize those. Kerry’s appointment is a good sign, but we’ve learned to not get our hopes up with “all of the above” Obama. Holdren and Chu were supposed to wake people up, too, but Obama muzzled them, and even got Chu on board with drilling.

    Let’s hope Barry surprises us.

  10. Paul Klinkman says:

    One of the most important climate change fronts is international agreements. Whaling of endangered species was, if not 100% stopped, at least slowed to a crawl by the non-whaling nations threatening to sanction the few whaling nations. The holes in the ozone layer were fixed by agreements to phase out worldwide use of chlorofluorocarbons, which eventually leak out of refrigerators and into the atmosphere.

    We need both multinational corporations and nations to adhere to a kind of Sullivan Principles for climate. We need all sorts of sanctions against backsliders.

    We need an international commitment to mitigation of the effects of greenhouse gases. We need methods to restore the Arctic Ocean’s ice pack by transferring heat out of the Arctic Ocean in winter. We may want to cover Arctic land masses with artificially made snow in late spring and in early fall, to reflect more sunlight back into space and to reduce the Greenland ice sheet’s albedo.

    We need to start developing and prototyping some effective mass sequestration mechanisms for photosynthesis-generated hydrocarbons — cellulose and oils should be buried for an average of 2500 years. We may want to enhance natural sequestration. For example, pumping seawater with wind power into man-made lagoons in the low California desert turns each particular desert area into a fireproof natural carbon sink, and it enhances nightly fog precipitation onto nearby plants a bit.

  11. Superman1 says:

    Meaningless! Politicians answer to two main groups: their campaign sponsors, and the electorate. The deep pockets types are comfortable with the status quo; they’re doing quite well and don’t want any changes. The electorate may respond positively on polls, but they are willing to do next to nothing to make real changes, and use less fossil fuel.

    So, there is little incentive for the politicians to push for any real change, absent the whole-hearted support from their two main audiences. We will hear some fiery words from Kerry, and that’s where it will end.

  12. dick smith says:

    Grateful Ode to the Idiots

    The fossil-fuel folks made a mess,
    With Republican senators no less.
    They should have been backing,
    The gal who was packing,
    All those Tar Sands stocks in her nest.

  13. dick smith says:

    And, there is the Durban Platform for 2015 …and bilateral negotiations with China and India.

  14. prokaryotes says:

    Then i suggest you check out latest polls, the momentum is here and will only grow, because we reached tipping points.

  15. Jay Alt says:

    It depends on what tasks Barak the Dawdler sets for him. One could go back to 2008 and all the positive statements and promises about fighting Climate Change that Hillary Clinton. We could imagine that she’d be terrific at pushing for an international treaty.

  16. Benthicooze says:

    It would take a D.C.tsunami to jolt Congress into action on any environmental concerns regardless of the designated cheerleader. They can’t see past the cliff.

  17. Bob Lang says:

    If John Kerry is a true climate hawk, does this mean Keystone XL is dead?
    The State Dept. has the final say, as this pipeline crosses an international border.

  18. sandy Kicklighter says:

    I think by taking one of the most vocal proponents for action regarding climate change out of the Senate while it does not muzzle him it does greatly reduce his effectiveness. The world does not need to hear from our country about the dangers of Climate Control, many countries are ahead of us in dealing with this issue and can very rightly question what right have we to tell them what to do when our Congress is completely unwillingly to address the need themselves. It seems to me more than ever we need Kerry in the Senate where he can continue to stand up and speak to this issue. Add to that if Kerry should leave the Senate it is a forgone conclusion that Scott Brown would take over his seat in another special election and his corporate strings are most unlikely to be allow progress on this issue or most others that benefit people over corporate profits.

  19. Joe Romm says:

    I don’t agree. First off, Secretary of State Is considerably more powerful and influential both inside and outside of this country than one Senator. Second, even if Brown won, which is far from a done deal (he just got rejected by the voters, after all), he’s a likely vote for any deal that could get 60 votes in the Senate anyway!

  20. Omega Centauri says:

    Pushing for an international treaty, is like saying “Do as I say, Not as I do!”. We have to make doing credible before we can bring anyone else along. And then there is a worst case, if we got an international treaty, we wouldn’t ratify it.

  21. Alteredstory says:

    While this is certainly better than Rice, I have to admit I’ve become pretty suspicious of pretty much everybody in politics on this issue.

    I hope he turns out to be an actual climate hawk, but I’m a bit tired of trying to be upbeat about lip service when there’s work that should be done.

  22. Nick B says:

    Holdren gave a presentation on climate change in London last week. It was an anodyne performance and he came across as an impotent cog in a big grinding wheel.

  23. BillD says:

    Of course, the Congress can’t do anything that doesn’t have support from the electorate and financial contributors. However, if scientists, the media and the administration speak out on the science, we could see a consensus for action build rather quickly. We are quickly getting to the point where the media does not feel a need to present the “contrarian side.” In my view, only the extreme deniers would resist. The great majority of Republicans, those who say “we just don’t know anything about science” would have to go along with a change in public sentiment. I’m not talking about the strong action that most on this blog (including me) see as necessary–that would take a few more years. However, I can’t believe that we will have another presidential campaign where the Republican runs on the “we have almost unlimited fossil fuels to burn” and the Democrat says that “climate change is a big problem for the next generation to solve.”

  24. Superman1 says:

    You can show me all the polls you want; the only poll of interest is trends in global CO2 emissions, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, and similar information for the other GHG. Talk is cheap; action is where it’s at. And, all the momentum I see stops where action begins.

  25. Superman1 says:

    Don’t agree. The SoS says exactly what the boss wants him to say. As a powerful Senator, he has at least some degree of independence, albeit he and Obama are from the same Party.

  26. Joe Romm says:

    As a Senator he has independence but little bully pulpit and little power. If he is being offered the job, I’m sure he has an understanding that he can speak on climate change — given the statement that I quoted.

  27. Chris Winter says:

    I’m with Paul Klinkman (if I’m reading him right) — cautiously optimistic about John Kerry’s selection. The caution is not about Senator Kerry himself, but about how he might be limited by Obama. We’ll have to see.

    Kerry, after all, earned medals in Viet Nam, then came back to take a leading position in Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He was instrumental in bringing to light the BCCI scandal and has been very active in the Senate, sponsoring or co-sponsoring dozens of bills.

  28. If Kerry leaves the Senate in 2013 to become SAS, doesn’t the governor of Mass get to appoint his successor to the seat until the next election? That would give the good people of Mass plenty of time to forget the bad dream that “Pickup Truck” Brown turned out to be.

  29. Joseph Dillard says:

    Hillary Clinton, like Kerry, both a senator and a serious contender for the Presidency, has shown little independence, that I am aware of, as Secretary of State. Is there something inherent about the position that turns these people into bleating sycophants? Is Kerry delusional to think he is going to promote a climate-aware agenda within the Administration? I don’t know. He’s smart, but the prevailing culture of the institutions they inhabit tend to stifle smart people. See Chu, above.

  30. Kent Otho Doering says:

    Nice geo-enginering creative fantasy there Paul, but where in the hell are you going to get the fossil fuel free, cryogenic renewable energy source to blow masses of salt water into the air in freezing weather- coming down as snowfall? I know of one being developed in Germany, but it is still too early to say if it would work on that particular application.

  31. Kent Otho Doering says:

    I don´t know. I´m an ex-pat vet living in one of the German Capitals of “sustainability”. I met John´s sister Diane when she was over on a fund raiser with “The Democrats Abroad” back in 2004. But when I, more of a German Social Democrat/Green climate hawk – starting asking her specific questions as to things like cap and trade or a carbon eco tax, she had to take a pass.
    I see an awful lot of stuff from “progressive blogs” in the U.S. about the U.S. being the “leader” in pushing against climate change and reducing emissions.

    Fact- Germany is signatory to the Kyoto accords. Fact, since reunification in 1992, Germany managed to cut is carbon consumption and per capita emissions by a broad synergy of mandated and supported or just supported energy efficiency and renewable energy measures by 50%. Average 2.5% reductions p.a..
    Fact, despite the German energy transition exiting from nuclear power by the end of 2022, many German city owned utilities like Munich´s intend to be entirely fossil fuel free by a broad synergy of measures by the end of 2025.. (Munichs per capita fossil fuel-consumption emissions is already ove 70% lower than any comparably sized U.S. region like its partner city of Cincinatti in Ohio.
    Fact- as a capital of “sustainability”, Munich recovered from the 2008 global meltdown and has an unenemployment rate of less than 3%, thanks to its “sustainability industry”, (overe 12%, and it will grow to be over 20% by 2020.
    Fact- European wind installation topped 100 GW this year, with the German installations topping over 30 GW. By the end of 2025- German domestic and foreign (spain-Morocco) wind installations will have surpassed-
    100 MW (1/3 of total p.g. needs.)
    Fact- European solar p.v. installations were over 52 GW- Germany´s installation is 29 GW at the end of 2012. (It installed more solar p.v. in a month than the total U.S. solar p.v. installations in 2012.) Thanks to new tech cutting costs while boosting efficiencies from 15% to a max- 43.9% the rate of installation will be at 10 GW p.a..
    Total installation by the end of 2025 – over 155 GW in solar.
    Thanks to the never mentioned in the U.S. press 400 billion Euro Desertec Initiative- Germany and France will be each getting over 100 GW in daytime concentrated solar power.
    (going over the projected needs of 2025 right there.)
    Germany is slashing its anthropogenic methane emssions (25 times stronger greenhouse effect than co”) by compost methane recapture systems, sewage sludge methane-recapture- (sludge incineration in bit city garbage incineration plants (Munich´s 400 MW garbage-sewage incineration feeds into the cities extensive and intensively connected, well insulated long distance heat hot water grid.
    German farms are building out highly efficient septic tank sludge- manure methane, or cellulose methane recapture systems feeding fuel cells or hybrid fuel cell stirling motor systems.
    By the end of 2025- these bio-waste incineration systems eliminating anthropogengic methane emissions by over 80% will yield 20% of German power needs- over 60 GW. (It also cleans up aquafers as less manure is spread on the fields.)
    Fact- German hydroelectric currently accounts for only 3.5 % of total German power output. 1. There will be a massive upgrading – repowering of all hydroelectric- to A +++ rated generators- boosting dam hydro output to 7% or 19.6 GW.
    (A wind- hydro- hybrid- takes 2 3 MW wind turbine generators, and mounts them on a special “aquatic streamlines” – with fish screen blocking- trimaran- with driven by variable pitch water turbines suspended beneath the average winter ice flow.- potential build out by 2025 – 15 GW.

    Mandated and subsidized back-up solar back up baseline power. Replacing old inefficient heating oil units with nat gas driven- fuel cell, stirling motor- or ice combined heat power systems. (plus solar heat systems) These can be made to run “browns gas generator- all aqueous with rooftop runoff rainwater. (fancy that – wate as fuel combined heat power systems. Experimental at the momement using korean manufactured B.E.S.T. – browns gas generators hooked up to a 4 cylinder ICE (20 KW ) with exhausts driving 10 kw Stirling motors- with 3 kw feeding back into the Browns gas ystems (Easy overunity never talked about in U.S. green energy circles.)

    Then there are further negajoule techs such as massive build out of facade, and roof inslation, and rewindowing with 1 inche wide,dual pane vacuum insulation windows or combined geothermal heat- hot water systems.

    Building energy management systems c.n.c. regulate heat and air contitioning- cutting consumption by anothe 30 to 50%.

    Negawatt tech means re-powering commercial buildings dwellings,offices- installing power management systems and upgrading appliance motors, elevator esclator motors, etc, including rail and light rail- to A +++ motors. (a new Siemens assembly line for VW, for example, using power management and A +++ uses 55 % less energy than a line installed only ten years ago. Baggage retrieival systems etc are being upgraded–
    (this can slash consumption by up to 40%, and keep demand even as the economy grows.)

    Aqueoous fuel systems in vehicles. Plug in hybrid tech, etc is cutting German maritime and road traffic consumption. Rail, light rail, and subway systems continue to be built out alone with HVDC lines and long distance heat hot water systems.

    And that only lists a few of the installation developments- that are systematically cutting consumption while increasing performance.

    Forward financing the “Energiewende”. Germany has a 5 % net eco carbon tax. it also has a three level parallel public banking system. New “red-green” considerations call for adding another point to the eco-carbon tax- to six percent. Then taking 33% of that (i.e. ten billion Euros- and splitting that three ways between the local, state and federal parallel public banks, and leveraging on a 1 to 10 basis- for low cost- less than 1% p.a. interest loans to forward finance further production build out, production, and installation of all the measures described above . (I.e. over 100 billion a year “non-deficit stimulous” in the build out of “sustainability” cutting consumption and costs by ofe 8% p.a..
    The non-deficit stimulous leveraged eco-tax will also return 4 Euros for every eco tax Euro put into the leveraging system in the form of other- taxes, i.e. 19% v.a.t. on installations, corporate taxes, wage and income taxes. That means an extra 40 billion Euros in extra income for low cost government purchases and installation of the energy and cost reducing technologies.

    Germany started two wars in the last century. Now, Climate Hawk John Kerry has to be preparied to meet Germany´s radical climate hawks off taking the leadership in starting another global war- the global war against global warming. As I`ve outlined, German GFreens have long staked oout the leadership position there in terms of tax programs and installed technologies. Amercian exceptionalists do not like that German leadership, but its a fact of life.
    I´ll keep Joe romm and the gang posted as to what is going on over here from time to time.

    Fact, i 2012, sustainability passed the German automotive industry as the biggest sector in the German G.D.P.
    Fact, while the U.S. hopes to be 25% rnewable

  32. Nils Peterson says:

    In the case of Rice, there looked like major financial interests that could be conflicts of interest, see vis-a-vis Keystone XL decision.

    This list of Kerry holdings ~$180 million is from 2010. It might be interesting to examine closely, or better yet, a more recent disclosure

  33. MarkF says:


    “At a late-afternoon press conference in Chicago, Obama introduced Chu and his energy and environment team, noting that Chu “blazed new trails as a scientist and teacher and administrator, and has recently led the Berkeley national laboratory in pursuing new alternative and renewable energies. Steven is uniquely suited to be our new secretary of energy as we make this pursuit a guiding purpose of the department of energy as well as a national mission.”
    Obama noted that Chu’s appointment should “send a signal to all that my administration will value science, make decisions based on facts and understand that facts require bold action.”

    uc berkley news dec 2008.

  34. james says:

    Let’s hope this is a prime opportunity for Senator John Kerry to lead our nation in a noble cause in that of climate change. Ultimately he may choose to lead this fight packaged with national security ironically the revenge may be security, whatever it takes to forcibly persuade the opposition what is necessary in this nation to address the real issue at hand. It is appalling to think and almost surreal when facing the truth that he has had to fight his way through the actual heart of darkness to be derailed and falsely judged on his acts of heroism. How can we as a nation stand down to few with mini me powers and large wallets driven by backward ideas on how to move forward to prevent natural disaster and a planet in threat for our children and children’s children.? It’s not like there is anything of real value to gain on behalf of naysayers however their truly evil agenda in not in the interest of the American people it’s nation or Honorable Americans.

  35. JellyJam says:

    I’ll believe he’s a climate hawk when and if he puts his foot in the Keystone XL pipeline’s ass. Anyway, who would take his place in the Senate? I hope the Dems have enough common sense to at least have somebody who could beat Scott Brown in MA. If not, then they’re nimrods.

  36. I think it’s certainly a good thing that Susan Rice with her ties to Transcanada has dropped out. Kerry might be more sympathetic to stopping tarsands but like any politician he must feel the pressure from the constituency. There’s so many groups like, Stop Tarsands Oil Pipelines working towards creating political pressure. Inspired by Tim DiCristopher of Peaceful Uprising enjoy this music video featuring over 100 org’s from the movement: