Kerry’s climate lesson

Secretary of State talking directly to America through foreign audiences


Secretary of State John Kerry addressed an audience in Indonesia this week about the urgency of combating climate change. But he could have just as easily been speaking to Americans.

China and the United States accounted for 40 percent of the greenhouse gases that were emitted into the atmosphere last year; Indonesia is the world’s third highest producer of carbon. The level of carbon dioxide was the highest in recorded history in 2013.

Mr. Kerry walked his audience through the familiar sequence: Temperatures increase, glaciers and other ice formations melt, sea levels rise, and if the phenomenon continues uninterrupted, by the end of this century half of Jakarta, Indonesia, will be under water. The science of climate change, he noted, is “absolutely certain” and accepted by 97 percent of scientists.

Taking aim at Americans who oppose action on climate change, he said the rest of the world’s population should not be diverted from dealing with the problem by a tiny minority of “shoddy scientists” and extreme ideologues.

The secretary pledged President Obama’s attention to climate change, and said he engaged China’s leaders on the issue during his recent visit there. He called on governments to stop giving incentives to the coal and oil industries. Instead, he said, they should take advantage of economic opportunities offered by a rapidly expanding global energy market and by renewable energy technology.

Mr. Kerry properly ranked climate change alongside epidemics, poverty, terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as a global priority that requires urgent action. “It’s everyone’s responsibility,” he said, and “lack of political resolve” is the problem.

History, and future generations, will not forgive inaction by today’s leaders.