John Kerry is “not confident” enough to prevent the worst damage from climate change


Our series “Eye on earth” explores how weather disasters in the US and around the world are an alarming wake-up call. Scientists say Climate change is driving a series of extreme weather disasters this summer.

In an interview only featured on CBS News, Roxana Saberi asked John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy for climate, if this summer’s weather disasters were spurring leaders to action. More than 200 of the world’s leading climate scientists are now meeting to finalize a landmark UN report.

“Do you feel that there is a new international urgency to do something faster?” asked Saberi Kerry.

“I think there is a growing sense of urgency,” he said, “but I don’t think it is at the very highest level that needs to be coordinated around the world because there is so much we have to do.”

In the meantime, Forest fires raging in the west, Canada, even Siberia; fatal floods sweep through Europe and China; and heat waves beat the US

“This is a direct result of the climate crisis,” said Kerry. “And scientists tell us we can do things.

Touring the world, Kerry urges countries to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, transportation and industries that are warming the planet.

“We need to reduce emissions significantly enough between 2020 and 2030 to keep the limit of the Earth’s temperature rise alive,” said Kerry.

Under the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, nearly 190 countries pledged to limit global warming to nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit this century. But the UN says the world is already here 2 degrees hotter than pre-industrial levels, which is contributing to ice melting, sea level rise and droughts around the world.

In the US, the world’s second largest emitter, key parts of the president’s climate plans – such as a clean energy standard and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies – that he believes are needed to bring the US to net-zero by 2050 have been put in place. Bringing emissions has faced opposition from many Republican lawmakers who say the measures will kill jobs. Kerry disagrees.

“Other types of jobs will be available,” said Kerry. “If we build a legitimate network in America to manage our electricity and energy transportation, plumbers and electricians and pipe fitters and builders and heavy equipment workers will be needed and covered. This is an economic opportunity.”

“How can the US continue to lead the world on climate change,” said Saberi, “if President Biden will not be able to push through the most important parts of his agenda?”

“Oh, I think the president will eventually pass the climate bill,” said Kerry. “And … I won’t look at a single law.”

“Would he act outside of Congress?” asked Saberi.

“I think the president will do all he can,” said Kerry.

And Kerry says the extreme weather around the world will become harder and harder to ignore.

“We have a window of time to win this fight,” said Kerry. “And that’s why young people are now asking adults to act like adults and actually do it.”

“They have children and grandchildren,” said Saberi. “We saw the video of your granddaughter sitting on your lap when you signed the Paris Agreement in 2016. Should you be concerned or hopeful?”

“I don’t want you to worry,” said Kerry. “I am confident that we will achieve a low carbon, zero carbon economy. I am not confident that we will make it in time to avoid the worst damage. We have to do this. “

On Sunday and Monday, Kerry and officials from 50 other countries met to find ways to achieve this. Before the United Nations Cop26 summit in Scotland in November, they discussed how global emissions could be reduced. But there are sticking points – like phasing out coal and deciding who will pay for measures to limit global warming.

The European Union is considering an ambitious climate plan, including a tax on imports from high-carbon countries.
Kerry told Saberi that his team is looking into the possibility of doing the same in the US.

“President Biden asked our team to evaluate this as fully as possible to understand all of its implications,” said Kerry. “He didn’t speak out in favor of it at the time. But it is one of the tools that are being considered to deal with the problem that other countries are not moving.”

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