There are precious few voices in the U.S. capital these days that are speaking the truth about climate change. Which is what makes Senator John Kerry's speech on the Senate floor today so powerful, and so necessary.
In his speech, which clocked in at nearly 55 minutes, Senator Kerry attacked a “calculated campaign of disinformation” that, he says, “has steadily beaten back the consensus momentum for action on climate change and replaced it with timidity by proponents in the face of millions of dollars of phony, contrived ‘talking points,’ illogical and wholly unscientific propositions and a general scorn for the truth wrapped in false threats about job loss and tax increase.”
The senator from Massachusetts' words were clearly timed to inject some energy into the Rio+20 meetings of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which begin in earnest tomorrow and which are struggling to stay relevant during a time when Europe is barely functioning and the U.S. is moving into election season. President Obama's decision not to attend the meetings has many diplomats and activists gathering in Brazil questioning the American committment to climate change and the great global environmental challenges.
Senator Kerry didn't mince words in his talk, calling out the “disgraceful” campaign of climate denial as the “conspiracy” that it is, and also placing some blame on the media for its reluctance or inability to bring reason and truth to the climate conversation.
The media hardly murmurs when a candidate for President of the United States in 2012 can walk away from previously held positions and blithely announce that the evidence is not yet there about the impact of greenhouse gases on climate.”
Over the past decade, Senator Kerry has established himself as one of the very few members of Congress who both understand the severity and urgency of the climate threat and use their position of power to try to do something about it. Kerry's push for a comprehensive climate and energy bill fell apart in 2010, and since then the issue has been essentially dead in D.C.
Senator Kerry also attacked the senseless partisanship that has plagued the climate debates, channeling George H.W. Bush:
“Twenty years ago this month, a Republican President of the United States helped bring together all the world’s largest economies in Rio to confront the issue of global climate change. The President was unequivocal about the mission. George Herbert Walker Bush said simply, ‘The United States fully intends to be the world’s preeminent leader in protecting the global environment,’” said Sen. Kerry. “How dramatic and sad it is that twenty years later, shockingly, we find ourselves in a strange and dangerous place on this issue—a place this former President wouldn’t even recognize. When it comes to the challenge of climate change, the falsehood of today’s naysayers is only matched by the complacency of our political system…We should be compelled to fight today’s insidious conspiracy of silence on climate change—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, as President Bush promised we would and as Americans have a right to expect we will.”
If you'd like to watch the speech in its entirety, here it is: