According to Kerry, the U.S. and China are "the world’s two largest emitters of global greenhouse gases," together accounting for "about 45 percent and climbing, unfortunately." And to hear Kerry tell it, the situation almost appears hopeless:
So we need to solve this problem together. Why? Because neither one of us can possibly solve it alone. Even if every single American biked to work or carpooled to school or used only solar panels to power their homes – if we reduced our emissions to zero, if we planted each of us in America a dozen trees, if we somehow eliminated all of our domestic greenhouse gas emissions, guess what? That still wouldn’t be enough to counteract the carbon pollution coming from China and the rest of the world. And the same would be true for China if they reduced everything and we continued. We would wipe out their gains; they would wipe out our gains.Kerry called the recently released United Nations climate report a "wakeup call" that demands "ambitious, decisive, and immediate action":
The UN climate report that was released over this last weekend is another wakeup call to everybody. The science could not be clearer. Our planet is warming and it is warming due to our actions, human input. And the damage is already visible, and it is visible at a faster and greater rate than scientists predicted. That’s why there’s cause for alarm, because everything that they predicted is happening, but happening faster and happening to a greater degree. The solutions are within reach, but they will require ambitious, decisive, and immediate action.Kerry sees climate change as "not just an environmental threat but an economic threat, a security threat, a health threat, and a security threat," but he is nonetheless optimistic about solving the problem:
The solution to climate change is as clear as the problem itself. And it’s not somewhere out there, pie in the sky, over the horizon, impossible to grab ahold of; it’s staring us in the face. The solution is energy policy. It’s as simple as that. Make the right choices in your energy policy, you solve the problem of climate change.Solving the problem, Kerry says, has the added bonus of creating tremendous wealth, not just for the United States and China, but for the whole world:
Guess what? You also happen to kick your economies into gear. You produce millions of jobs. You create economic opportunity unlike any that we have ever known, because the global energy market of the future is poised to be the largest market the world has ever known. Between now and 2035, investment in the sector is expected to reach nearly $17 trillion. The market that made everybody wealthy in America – everybody saw their income go up in the 1990s, and the greatest wealth in the history of our nation was created in the 1990s... [W]ith a few smart choices, together we can ensure that clean energy is the most attractive investment in the global energy sector and that entrepreneurs around the world can prosper as they help us innovate our way out of this mess and towards a healthier planet.Despite Kerry's enthusiasm for working together with China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the furthest China has been willing to go so far is to say the country will seek to cap emissions "as soon as possible."
Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.