Biden Puts White House on Climate War Footing

Biden Puts White House on Climate War Footing

The appointment of John Kerry as presidential climate envoy signals a desire to pull in allies and adversaries in the climate change fight.

Kerry’s Return Signals Coming War on Climate Change

Biden’s technocratic choices for his cabinet have raised eyebrows for their relatively low profiles, but one appointment still retains some big name appeal. John Kerry, last seen in government as the U.S. secretary of state who helped usher in the Iran nuclear deal and Paris climate accords, will soon be back at the White House.

As special presidential envoy for climate, Kerry will take up a post on the White House National Security Council, a move meant to signal how seriously the Biden administration will take the crisis of climate change while also sparing Kerry any Senate confirmation battle.

Kerry is unlikely to be the final Biden choice with a climate change remit outside of their traditional role. Janet Yellen, reported to be Biden’s pick for Treasury secretary, has endorsed a carbon tax as a means to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The news comes as the levels of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere continue to rise. A report by the United Nations World Meteorological Organization released on Monday warned that global lockdowns in the face of COVID-19 have not stemmed the rise of carbon dioxide, and that the dip in carbon emissions estimated for 2020—between 4.2 percent and 7.5 percent—are a “tiny blip” in line with normal fluctuations in carbon emissions observed year on year.

“Climate-related” change. While Biden has now elevated climate change to an issue of national security, the U.S. military has never stopped preparing for the impacts of climate change even as the Trump administration effectively prohibited the use of the term. For example, a 2019 Pentagon report assessed which U.S. military installations were most vulnerable to “climate-related events,” finding 79 that were under threat of either recurrent flooding, drought, desertification, wildfires, or thawing permafrost.