Climate Change and American Foreign Policy: Security Challenges, Diplomatic Opportunities

Monday, June 15, 2009

TOM BROKAW: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Tom Brokaw. I'm very pleased to be hosting today's event, which will feature one of America's most distinguished public servants, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. Most of you know his biography by now, obviously. He's a graduate of a little trade school in New Haven, Connecticut, where he then after matriculating and serving in the same secret society as the man he ran against for president of the United States, he went off to Vietnam, where he had a not just a distinguished military record but a heroic military record, having earned the Silver Star. And during his campaign of course he was joined by his fellow crew members, and they gave testimony to his heroism in Vietnam.

He returned to this country and became an outspoken opponent of the war. And as you know began his political career by running for office, first from his home state of Massachusetts where he became lieutenant governor, and then ran for the United States Senate. And then obviously in the year 2004 he was the Democratic presidential nominee.

Senator Kerry, and it goes without saying his wife and his partner Theresa Heinz of the Heinz Foundation, have made an enormous public commitment and a personal commitment to the issue that brings us here today, the issue of climate change and global warming. They've written a very compelling book called "The Moment on Earth-Today's New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future."

And there is an intersection between their interest in the environment, concentration in global climate change, and the senator's new and very colorful role as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And it is that issue that brings us all together here today, the issue of global climate change and national security.

We'll hear from the senator. I'll have a few questions for him, and then of course we'll take questions from the audience. For those of you who are regular attendees here you know what the rules are. We'd ask that you stand and identify yourself. Today's session will be on the record. We also ask that you turn off your cell phone and Blackberries. If you do not do that, there are actually secret members of the Council of Foreign Relations staff with cattle prods in your midst who will be in touch with you in a disciplinary way.

So it's my great pleasure now to introduce to you one of our most thoughtful public servants, a man who has served his country, in uniform and out, Senator John Kerry.


SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA): Good afternoon. Thank you, Tom, very, very much. I'm really thrilled that Tom Brokaw can moderate this discussion, and I'm honored to be introduced by him. He is a good friend, one of our country's best journalists. And like our mutual, and probably to many people in here, good friend Tim Russert whom we lost one year ago yesterday, Tom has excelled at bringing world events and history alive, delivering them to the American people with great credibility. So Tom, thank you for continuing to lead in so many ways.

Tom is just fresh back from Normandy, a place special to many, that I must -- to Tom and me-we shared some thoughts about it, a very, very special place. The passion goes back to my youth. I won't go into it all now, but it's a place I visited many times, took a pilgrimage, a special one.

Let me just say a couple words about leading off here, and I invite really questions on any topic. I'm happy to talk about Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mideast, wherever you would like to go. And I look forward to that. But I want to just say a couple words as a sort of introduction to the comments and then talk about global climate change for a few minutes.

In the aftermath of last Friday's Iranian elections, it is clear that we're living in a very precarious moment where we're watching history play out in front of our eyes. And I share the concern of many in Iran and around the world that the results of Iran's presidential election appear not to reflect the will of the Iranian people. The subsequent crackdown really only heightens those concerns. Just today there were 100,000 people in the streets, of Mousavi's supporters stretching maybe five miles long in distance.

The spirited debate, the huge rallies, the record-setting turnout all show that the Iranian people really want a say in their governance, and that many reject the hostile confrontational approach of the past several years. It also, may I underscore, reinforces the wisdom of President Obama's direct outreach for the Iranian people and his offer of a different vision for Iran's role in the world.

The fact that hard-liners remain in control of Iran's government may make engagement more difficult, but it only underscores how vital it is that we prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons. America and the region will not be made safer if we end our engagement prematurely before we know whether or not Iran can be dissuaded from the course it has been on these prior years. And changing course at this moment, if we were to change course, would only empower those Iranians who want to see negotiations fail and hurt those Iranians who have risen up in support of a better relationship.

So we will continue to voice our concerns, but we should not abandon engagement before it has been given a chance to work.

Now obviously we've come here to talk about another kind of threat, a clear and present danger. And I have to tell you, it's almost extraordinary that in 2009 we are as flummoxed as we appear to be about the issue and as incapable of finding the kind of response that the issue demands. In a 2004 interview for Time Magazine, Tom Brokaw was asked which story he most regretted not covering. Ever candid, he said, "I regret that we did not connect the dots earlier on terrorism."

This was an enormously humble statement, frankly, from a leading chronicler of terror from the Achille Laurel Khrushchev hijacking 25 years ago through today. But in the aftermath of 9/11 that sentiment was shared by so many people in rooms just like this one. We simply didn't connect the dots in time.

Today Tom and I and many others are working -- I'll tell you, I'm working as hard as I've ever worked in 25 years I've been in the Senate on this issue. And we're working to connect the dots of an emerging threat with potentially catastrophic implications. We call it "global climate change," but the implications are much bigger than even those words carry impact.

Some of us have been at this for a long time. In 1988 on an already hot June day Al Gore and I held the first hearings on global climate change. And Jim Hanson appeared and he announced to the country that global climate change was not a theory; it was here.

Subsequently, four years later, Al and I and Tim Wirth and a group of senators traveled to Rio to the Earth Summit where we worked with about 177 other nations to put in place a voluntary framework on climate change, recognizing then what the science told us and coming together in a global community to try to respond to it.

Well, 17 years after Rio, 12 years after Kyoto, we are further behind than ever. And throughout these years we, the United States of America, remained the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, until last year, when China finally passed us by about 300,000 megatons worth.

The science right now, ladies and gentlemen, is simply screaming at us. And with each passing day, the danger and the urgency grow. Now you know the basic science. I'm not going to go into all of that here, but let me just leave you with a few salient facts, and facts as we all know as the saying goes, "Facts are stubborn things."

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen 38 percent in the industrial area alone from 280 parts per million back at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to now 385 parts per million. What's frightening about it is that in the last eight years alone, during the last eight years of the Bush administration, the emissions rose globally four times faster, notwithstanding Rio and Kyoto, four times faster than they did in the 1990s.

Scientists have warned us, thousands of scientists have warned us, that anything above 450 parts per million winds up with a warming of the earth higher than 2 degrees centigrade, which they have deemed to be the tipping point, at which point almost indescribable catastrophic things begin to happen. And so have some scientists actually said, John Holdren and others. John would tell you privately that in fact it's really not 450, it's 350. But 350 is too daunting because we're already at 385, and people would throw their hands up in despair and say, "Well, how are we ever going to go backwards from where we are, let alone stop us from getting where we may go?"

The simple reality is that we're just not doing enough about it despite the fact that staring us in the face are countless technologies and countless possibilities for costless reductions in emissions. In fact if you've looked at the carbon cost debate, as a study by the McKinsey Company, it will show you that for the first 10, 15, 20 years energy efficiency pays for itself. And you can get 35 or 40 percent of the reductions that we need to get paid for by virtue of the measures that we put in place.

Now let me underscore the fact that we're not doing enough about it. Recently the Heinz Center, together with MIT and Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, came together to put together a new computer modeling of where we are. And they took all of the data that we have today from the IPCC studies as a cross-check against their new modeling. And they put this data in and measured to see whether or not it concurred, and their model concurred with the ITCC. It did in all seven or eight of the principle studies of the IPCC.

Then they took the best offer of every country that has made any offer at all, and there are only about 15 of the 17 major emitters who have talked about doing anything. And they plugged those factors in, i.e. China is a 20 percent energy intensity reduction by 2020. Europe says it will do 20 percent by 2020, 30 by 2030 if we join up, and 2050 has a target similar to ours of 80 percent reductions. Our target is 80 percent reduction by 2050, which we haven't even started on.

And so then it plugs them in and it looks at the data. And I hate to say this, but even if we met today's ambitious goals of 80 percent by 2050 we wind up in the 600 to 700 parts per million by the end of the century; and by mid-century, which is the current measurement point that countries are choosing to set for themselves, we wind up at about 2.5 degrees centigrade over the tipping point, and somewhere between 560 and 600 parts per million in gas.

So in short, the challenge grows more, not less, urgent.

Now let me be clear, the threat that we face is not somehow some abstract concern for the future. It's here; it's happening. The effects can be measured in any number of different ways. In four years, for instance, the Arctic is projected to experience its first ice-free summer, not in 2030, folks-in 2013. And since dark water absorbs sunlight more than the ice and snow that reflects the sunlight, the more the melting takes place and the more ocean that shows up, the more we absorb the sunlight the faster the warming takes, and the more the progression grows faster.

Earlier this year a 25-mile-wide ice bridge to the Wilkins ice shelf, the ice shelf that connected the Wilkins ice shelf to Antarctica land mass, shattered, just broke apart, shattered, disconnecting the shelf from the Antarctic continent, first time in recorded history. Recorded history.

The loss of Greenland's ice which is melting at a stupendous rate-we've had Senate delegations go up there. You can stare down a whole, you can see a torrent of rivers just pouring over the rock beneath it. Some scientists question whether the water underneath acts as a slide that huge amounts of ice might simply move on the waterbed and crash into the ocean. But whether or not that happens, it is melting at a dramatic rate. And if you look at Al's, some of his videos, you can see the progression of that melting over years in a very dramatic way. It looks like a heartbeat that's getting smaller and smaller and smaller.

Well, the loss of Greenland's ice, together with the West Antarctic ice that continues to melt, would literally be catastrophic beyond description. You'd have sea level increases of 16 to 23 feet. And you can say goodbye to harbors up and down the East Coast, much of the lowlands of Florida, not to mention all of the lowland islands, Bangladesh, countries, nations on the side of the water.

So we are deluding ourselves if we think somehow that these challenges are going to stop at borders. The tiny coastal village of Newtok, Alaska, recently voted to relocate nine miles inland because of the melting coastal ice shelves that made their homes near it too dangerous. And no longer can Newtok's residents see Russia from their porch, if they ever could (audience laughter). But go to Alaska and you will see with your own two eyes the impact of the permafrost melting, with the glaciers receding, the fisheries changing. And just talk to Republican Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Mark Begich about their mutual bipartisan concerns for what is happening in their state.

More than one-third of Americans live within coastal counties. And as climate change intensifies, and it will inevitably because what is already up there has a half life of anywhere from 100 to 1,000 years, and so continue to do the damage that it has done so far. So while the earth is only warmed to date .8 degrees centigrade, you can count on another .8 already being built in with an intensifier, so you're looking at 1.6 now, almost without recourse, and that's .4 away from the tipping point of 2.0.

So it is dramatic. There's a recent study, the Siberian Shelf Study, that shows that as a result of the permafrost lid melting under the ocean itself, they have recorded methane bubbles, columns of methane bubbles rising to the surface, and if you light a match where those bubbles break into open air, it will ignite. Methane is 20 times more powerful in damage than CO2.

So bottom line, folks, we all know about that famous 2001 memo that George Bush received that said, "Terrorists are determined to attack within the United States." Thirty-six days later, they did. Today scientists tell us--the best we have, the best minds we have, the John Holdrons, the Jim Hansons, and everybody else tell us-we have a 10-year window here to try get this right and even that before catastrophic climate change takes hold.

Now ladies and gentlemen, this is our memo. And the question is whether or not we're going to act on this in time. We have the Copenhagen meeting coming up; we have a lot of possibilities. But let me talk about the global implications of this for a moment. In 2007, eleven former admirals and high-ranking generals issued a report from the Center for Naval Analysis warning that climate change is a threat multiplier with the potential to create, quoting it, "sustained natural and humanitarian disasters on a scale far beyond those that we see today."

In 2008, a National intelligence assessment echoed these warnings from inside our government. General Anthony Zinni, former commander of our forces in the Middle East, was characteristically blunt in assessing this threat. And he warned that without action, I quote, "we will pay the price later in military terms, and that will involve human lives." There will be a human toll. Why? Because climate change injects a major new source of chaos, tension and human insecurity into an already volatile world. It threatens to bring more famine, more drought, worse pandemics, more natural disasters, more resource scarcity, and human displacement on a staggering scale. We risk fanning the flames of failed statism and offering glaring opportunities to the worst actors in our international system. In an interconnected world, that endangers all of us.

I'd be the first to acknowledge that individual data points can sometimes be a little murky. But the pattern that they create is irrefutably clear. We don't know, for instance, if Hurricane Katrina was caused by climate change, but we do know to a certainty that we're rapidly heading for a world where climate change causes more Katrinas.

We don't know with certainty whether climate change pushed Darfur over the edge, but we do know that it will cause more tension just like we've seen in Darfur. Now obviously Darfur's genocide is a brutal choice made by people in Khartoum, but the conflict between so-called Arabs and Africans, the North/South conflict which is the longest war in the history of Africa and claimed over 2 million lives, that conflict has its roots in shifts in climate over the last four decades. Inch by inch, year by year, the desert consumed already scarce farmland forcing farmers and herders to compete over ever-dwindling resources, and eventually the desert had grown by 60 miles, rainfall had diminished by as much as 30 percent, and tensions arose.

This is one example of how climate change can contribute to a more dangerous world.

Nowhere is the nexus between these threats more acute than perhaps in South Asia, the home of al Qaeda and the center of our terrorist threat. Scientists are now warning-and I was just in China, spent a week there a couple weeks ago with Theresa and many series of meetings in which this became clear the degree which they are concerned about it. And that is, the warnings that the Himalayan glaciers which supply water to almost a billion people from China to Afghanistan could disappear completely by 2035.

Think about what that means. Water from the Himalayas flows through India and into Pakistan. India's rivers are not only vital to its agriculture but essential to its religious practice. Pakistan for its part is heavily dependent on irrigated farming in order to avoid famine. At a moment when we are scrambling to ratchet down tensions and prepare to invest very significant money to build up capacity in that country, it would be infuriating to think that climate change would actually be working in an opposing direction.

Worldwide, climate change risks making the most volatile places even more combustible. The Middle East is home to 6 percent of the world's population with just 2 percent of the world's water. A demographic boom and a shrinking water supply will only tighten the squeeze on a region that doesn't need another reason to disagree violently. Privately we already hear the simmering resentment from diplomats whose countries bear the costs of our initiatives. I can tell you from my own experience, I hear it all the time. It's real. It's prevalent. And it's not hard to see how it can crystallize into a virulent dangerous public anti-Americanism.

That's a threat too. It will diminish all of our other goals and all of the other initiatives that President Obama is engaged in.

Remember, the very places least responsible to climate change all across this planet and least equipped to deal with its impact will be among the very worst affected. And together China and the United States represent 50 percent of that damage.

It's especially true of Africa. By 2020 up to 250 million Africans could face severe water shortages according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The food security depends on water security. Yields from rain fed crops could drop by half in that period of time.

Last month Lancet called climate change, quote, "the biggest global health threat of the 21st century." Already a changing a climate is pushing malaria into populations like those in the Kenyan Highlands that had never been exposed to the disease. I sat next to a fellow from Pittsburgh the other day, Alan Russell who's doing unbelievable work in regenerative disease, and he told me about the degree to which this is now having an impact on the spread of disease and potential for pandemic.

Meanwhile, by some estimates more people worldwide will be displaced by environmental changes and natural disasters than by war next year. Africa which is already known for instability, conflict and competition over scarce resources that often creates refugees and IDPs as we call them, internally displaced persons, will now confront a new phenomenon, growing populations of EDPs, environmentally displaced persons.

Closer to home, there's scarcely an instrument of American foreign policy that will not be affected, from as simple a thing as Diego Garcia Island in the Indian Ocean, the vital hub for our military operations across the Middle East, which sits on an atoll just a few feet above sea level.

Norfolk, Virginia, home to our Atlantic Fleet, will be submerged by one meter of sea level rise. All of our Navy's piers are actually cemented to the sea floor, which means that any rise in the sea floor will -- in the sea level will require a rebuilding of all of those piers. Insurmountable? No. Expensive, complicated, and perhaps even an impact on readiness.

Of course, the future, we all know -- and this group knows it better than anybody, has a way of humbling those who try to predict too clearly what it brings. But, we do know from scientists and security experts that the threat is very, very real. So, if we once again fail to connect the dots, the indisputable reality is we'll find ourselves living not only in a ravaged environment, but in a much more dangerous world.

The Audobon Society recently -- Audobon, of all people, recently reported a 100-mile swath in the United States of America where the plants that used to grow there no longer grow there, with average Americans trying to conduct their business as usual. Millions of (acres ?) of pine nut -- of pine and spruce in Canada and Alaska have been totally destroyed because beetles that used to die off because of the cold no longer do, and now they are ravaging those forests. We can run through a long, long list, folks, of the expansion of this.

So, what do we do? Well, many measures, small and large, are going to be needed across government, but none will be as important as committed American leadership. I've met with environment ministers, and foreign ministers, and prime ministers and presidents all across to country in these last couple of years -- all across the world. I will tell you, to a person, they sit with you and the first thing they say is, "What's the United States going to do?" "When are you going to step up and lead?'

Domestic mandatory emissions reductions are the only way to convince the world that we are serious about meeting this threat. And, make no mistake, to create the foundation of a global response -- and a global response is the only way to solve this, and that's one of the reasons why we couldn't secure the Kyoto Treaty's ratification, was the absence of a global response -- to secure that, it will have to be the United States stepping up first to prove that we're serious.

In six months 192 nation's delegates will gather in Copenhagen to create this new treaty. And our core challenge is going to be two things: One, to take what we did in Kyoto, and reaffirmed in Bali and Poznan where we talked about common but differentiated responsibilities, where we give life to that concept of the common responsibility to reduce emissions, but to do so conceivably at a differentiated rate and with differentiated responsibilities up to a point. And that's what has to be negotiated.

And the second, and most critical piece -- because this is central to bringing China, India, Russia, and others to the table, is how we give life to the words that were added in Bali and Poznan: measurable, reportable and verifiable, "MRV," it is called. And that is going to be the key, really, to unlocking this global response that will be central to our ability to come back and pass this in the United States Senate.

China, I will tell you, from the trip we just made there -- and many of you have been there recently and you know this, China and the United States really could define the success of Copenhagen. And I believe we could do so in these next weeks and months, before Copenhagen. The key is that it could be the defining partnership of the 21st century, I believe.

And that's why last month I went there to explore the opportunities for cooperation. I went with a simple message: America understands that we have an obligation to lead, and we will; but China needs to understand that America will not enter into a global treaty without a meaningful commitment from China to be part of the solution.

What I heard from top Chinese political, military, energy executives, scientists, students, and others was actually encouraging. China grasps the urgency of the problem. It's eager to embrace clean energy. And they said, very clearly, they intend to be a positive and constructive player at Copenhagen.

I might add that they understand this. Portions of the Yangtze River, which supports half a billion people, are drying up; boats are literally running aground. China's stability depends on its economic growth, and that's a bargain that could be sorely tested if environmental devastation forces millions of people off their land. Everyone I talked to recognized this.

We rode a train 200 miles an hour from Beijing to Tianjin. It used to be a diesel that took eight hours. Now it has reduced the diesel fumes; moves faster; takes people off the road. They can get credit for those kinds of things. And many other things they're doing, in terms of fuel (switching ?). They have a tougher standard on automobiles than we do.

They've set out to become the world's leading producer of electric vehicles. And they are beginning to literally explode -- blow up small polluting power plants and cement plants, and replace them with newer technologies. So, we need to find a way to cooperate and to move forward.

Stunningly, we still have a political battle to win here at home. Not everyone in our domestic politics appreciates the stakes. Minority Whip John Boehner was recently quoted as saying, quote, "The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you got more carbon dioxide."

Well, we live in a country where if you were to dismiss the threat of global terrorism like that, folks, you'd be laughed out of the political mainstream. But, if you dismiss the threat of climate change that way you find yourself in the leadership of the Republican Party in the House in our Congress. So, we have some arguments yet to win -- important arguments yet to win and we're going to need the help of every opinion leader in this nation.

This is a critical moment, and I'd just leave you with one question: Supposing Al Gore, and John Kerry, and John Holdren, and thousands of scientists, and Tom Brokaw, and everybody are wrong? Suppose we're wrong, and it isn't going to be as bad as we believe the scientists are telling us it will be, but we do things we need to do to respond? What's the -- what's the worst that would happen if we do the things that we're proposing?

Well, if we respond adequately, we would change our energy habits; provide new technologies; solve problems on a global basis. The worst that would happen is: We would be healthier because we'd have cleaner air; we would have transformed our economies and created millions of clean energy jobs; we'd be more competitive; we'd have created high-value added, sustainable jobs that are here at home, not abroad; we would have lived up to our environmental responsibility; create sustainable development policies; planted and saved forests; reduced disease and toxic poisoning that comes from antiquated industrial practices; we would have lived up to our humanitarian responsibilities to help developing countries avoid disease and dislocation; we would have hugely enhanced our security by becoming less fossil fuel and foreign oil dependent.

And those are the worst things that would happen to us if we did this.

What happens if they're wrong? What happens if John Boehner and all the rest of those folks who are in denial and who want to stay with the status quo are wrong? Irreversible, catastrophic downside on a global basis.

I don't think it's really a choice. And as Sir Nicholas Stern has told us, and countless economists have told us, it's going to be far more expensive to do this later than do it now, which is why smart people like John Chambers of Cisco, and Jim Rogers of Duke Energy, and Chad Holiday at DuPont, and a whole bunch of other Fortune 500 C.E.O.s have joined up and want us to set the price on carbon; and create certainty in the marketplace; and begin the process of reducing it.

Now, after all of those dire comments, I will tell you I am optimistic. I'll tell you why. Because I was part of this debate in 1990 when we did the Clean Air Act. And I remember sitting there with John Sununu and with Bill Riley and having the same arguments thrown at us:

The industry came in and said, "Don't do this to us. It's going to cost $8 billion; it'll take eight years; you're going to bankrupt us; we won't compete; we can't do this."

The environment community came in and said, "No, no, no, no, no. Those guys are all wet. They're just crying 'Chicken Little.' It's really only going to cost $4 billion; it'll take about four years; and we have to do it."

To the credit of John Sununu, who understood the problem; and the credit of Bill Riley, and others; and ultimately of President George Herbert Walker Bush, we did it. We passed the law. We put into effect the prohibition on the ozone-depleting sources, the Montreal Protocol; and put the Clean Air Act in place; reduced sulfur dioxide.

And guess what? Everyone was wrong. It took two years, and it cost about $2 billion. Why? Because nobody has the ability to predict what happens when we move an entire economy, and its money and its focus begins to chase the possibilities. That's what we're good at in America. That's what we do better than anybody else.

And I'm personally convinced, because in talking to countless venture capitalists, and countless scientists, and countless universities I know what's going on out there. Someone is going to -- you know, we're going to have five or six (legal ?) equivalents created in these fields; and someone's going to find that brilliant alternative; and we're going to move so much faster than we think, at much lower cost than we think, and we're going to get this done.

The key to Copenhagen, therefore, is not to achieve the goal that we know meets what science tells us we have to do today, the key to Copenhagen is to "get going." Get started. Come to a global agreement. Move the money and the focus of our countries in this direction. And I believe we will ultimately get the job done. Thank you. (Applause.)

BROKAW: Thank you very much, Senator, for that very provocative and insightful set of remarks. Let me pick up, if I can, on your opening remarks about Iran and see if we can work our way through that, if you will, at the outset. Do we have any evidence within what passes for our intelligence community of massive fraud in the election or is it still a case of we just don't know what's going on there?

KERRY: The evidence that we have, obviously, are the homeland data that people had, the firsthand anecdotal accounts of people who were there observing, the intensity of the last weeks of the campaign, and I think the reaction of the people themselves. I think it's not insignificant that the Supreme Ayatollah has now backed off of his initial quote, you know, "clean slate ratification" and has now said there will be some kind of investigation, and I find that very, very significant. I think we're just going to have to let this play out.

BROKAW: Cautionary tale from me, having been there and having watched the last election, is that when we get reporters into Iran, they're mostly confined to Tehran, to the urban areas, and you talk about a blue state/red state differentiation. The rural areas of Iran which elected Ahmadinejad last time, we can't get to. We don't know what goes on out there and there is a massive population out there as well.

Is it possible that most of what we're seeing, which is coming from the streets of Tehran and the more cosmopolitan population, the university students, the more progressive, Western-looking Persians, are getting most of the attention and in the rural areas they're going and voting for the regime that-

KERRY: Well, it's my understanding, Tom, that about 30 percent of Iran's population is quote "rural" that would be more affected. Seventy percent is effectively urban in one form or another, so I don't buy that notion. I also don't buy it in the sense that allegedly --

BROKAW: Sixty-five percent -- (inaudible) --

KERRY: Well, not only the margin, but allegedly they carried Mousavi's key areas including his home town. A little hard to defend, so I think there's real cause for concern here that, you know, what we're able to do about it is limited. I think we have to just stay on course here. As I said in my sort of opening comments, nothing should deter us from still engaging.

With what we engage is yet to be determined, but remember it's not Ahmadinejad who, you know, is the most important power center in Iran; it is the supreme Ayatollah, and most of what he is able to do he has to do by a kind of consensus. It's not a government by edict by him. He has a very delicate balancing that he has to engage in and he solicits opinion, I'm told, from a very broad array of, you know, their key players within that constellation, so I think we have to wait and see how this plays out.

I still believe that either way, no matter what happens at the end of this, there is a possibility of an opening, and I can't give you all the reasons that I do, but I do believe that and I think we just have to kind of get to that dialogue. You see, what's interesting is that-and many of you, I'm sure, have observed this. There's a palpable difference in the Middle East today from the 25 years now I've been going there and meeting with various folks, and their focus has shifted. You know, in all of the moderate Sunni Arab countries the focus is now Iran, not Israel.

And for years the Middle East was consumed by the three nos: no recognition of Israel, no engagement with Israel and now it's no land in every regard. No meddling, no nuclear power, no homogeneity, and so there's a real transformation and I think that we need to stay focused on that. I also believe that the Russians and Chinese are serious about not walking nuclear weapons or with North Korea, for that matter, so I think that, you know, this is very young right now, if you know what I'm saying.

We just had an election in India. We are just in a position to begin to, hopefully, move some troops back from the border, shift some troops into the guts of Pakistan; hopefully, that can make a difference. We've just had the election in Lebanon. I think it sends some messages about the possibilities.

George Mitchell has just visited with Ahsad. Netanyahu has just made a speech and laid out, you know, some new moves, so I see things are just sort of beginning to move and we haven't really yet gotten fully engaged in a way that we can begin to tell what the possibilities are.

BROKAW: How do you think Bibi Netanyahu's speech today -- (inaudible) --

KERRY: How does --

BROKAW: How do you think BB Netanyahu's remarks in the last 24 hours fit into all of that, saying two state solution, limited government, limited powers for the Palestinians?

KERRY: Well, I think everybody's vision of a final settlement has always known that we have to deal with the militarization issue, and I think everybody has always had a presumption in the Tabah and elsewhere these things were openly discussed, that it was going to be demilitarized, so I don't see anything daunting and -- (inaudible) -- in that. The settlements issue still remains, obviously, tricky, but I don't think it's also a completely slammed door, to be honest with you.

I think the no new settlements, no new areas, and I think there's a way to work out something on natural growth over the next year and a half; it gives you a window here to begin to move. The biggest questions to me are moving rapidly to change life for the Palestinians in the West Bank and strengthening Fatah's legitimacy in that regard, and I think that not enough has been done by anybody over the course of the last five years, and I think that's our single greatest challenge.

What BB said with respect to security is perfectly understandable for those with his point of view. Any negotiation is going to have to satisfy Israel's security needs. We all understand that, and it is possible that that may even involve some kind of footprint on the ground in some kind of international structure and maybe even some sort of extended deterrent by the United States and so forth.

There are a lot of possibilities. I see this as a very fluid playing field with great flexibility and I think that, actually, all in all I know Si Barakat responded, you know, saw what he saw in that, but I tend to think there are possibilities out of that speech that if we work diligently in trying to move it forward--

BROKAW: Global climate change. National security and global climate change going to be a specific and important part of the Copenhagen Conference in December or will be slightly below the radar?

KERRY: National security is an issue whose profile needs to be raised, and that's one of the reasons why I came here. Most people don't think of security at all as they think about global climate change right now, but they need to think about it. Every national security review of the last several years -- Jim Woolsey, Dennis Blair, the DNI, all of the intelligence bureau-I think in the recent testimony Blair actually said that the single biggest, you know, one of the single biggest concerns we have is climate change with the economy, so we need them both, but you don't normally hear as national security issues.

But it's a tricky one. It's hard to sell. I mean, it's daunting to people when we start talking about this stuff, and it's very hard to get people tuned into what steps are really going to make a difference in terms of their lives and what's manageable. And that's why, at the end, I said I am convinced-and I went into greater detail here with some of you about some of these new threats like the methane and so forth, which are really scary. Maybe we can find a way to tap into the methane and use it and so forth if we can't find some quick -- (inaudible) -- fixes for some of those things, but I truly am convinced we have huge advances in solar thermal.

We have huge advances in concentrated solar and photo -- (inaudible). Experts tell me that we could actually produce six times the electricity needs of the United States today from a hundred square mile area in the southwest of the United States. Now we don't do that because any investor looking at that is not going to see a return on their investment because we don't have the grid that allows us to get that energy from where it is produced clean to where it is needed, so I believe we have to take eminent domain and pre-emption at the federal level on our grid, and we have to make that the single biggest priority in terms of global climate change because I'm told that the minute you get the grid capacity moving so that people know you can connect from North to South Dakota to Illinois to the East Coast to the wind that comes from North Dakota-- North Dakota could be, I think, number five platform in the country to live.

Right now, it's number 24 in terms of production, so we could ratchet these things way up, but you've got to have a way to get the power there. And the only way to send the investment community the right message is for them to know that they're going to be able to connect and, therefore, get a return on investment adequate to pay it off. If we did that, we'd move very, very rapidly in all these technologies.

Wind, likewise, in states like Nebraska and Iowa that have some farms now. But there's a very significant amount of increase that we could produce in those --

BROKAW: Actually, I was told that between the election and the inauguration the Obama team was looking -- had as a high priority the expansion of the grid, to enlarge it, to enlarge the conduits so that they could transform more electricity more efficiently.

And yet it didn't end up in the stimulus bill then.

KERRY: I think it should have. And I think we should have been already debating this question of preemption. I think it's the single biggest priority for transformation the American economy.

BROKAW: Final question before we go to the audience.

A lot of people have ownership of global climate change in the administration and in this country, for that matter. You eloquently described your own position here today; you and Teresa have written a book about it.

Secretary Clinton now -- Secretary of State Clinton has made that a component of her -- of her portfolio. Obviously, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce.

Is the ownership too divided up? Should there be a global climate change czar of some kind? Should the administration think about changing the paradigm within the administration to get somebody out front to kind of coordinate for all that?

KERRY: Well, if there is, then it just has to be the president himself. That's the only way to get this done. The president has to be the czar and the president has to drive these meetings constantly.

I think you have very capable team of people. Carol Browner is as smart and good on this as anybody. Todd Stern knows it; he worked on it in the Clinton administration. He's working hard, and Hillary, likewise. It's going to take all hands on deck.

This is a big lift. But it is doable, and that's what's exciting about it.

The upside of all of this, folks, when you go -- when you get out of here, go Google the McKenzie company report and read -- take a look at that carbon cost abatement curve. It's exciting what can be done.

If you can get 35 (percent), 40 percent of your reduction just through energy efficiency --

I'll give you an example. Texas Instruments was going to leave Texas and go to China, (from ?) its Dallas base. And when the workers heard this, they -- for all the obvious reasons said, whoa -- don't do this to us. We love our jobs. Please stay.

And they said, well, look, show us how we could be competitive with China. And if you can show us, we'll consider staying here.

So they got Amory Lovins from the Rocky Mountain Institute to come down. He took a look at the plant and the plan. And they locked the whole floor off the plant. They put design pipes that go straight instead of bent and crooked, which takes more energy to drive the fluids. They put in new climate control systems, water treatment, et cetera.

In the end, they showed that they could net, save -- I think it's 3 million (dollars) or something more that they save each year, and they stayed. They decided to stay and be competitive.

Now, all over our country, we are the worst in the world. You go to Europe, you go to Asia and you walk out of your hotel room, the lights are out. You come out of your hotel room, the lights go on. You walk down the hall, progressively they go up. They go down in back of you. You get to the elevator, you go in, and the lights go out.

You go to an escalator. You think it's not working, and you go, oh, my God. I've got to call somebody. You get near it, and it starts. You get off it, nobody else coming, it stops.

In the United States of America, every escalator everywhere, in every building, is churning 365 days a year, 24/7, waiting for somebody who's a thousand miles away to come and ride on it. (Laughter.)

It's absurd, the energy we -- we're the most energy-profligate country in the world. We start to grab that stuff back, folks. It's not hard. It's low-hanging fruit. And meanwhile, you begin to develop the clean coal technologies and the other pieces.

This is a case where I really do believe in the technology fix and in good practices. And I think that we can do this; we've just got to get going. That's what's so frustrating about it.

BROKAW: Questions. Right there on the aisle.

Say your name, remember, please.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Rich Herold with BP.

Senator, thank you for the compelling comments today. Also, thanks, by the way, for visiting with the faculty and students at Xinhua University in Beijing.

My question is this: Senator, you mentioned the challenges ahead for reaching a legislative agreement on the way forward on climate change, and they're certainly there.

So could you predict for us what you feel the chances are that it will be possible in the coming year, actually, given the unfinished debate, the conflicting interests, to come to comprehensive legislation that treats climate change on the Hill, or do you think it's more likely that we're going to have, failing action on the Hill, a regulatory approach from the Obama administration, and what are the pluses and minuses of both?

KERRY: Well, you're going to get one or the other. And the minuses of the regulatory approach are that you don't get the kind of buy-in, you probably wind up in court, and you -- a lot of people then lose the opportunity to be able to play.

And we're using that, incidentally, as a lever. We're trying to get people to the table in order to get this done.

I believe we're going to get something. I believe we're going to pass something out of the Senate.

I think the Waxman-Markey bill is going to pass the House in some form. We're prepared to bring it out of Committee in the Senate. I think we'll get it out of Committee -- we're really waiting on the timing of the House. We want to see what they do.

What they've already achieved has been very important for our coal-state senators and some of our heavy manufacturing-state senators. And there is a huge amount of money in there for clean coal, clean coal technology and other things.

Now, I'm going to be very candid with you. I will -- I'm all for -- in '04 when I ran for president I advocated -- I put 2 billion (dollars) in there for clean coal, and I dared to go to West Virginia and Ohio and places and talk about clean coal. We need coal.

It's abundant, it's cheap, we have it. And if you can burn it clean, it's great.

I have serious questions about whether we are ever going to invest the infrastructure to do carbon capture and storage. Selectively, here and there, I believe we'll do it. We already have some enhanced oil recovery that we do in North Dakota and other places. But I just don't see it --

If we're having trouble putting a grid line in for electricity, think of the trouble we're going to have to carry carbon dioxide through neighborhoods to go from one place to another, over long distances, and store it somewhere without the knowledge that we absolutely can.

Now, what's very exciting is the thing our good friend -- (inaudible) -- from the West Coast is looking at a technology in a company called Solara, which is now going to commercial scale in Santa Cruz.

And it actually takes coal-fired flue gas out of the flue, uses the CO2, captures about 80 (percent), 90 percent. And through a process including seawater, currently used at Santa Cruz; it could be other water. That may be a tricky issue as you go down the road.

It creates a calcium carbonate substance that, I am told, can be used as a substitute for cement and for -- cement and concrete, so you could use it in construction and building.

And there was actually a presentation made at the World Concrete Congress in Las Vegas -- who ever knew there was World Concrete Congress? (Laughter.) But there you go -- and it has to meet in Las Vegas, obviously. (Laughter.)

But it's interesting that they made a presentation there, and Peabody Coal apparently is very excited about this process. So if that works -- I'm not shilling for it. I don't know if it's going to work, but it's exciting.

Another example, algae is being used, creating -- to produce jet fuel, diesel, and they're using carbon dioxide as a feedstock in the algae and in the production of this new fuel.

These are game-changers. I don't know if they're going to work, but I'll tell you, I want to get thousands of game-changing possibilities out there, because one of them, two of them, are going to work.

And imagine if you can make a building substance out of carbon dioxide. It's benign. You don't have to worry about building storage and transport. You just capture it and change it and go out and build.

So I think we're going to pass something. I think we're going to create a very exciting dynamic, frankly. It's not as critical to me, as I said to you, that we --

I'd rather hit 17 percent or 20 percent below the -- as a target on 2005 levels. That translates into about 8 percent, 7 percent on 1990 levels -- which is not a lot. But if that's the best we can do, I'll take whatever the best we can do is.

Because I believe once every country has said we've got to do this, you're going to see a rush of private equity capital, you're going to see a rush of university effort and others.

And we put $80 billion into the stimulus package for clean, alternative, renewable and other kinds of things. China, incidentally, put 200 billion (dollars) into its stimulus package.

So we're going to be chasing the Chinese in four or five years, if we don't get this right quickly. I promise you we're going to be chasing them on these technologies.

BROKAW: Bill? Wait -- there's a microphone, Bill.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

KERRY: Microphone, Bill.

BROKAW: Microphone.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike) -- question.

Talk about nuclear. I gather there's some division of opinion between the Republicans and Democrats, and Republicans are proposing we begin with many nuclear plans. What is your view on that?

KERRY: Well, nuclear still presents the problems it has always presented, most specifically, waste and proliferation. And coincidentally, cost.

It still remains a very high-cost energy production method. And Wall Street has fundamentally made its own decision about nuclear, and I think probably the marketplace will make its decision for the future.

But that said, we're going to build some nuclear plants. The world is going to build some nuclear plants and, frankly, I'm all for it in place of coal.

I now view a coal-fired power plant as more dangerous in terms of immediacy because of its impact on climate change. And nuclear, if you have built it and you are using it, as we know, is carbon-free.

Now, it has other issues. But by and large, we've proven pretty capable of managing most of those in most places, which is another reason why it's so essential to get North Korea and get Iran right because it's critical to the management of that as we go down the road. You know, France, as you know, has 80 percent nuclear power.

In New England, we get about 50 percent of our power from -- in Massachusetts from nuclear. A lot of people don't realize that. With the, you know, Seabrook plant in New Hampshire and we've got the, you know, Yankee Pilgrim out in the western part of the state and the one down in Plymouth. So people sort of don't focus on it as long as it's zoned all right. As a Navy man, I will tell you that I'm proud of the fact that, you know, for whatever number of years -- 60-plus years, 65 years -- no sailor has ever been injured or killed exposed to any of the nuclear plants that have run without incident in driving our ships across the ocean. And the fact is I think the next generation of nuclear plant might be able to be more economic and even more manageable.

If John Holdren were here, he'd tell you about some very exciting things that are happening at laboratories with respect to, you know, possible different fuel usages and manner of burning fuel with a less volatile cycle in terms of proliferation. So I think it's on the table, personally, and I think it's part of the mix.

BROKAW: I suspect we have another question about the Middle East.

QThank you. It's actually a follow-up to your question -- (inaudible) -- and it's a follow-up to John's question on Iran and Israel. If it is correct what you're saying -- that Ayatollah Khamenei is in charge and if there is manipulation as you think that there is, is this the -- (audio break) -- message to the United States, to the Obama engagement, and in which case should you not be thinking of how to engage differently? And on Bibi Netanyahu, his talk of the Arab noes -- three noes to Israel and now no to Iran -- in fact, his presentation was a lot of noes to the Arab peace initiative. I mean, it looks like it's only a process. Is there anything that you can think about that this doesn't end up being simply a process and lead to further frustration and no fine line for conclusion? Thank you.

KERRY: Well, I think it's very -- those are very good questions and very tough, obviously. On the Iran thing -- look, Bill Perry made a very wise statement among many of his wise statements in dealing with North Korea. He said you have to take it -- you have to take it as it is, not as you wish it was, and that's really true of everywhere. I mean, you got to take Iran the way it is and right now we're not exactly sure what that is, but it's going to sort out.

What I do know is, you know, we have a terrible history of meddling and it's part of the reason we have a problem today. I recently finished reading Steve Kinzer's book, "All the Shah's Men." If you haven't read it, it's a terrific, you know, layout of President Roosevelt's involvement and the CIA's involvement and, you know, that's deeply linked to 1979 and to attitudes today. So I think we got to be really careful how we are perceived here.

The Iranians are going to have to sort this out and we can raise some, you know, questions about the opaqueness and the inability to have accountability. I wouldn't even -- I'd be careful there too, frankly, because whatever comes out of here we want to be able to go forward and try to put our best effort into changing the equation, and I think you've got to be really careful of poisoning that in a futile, you know, sort of make you feel good effort but which doesn't really lead you down a diplomatic road.

So as tough as it is, sometimes we have to make those, you know, kinds of decisions and I think right now I'd be very careful about how deeply and vociferously and openly we start making judgments about what happened there. On Israel, the -- Israel's politics are not static, in my opinion, and Tzipi Livni has a different point of view. Shimon Peres has a different point of view. Rabin has a different point of view. And we have to do what we think is right for our friend and ally and for our interest as well in the region.

It is, as President Obama said in Cairo, a bond that will never be broken, and it won't be. But the -- it will not be the first time that we've had a sort of difference of opinion about how we get from here to there, which friends can have; I mean, you can have those kinds of differences. I think that the window for a two-state solution is -- I was going to say fast, slow -- I'm not sure what the right -- in other words, it's closing. You decide what the pace is. It's closing. And if we don't get this right in the next few years I don't know what the resolution is going to be because I think you're going to have a hardened Hamas and a hardened Hezbollah and a much more difficult Middle East.

So I think it is absolutely critical that we stay a fair-minded agent for peace here, and that means being tough the way we have been about the obligations on settlements. It also will mean being tough with Arab countries about their obligations to step up and to take steps to provide the framework for peace. I mean, you can't have Qatar that one day is funding Hamas and the next day pretending to sort of the -- (inaudible) -- process. You've got to start to call people on these things.

I think the Saudis can do more. I think that's why the president went there to visit. I think we need to keep a vision out there at the right moment. It's not the right moment yet. But I think the moment will come somewhere in the next months where President Obama is going to have to lay out his vision of what a settlement looks like in the Middle East. And until then we need to let George Mitchell and the process sort of work its careful way to try to bring the parties together around some steps that could be taken now that make other steps more possible.

But first, and most immediate, is to begin to make life better for the Palestinians in the West Bank and to find some modality for dealing with Gaza, which is a humanitarian disaster and desperately needs to be dealt with. And if you can do that and build the security confidence of Israel. General Dayton has done an outstanding job in the West Bank, and as those Palestinian security forces grow -- Zalma Fayed (sic) has done a terrific job of restoring credibility to the finances of the PA. And those -- as confidence grows in their ability to maintain security and deliver a stronger Palestinian Authority, then you have the opportunity to do more things on both sides and that's what we have to play for right now. And again, I remain hopeful that we can get there.

George is a very skilled -- as we all know, a very, very skilled person. I think he's trusted. I think he's doing his due diligence right now, you know, seeing where all the pieces are, what fits where, what might move -- this kind of thing. It takes a little while. But I think some things have already started to play. Netanyahu's speech clearly was a response partly to the president's Cairo speech and to the other circumstances that exist now, and he moved. So we'll just keep going.

BROKAW: Senator, we have kind of a time limit here. I know that the rest of us could spend most of the afternoon. We thank you very much for your wide-ranging and very responsive remarks.

And I also want you to know that we'll always have a visa here for a member of the Red Sox Nation. (Laughter.) So whenever you want to come back we'd love to have you and to thank you for coming.

KERRY: Yeah. Just got out of Philadelphia with split.

BROKAW: (Laughter.) Thank you very much.

KERRY: Doing great. Thank you. (Applause.)

C) Copyright 2009, Federal News Service, Inc., 1000 Vermont Ave.

Nw; 5th Floor; Washington, Dc - 20005, Usa. All Rights Reserved. Any Reproduction, Redistribution Or Retransmission Is Expressly Prohibited.

Unauthorized Reproduction, Redistribution Or Retransmission Constitutes A Misappropriation Under Applicable Unfair Competition Law, And Federal News Service, Inc. Reserves The Right To Pursue All Remedies Available To It In Respect To Such Misappropriation.

Federal News Service, Inc. Is A Private Firm And Is Not Affiliated With The Federal Government. No Copyright Is Claimed As To Any Part Of The Original Work Prepared By A United States Government Officer Or Employee As Part Of That Person's Official Duties.

For Information On Subscribing To Fns, Please Call Carina Nyberg At 202-347-1400.

This Is A Rush Transcript.


Top Stories on CFR

Middle East and North Africa

Turkey’s geography and membership in NATO have long given the country an influential voice in foreign policy, but the assertive policies of President Erdogan have complicated its role.

United States

The National Guard is a special part of the U.S. military that answers to both state governors and the president. While it began as a “strategic reserve,” the guard has grown into a pivotal partner in military operations.


Sadanand Dhume, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a South Asia columnist for the Wall Street Journal, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the political, economic, and climate crises roiling Pakistan.