On the eve of going to a major conference on global climate change, Senator John F. Kerry said today that he will make the issue a priority as the incoming chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
And that, he said, is a sea change from the Bush administration.
"It's a moment we've been waiting for, many of us, for some period of time -- for eight years, to be blunt," Kerry said. "And we intend to pick up the baton and really run with it here."
"I have both the chairmanship of the committee as well as a president to work with," he added in a conference call with reporters. "And I'm very excited about where the United States is going to be. I think President-elect Obama, in his remarks to the climate change summit that Governor Schwarzenegger held least week, made it very, very clear that after eight years of obstruction and delay and denial, the United States is going to rejoin the world community in tackling this global challenge."
Kerry acknowledged that some leaders are skittish about aggressive action on climate change as most of the world heads into recession.
But, he said, "you can't back off what the science tells us must be done as a matter of global survival. And so you have to turn this challenge into the economic resurgence -- into the economic rebound. And I think that President Obama is poised to show America how a green economy and a transformational economy away from this dependency on fossil fuel is, in fact, part of the plan of restoring our economy and strengthening our economy."
Obama is not attending the gathering, which starts Monday in Poland, but he has said he expects detailed briefings from Kerry and other members of Congress who do attend.
"You can't be half pregnant on this issue," the Massachusetts Democrat and 2004 presidential nominee said. "You can't accept the science and say yes global climate change is manmade and yes global climate change is happening faster than the scientists, in fact, thought it was going to and then not accept the same scientific conclusions with respect to what that impact is and what we're already witnessing; i.e., the melting of the ice cap, the rising of the ocean levels, the change in weather patterns, the change and migration of forests, the change in agriculture, the droughts. All of the impacts that are going to have a profound impact on people which could create larger numbers of refugees, other food crises, other kinds of dislocations all of which lend themselves to -- to -- you know, increased conflict in various parts of the world. The bottom line is that we have a huge responsibility here."
Kerry also said he expects to work closely on the issue with Vice President-elect Joe Biden and with Senator Hillary Clinton, expected to be named secretary of state.
"She's, you know, committed on this issue," he told reporters. "And I think it's going to be a very powerful team. I mean, I think we're going to get as strong a focus on this issue as we could possibly have hoped for. And that excites me. I mean, I really see the capacity for us to get this done."
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.