Did John Kerry Send a Signal on Keystone XL Decision?

Was Kerry's first major address as Secretary of State a clue -- or just wishful thinking?

Photo Credit: alexan55/ Shutterstock.com

"We share nothing so completely as our planet." That was a key message in John Kerry's first major address as secretary of state in Charlottesville, Virginia, Wednesday. Joe Romm of Climate Progress thinks it's more evidence that Kerry is a climate hawk and that he may well recommend to President Barack Obama that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline be rejected.

If that happened, it would be a major victory for climate activists in Canada and the United States who, among other things, have been getting arrested for civil disobedience over a pipeline they consider to be both symbol and reality for where the nation is headed when it comes to confronting climate change.

Make no mistake. Kerry did not directly mention Keystone in his speech. And there are many forces—powerful, monied forces—arrayed in favor of the pipeline that could make Kerry's welcome words wither under fire. Then, too, not all environmental advocates agree that Keystone is the proper target for climate hawks to address. Nonetheless, Kerry's remarks offer at least a hint that action on climate change and against Keystone could be forthcoming:

We as a nation must have the foresight and courage to make the investments necessary to safeguard the most sacred trust we keep for our children and grandchildren: an environment not ravaged by rising seas, deadly superstorms, devastating droughts, and the other hallmarks of a dramatically changing climate. And let’s face it—we are all in this one together. No nation can stand alone. We share nothing so completely as our planet.

When we work with others—large and small—to develop and deploy the clean technologies that will power a new world, we’re also helping create new markets and new opportunities for America’s second-to-none innovators and entrepreneurs to succeed in the next great revolution.

So let’s commit ourselves to doing the smart thing and the right thing and truly commit to tackling this challenge.

Because if we don’t rise to meet it, rising temperatures and rising sea levels will surely lead to rising costs down the road. If we waste this opportunity, it may be the only thing our generation—generations—are remembered for. We need to find the courage to leave a far different legacy.

Sure, it's couched in some what's-in-it-for-our-wallets language. But then rebuilding our economy, the global economy, around sustainability and sensibility will produce vast numbers of new jobs. What Kerry said is a far cry from the near-silence in high places that we've been afflicted with on this subject for so very many years.

Contrary to what the deniers and delayers would have us believe, the majority of Americans, as most recently reflected in a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, want action on climate change.

Sixty-two percent favor setting stricter emission limits on power plants to address climate change while just 28 percent oppose it; 73 percent say action on climate is essential this year or in the next few years; 34 percent say essential this year. And among Americans age 18-29, 70 percent favor stricter emissions limits. That ought to help bolster the courage John Kerry says is needed to take action.