John Kerry, the country’s first climate envoy, stopped by his home state, where he warned of the dangers of political polarization standing in the way of climate change.
“This is a matter of physics and mathematics, not about our politics or ideology,” Kerry said at MIT Thursday. “But unfortunately, we are stuck in a place where ideology is getting in a way, where the polarization of our nation is preventing us from doing what we know we have to do. And history is going to judge us very harshly if we do not find a way through this thicket at this moment.”
The onetime presidential candidate, who formerly served as a Democratic Massachusetts senator and Secretary of State, stopped by the Cambridge campus for its inaugural Climate Grand Challenges showcase event. After Kerry’s keynote, MIT researchers also shared insights on the climate crisis.
Kerry also pointed to the polarization of the world at large for stalling on climate change.
“You can’t talk to some of these people. I actually got a lot done with President Putin when I was there. We got chemical weapons out of Syria, we did the Iran nuclear agreement, we did the Paris agreement,” he said. “This is a very different moment and a very different person right now, and with Russians off the table for the time being, so that’s a problem.”
He noted that, although the government will need to deploy “trillions of dollars” to save the planet, he said, he doesn’t think the government will ultimately solve the problem.
“When I stopped being Secretary of State, I left the job believing that it’s going to be the private sector and then solve it,” he said. “I still believe that the marketplace is going to be far more powerful in solving this than the government.”
He gave the example of several companies making a pact to buy green technology when it comes on the market as an example of a tactic, adding that a tax credit would progress the market even faster.
“The problem is it’s not happening fast enough,” he said. “And that’s where government comes in. Government can send the signals, the government can create the structure, and you can build around that and move much faster.”
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