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Who is John Kerry?

09 Sep 2023 | Backgrounders

Who Is John Kerry? Transcript


Who is John Kerry? It’s not hard to find his biographical details online. He served as Lieutenant-Governor of, then Senator from, Massachusetts, for over a quarter-century, he ran unsuccessfully for President in 2004, then was Secretary of State under Barack Obama and is now the first “United States Special Envoy for Climate”, in which role he frequently travels the world lecturing people about climate change and what we need to do about it. But what exactly qualifies him for that job?

John Robson:

Plot spoiler here: nothing. And it shows.

For the Climate Discussion Nexus, I’m John Robson, and this is our “Fact-check” video on “Who Is John Kerry?”


John Kerry attended elite boarding schools, studied political science at Yale, served briefly in Vietnam, where his crop of medals became the source of lively controversy, then became a prominent opponent of the war, got a law degree from Boston College, divorced, inherited a fortune, married into even more money, chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and so on.

It’s quite the Establishment biography, including a current net worth of over a quarter of a billion dollars. But what exactly in all of this makes him an expert on climate?

John Robson:

We ask for two reasons. First, anyone who challenges alarmist orthodoxy is liable to be subjected to scathing attacks for their lack of formal credentials as a “climate scientist”, while those who sew panic, from political scientist Al Gore to high school dropout Greta Thunberg or former drama teacher Justin Trudeau, seem to get a free pass.

Now we at CDN are not against informed laypeople. On the contrary, we think democracy absolutely depends on trusting ordinary people to vote sensibly on the budget even without an advanced degree in economics or accounting, or to debate foreign policy without being a diplomat or talk about military policy without being a general, and so on. But we also think it’s important that anyone who takes Kerry or Barack Obama seriously on climate should not resort to cheap shots about, say, someone being a historian if they put forward an argument about climate that that person doesn't agree with.

And speaking of arguments, the second reason we ask what makes Kerry an expert on climate is that he has a habit of saying totally goofy stuff on the subject. And here let us showcase one example in particular, because we’ve referred to it previously on a number of occasions.


As Secretary of State, in Jakarta, Indonesia on February 16, 2014, Kerry gave a patronizing account of climate change that included these immortal words:

John Kerry:

“Try and picture a very thin layer of gases – quarter-inch, half an inch, somewhere in that vicinity, that’s how thick it is, it’s in our atmosphere, it’s way up there at the edge of the atmosphere. And for millions of years – literally millions of years – we know that layer has acted like a thermal blanket for the planet – trapping the sun’s heat and warming the surface of the Earth to the ideal, life-sustaining temperature. Average temperature of the Earth has been about 57°F, which keeps life going.”

John Robson:

How many howlers are contained in that brief passage?

Well, the most obvious one is that business about a blanket around a quarter to half an inch thick “way up there at the edge of the atmosphere”. Where did that idiocy come from?

It’s true that there are various cartoons aimed at children that depict the planet wrapped in a blanket and running a fever (something Katherine Hayhoe also recently said, but one fool at a time). But those are just cartoons. Did he really take them seriously? Or his advisors and wordsmiths?

Adults know that the atmosphere is a mixture of gases, including carbon dioxide and other compounds, which scientists call “well-mixed greenhouse gases” for the reason that, um, they’re mixed throughout the atmosphere, it’s like a martini not an “emerald nightmare” or a “pousse-café”.

As I asked in a 2017 documentary, how does Kerry think plants get CO2 if it’s all up there at the edge of space? You see, it’s not a problem of muffing some piece of differential calculus. It’s a hunk of spectacular, basic, Grade 9 ignorance and he got away with it.


It gets worse because he said that “for millions of years – literally millions of years” that layer has been “warming the surface of the earth to the ideal, life-sustaining temperature, average temperature of the Earth has been about 57°F, which keeps life going.”

John Robson:

Does this person, this “climate czar”, not know that the planet was considerably warmer until the start of the Pleistocene “Ice Age” 2.58 million years ago?

It would be nitpicking to point out that the current average temperature of the Earth is about 57°F (13.9°C) and is generally held by people like John Kerry to be too hot, that it should be more like 55°F since they keep claiming the 1.1°C increase in the last 150 years has brought apocalyptically bad weather down on our heads.

No. What really matters is that if 57°F “keeps life going” then it stands to reason that other temperatures, for instance 53°F or 63°F, do not keep life going. Yet during the Last Glacial Maximum (see why you need historians in the discussion?) it seems that the temperature bottomed out around 46°F and life kept going. So much for Kerry’s blanket and stable temperatures.

46°F is not ideal, obviously, despite the enthusiasm of certain climate activists for the world to plunge into colder conditions. But it’s not the stuff of mass extinctions either.

As for the pre-Pleistocene Pliocene, which stretches back to about 5 million years ago, it was at least 2-3°C warmer than today, again without mass extinctions. And we don’t know exactly how many millions, literally millions of years, Kerry had in mind for his space blanket, but the Miocene from 23 to 5 million years ago saw large temperature fluctuations, due perhaps to holes in the blanket, with the “Miocene Climatic Optimum”, another revealing name, reaching 3-4°C warmer or, for those who speak Fahrenheit, around 64° total.

Did life end? Did tipping points push us into a runaway greenhouse effect and boil the oceans dry? I don’t think so. Meanwhile Kerry doesn’t seem to think at all. In Jakarta he further babbled that “The science of climate change is leaping out at us like a scene from a 3D movie.” Not the effects. The science.


It’s notable that Kerry began his bizarre comments in Jakarta with a concession that:

“I know sometimes I can remember from when I was in high school and college, some aspects of science or physics can be tough… chemistry. But this is not tough. This is simple. Kids at the earliest stage can understand this.”

John Robson:

So to paraphrase Groucho Marx, someone find me a kid at the earliest stage quick and have them explain it to Kerry.


Kerry also said:

“Let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the science is absolutely certain. It’s something that we understand with absolute assurance of the veracity of that science…. So when thousands of the world’s leading scientists and five reports over a long period of time with thousands of scientists contributing to those reports – when they tell us over and over again that our climate is changing, that it is happening faster than they ever predicted, ever in recorded history, and when they tell us that we humans are the significant cause, let me tell you something: We need to listen.”

Except the experts haven’t said the warming is happening “faster than they predicted.” In the 5th Assessment Report they had an extended discussion of the fact that after 1998 warming slowed to a crawl and was far below what models said should be happening.

In the most recent 6th Assessment Report they continued to report models warming too fast. This is true both at the surface and in the troposphere.

John Robson:

So, something that Kerry claims is “absolutely certain” turns out to be “absolutely” untrue, and he invokes “thousands of scientists” to support a claim that is the opposite of what those scientists wrote in their IPCC reports.

Now it is very probable that Kerry did not write this speech himself. Politicians are busy people, and they have staff to write words for them. But he did review it, sign off on it, and deliver it, and at no point did he go “Wait a minute, this is baloney.” Nor, it seems, did the people on his staff who are responsible for crafting either positions or statements object.

The U.S. Department of State employs something like 75,000 people. And obviously they are, or one hopes they are, experts on any number of things from protocol to economics to culture. But, since climate change has been a massive part of foreign policy as well as a domestic preoccupation of Democratic administrations for decades, they must have several thousand people on the payroll focused on it. Yet the best they could come up with was complete nonsense.

Of course Kerry’s credibility hasn’t suffered at all from showing that he knows less about “climate science” than your high school chemistry teacher, who was well aware that CO2 is mixed into the atmosphere from top to bottom. Yet nobody raised a hand within government to say, “perhaps we should issue a clarification here”. And as far as we know here at CDN, nobody in the alarmist movement has demanded that Kerry correct the record, or complained that climate is too serious a matter to be left to such a blatherskite.


Throughout his climate career Kerry has made dogmatic statements about “the science” without, it seems, even asking an aide to do a quick online search. For instance, in Davos in May 2022 he said:

“the 1.5° was not something anybody pulled out of the sky or did as a matter of politics or ideology. The 1.5° is based on science. In fact, everything that we think we’re talking about doing is based on math, mathematics and physics.”

John Robson:

But how would he know?

In fact the number was “pulled out of thin air” according to no less an alarmist authority than Phil Jones, of the “Climategate” CRU at the University of East Anglia, back in 2007. And recently the Atlantic’s “Weekly Planet” conceded with remarkably little embarrassment that:


“For years, there’s been a consensus in the climate movement: no more than 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. The figure comes from the Paris Agreement… But here’s the thing: 1.5°, or 2.7° Fahrenheit, isn’t based on any scientific calculation. It doesn’t represent a specific planetary threshold or ecological tipping point. It was first proposed during international climate negotiations as a moral statement, a rebuke of the idea that the world could accept some disruption and suffering in order to burn fossil fuels just a bit longer.”

John Robson:

You see? The U.S. “climate czar” doesn’t bother to check things. Not even basic background checks. He just decrees them, and withers any peasant who dares cross his path. But when you look into it, he has no idea what the science is saying, and no interest in finding out.

In his most recent fatuous spouting on climate, Kerry told an interviewer:


“Now China is the largest deployer of solar panels. In China, they have deployed far more renewable energy than we have, or than Europe has. So yes, they’re behind and it’s a problem, coal is a problem. But that’s why it’s important we work with China, we reach out to China, and that’s what we’re trying to do... this is a universally felt existential challenge to the planet and it’s important that the two largest economies in the world work to try to resolve it.”

John Robson:

One wonders whether Kerry knows much about diplomacy either at this point, credentials or no credentials.

Saying “coal is a problem” gives a very misleading picture of just how rapidly China is building coal-fired plants at home and abroad, and how little it evidently believes in trendy Western panic about CO2. And the idea of “reaching out” to a bitter enemy, and assuming they share your trendy view that it’s an “existential challenge” while ignoring all their behaviour which signals the exact opposite, is more appeasement of the sort that has, indeed, frequently appealed to people with Kerry’s kind of pedigree.


One of Kerry’s most patronizing claims was:

“the crisis we face of potentially so polluting this planet that we can’t restore it, or going beyond tipping points that we can’t come back from, that crisis is caused by unabated emissions from fossil fuels that we burn so we that we can propel our vehicle, heat our homes, light our businesses. It’s how we choose to provide energy to our communities around the world. And it is how we don’t choose, but simply allow choices that were made years ago to continue because it’s easier, or because business as usual is better, makes more money, because people don’t want to embrace the possibilities of the future.”

John Robson:

So, while you’re a backwards rube for wanting to heat your home and drive your car, Kerry sees nothing wrong with whooshing around in a private jet demanding the rest of us give up fossil fuels. When he gets challenged on the hypocrisy he insists haughtily:


“It’s the only choice for somebody like me who is travelling the world to win this battle…. I believe the time it takes me to get somewhere, I can’t sail across the ocean, I have to fly to meet with people and get things done…. if I offset and contribute my life to do this, I’m not going to be put on the defensive.”

John Robson:

With the humility of the born patrician, or Russian Emperor, Kerry recently said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that:


“when you stop and think about it, it’s pretty extraordinary that we select group of human beings...are able to sit in a room and come together and actually talk about saving the planet. I mean, it’s so almost extraterrestrial to think about quote ‘saving the planet’. If you said that to most people, most people they think you’re just a crazy tree-hugging lefty, liberal, you know, do-gooder or whatever, and, and there’s no relationship. But really, that’s where we are.”

John Robson:

So, maybe he comes from a planet with a thermal blanket of GHGs way up in the sky. And he visits Earth to bestow on its inhabitants, especially its poorer ones, his wisdom that they don’t really want energy very much, and that rich white people must prevent poor non-white ones from foolishly building coal, oil or even natural gas plants.

Kerry also seems to come from a planet where money is free. As he also told people at Davos, about pushing through the green transition, it’s going to take “money money money money money money money”. Just not his. Yours.

Because Kerry doesn’t like to waste his if he can help it. He was caught in 2010 docking his $7 million yacht in Rhode Island to save money in taxes over his home state of Massachusetts.

And at a posh conference in Panama before the usual posh audience, who’d arrived first class at an exotic facility (the Panama Convention Centre, whose banquet hall seats 2,000 people) with lavish food and a carbon footprint that would embarrass even Justin Trudeau, Kerry offered these words of wisdom:


“the climate crisis and the ocean crisis are one and the same…. The crisis of the biome. It comes from unabated emissions from fossil fuels burning in order to produce electricity, power our vehicles, and light our buildings. It’s how we choose to provide energy to our community. And the truth is that the science tells us that time is running out.”

John Robson:

Crisis, crisis everywhere, and it’s all because you want light to read by. If he really believed any of that stuff, you’d think he would have delivered the remarks by Zoom and told everyone to stay home. But no, for the planet-saver class, it’s always time to fly halfway around the world to hear the same alarmist clichés then enjoy some sustainably-harvested salmon and Chardonnay.

It's how they’ve always done things, and it’s easier than living up to their own talk.

By one estimate, as “climate czar” Kerry has flown over 180,000 miles and emitted nearly 10 million pounds of carbon. But don’t you try that. He’s special, you see.

So when Kerry says, over and over, that “97% of the world’s scientists tell us this is urgent”, as he put it at Boston College in May 2014, you need to understand that it’s urgent for you to stop heating your home and traveling by car, and it’s urgent for him to keep flying around by private jet to save the planet.

At the Climate Discussion Nexus we frequently find ourselves urging people to put aside conspiracy theories and confront the reality of misplaced sincerity. So we want to underline that Kerry, worth around $300 million, 79 years old and world-renowned, is not pulling off some sort of fraud to secure himself wealth, power or fame. He’s already got all that; he’s doing it because he really believes the stuff that he says.

You, on the other hand, shouldn’t, because he has no idea what he’s talking about. For the Climate Discussion Nexus I’m John Robson and that’s who John Kerry is.

3 comments on “Who is John Kerry?”

  1. John Kerry looks so much like Herman Munster!He's about the same height as the actor who played Herman Munster as well...

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