GOP slams John Kerry for discussing climate ramifications of Russian invasion

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Republican lawmakers are outraged that the special presidential envoy for climate said war is harmful to people and to the planet.

Republicans are attacking President Joe Biden's special climate envoy, former Secretary of State John Kerry, for answering a question about the climate impact of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. They and right-wing news outlets are falsely suggesting that a clip from an interview with the BBC's Arabic service shows that Kerry cares more about climate change than about human suffering.

On Monday, two days before Vladimir Putin's regime began its military attack on its neighbor, Kerry appeared on BBC Arabic from Cairo, Egypt. He was explicitly asked in Arabic by interviewer Sally Nabil, as translated by the U.S. State Department, "How concerned are you about the impact the Ukraine and Russia crisis might have on global efforts to fight climate change?"

Kerry responded first by talking about the human damage such a war would cause: "I'm very concerned about Ukraine because of the people of Ukraine and because of the principles that are at risk in terms of international law and trying to change boundaries of international law by force. I thought we lived in a world that had said no to that kind of activity, and I hope diplomacy will win."

He then got to Nabil's question, saying: "But it could have a profound negative impact on the climate obviously. You have a war and obviously you're going to have maximum emissions consequences to the war, but equally important, you're going to lose people's focus, you're going to lose certainly big country attention because they will be diverted, and I think could have a damaging impact."

The clip from the interview posted online by the BBC cropped out much of the second section of Kerry's answer. On Thursday morning, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) shared an even further abridged clip that omitted both the question Kerry was asked and part of his answer, along with the comment, "Climate change religious zealot John Kerry is worried that the first major ground war in Europe in 80 years & #Putin's threat of nuclear consequences is getting more attention than his climate agenda."

Fox News and other conservative media outlets seized upon the out-of-context partial answer to paint a misleading picture.

"WATCH: John Kerry complains Ukraine is diverting attention from climate change," urged the Washington Examiner in its headline.

"John Kerry urges Putin to not let Ukraine invasion distract from combating climate change," said the Washington Times.

Other lawmakers shared it, suggesting that the person tasked with representing the Biden administration around the world in efforts to combat "the existential threat" of climate change should be focused less on the subject.

"Putin is killing innocent Ukrainians and John Kerry is asking him to stay 'on track' for the climate? Despicable," said Texas Rep. August Pfluger. "Russian energy is some of the worst for the environment. The Biden Admin climate religion has made our world less safe."

Oklahoma Rep. Kevin Hern wrote, "The people of Ukraine are facing an invasion by one of the world's largest militaries & the only thing John Kerry is worried about is how it will effect climate change."

In an emailed statement, a State Department spokesperson told the American Independent Foundation on Thursday, "Secretary Kerry strongly condemns the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces. On Monday prior to the attack, he was asked about the climate implications of a potential future conflict."

Last August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the United Nations issued a "code red" warning that human-induced global warming was real and would "have profound consequences for the world's social, economic and natural systems" barring drastic and immediate action.

Congressional Republicans ignored the warning and unanimously opposed Biden's Build Back Better plan, which would have invested $555 billion for clean energy and combating climate change.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.