In the first serious indication Obama will focus on climate change in his second term, media outlets report the President will nominate Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to be Secretary of State.

Kerry is one of the Senate’s leading climate hawks who has said he believes that climate change is the “biggest long term threat” to national security.

Of course, team Obama is known for effectively muzzling the most ardent of climate hawks. Back in February 2009, for instance, Energy Secretary and Nobelist Steven Chu said “Wake up,” America, “we’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California.” But one hardly hears such language from him these days. Same goes for science advisor and one-time climate hawk John Holdren.

Kerry, however, seems far less likely to be muzzled. Indeed, in a speech this summer on the Senate floor, he slammed the U.S. political discussion as a “conspiracy of silence … a story of disgraceful denial, back-pedaling, and delay that has brought us perilously close to a climate change catastrophe.” He called it:

a silence that empowers misinformation and mythology to grow where science and truth should prevail. It is a conspiracy that has not just stalled, but demonized any constructive effort to put America in a position to lead the world on this issue….

Climate change is one of two or three of the most serious threats our country now faces, if not the most serious, and the silence that has enveloped a once robust debate is staggering for its irresponsibility….

I hope and pray colleagues commit to transformative change in our politics. I hope we confront the conspiracy of silence head-on and allow complacence to yield to common sense, and narrow interests to bend to the common good. Future generations are counting on us.

One would certainly expect Kerry to not merely use his position to speak out on the issue but also to push both domestic and international action. He was after all coauthor, with Senators  Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), of broad climate legislation in 2009 and 2010 (that withered like our wheat crop in a Dust Bowl as Obama tended to other matters, like health care).

National Journal reports:

“No senator since Al Gore knows as much about the science and diplomacy of climate change as Kerry,” said David Goldwyn, an international energy consultant who served as Clinton’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs. “He would not only put climate change in the top five issues he raises with every country, but he would probably rethink our entire diplomatic approach to the issue.”

Climate hawks should be enthusiastic supporters of this nomination, which is expected to sail through the U.S. Senate (in part because Republicans want Scott Brown to have another shot at a Massachusetts Senate seat).

I’m not sure Kerry could become Secretary of State fast enough to influence the Keystone XL pipeline decision, but it is hard to believe he would not have raised this issue with the President, since a go-ahead decision would immediately undercut the Administration’s credibility on the climate issue both at home and abroad.

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