Kerry goes after Trump over climate on Capitol Hill

Former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryThe enemy of my enemy is my friend — an alliance that may save the Middle East Democratic governors fizzle in presidential race A lesson of the Trump, Tlaib, Omar, Netanyahu affair MORE swiped at President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE while voicing concerns about the effects of global climate change on U.S. national security during an appearance Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

Kerry and former Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelOvernight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces Five takeaways from Pentagon chief's first major trip Esper given horse in Mongolia as US looks for new inroads against China MORE, who both served under former President Obama, referred to climate change as a multiplier effect on a number of pressing security issues while testifying during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing.

“Unfortunately, instead of mobilizing efforts to fight climate change, President Trump has attacked the science, weakened environmental protections and undermined U.S. leadership abroad,” Kerry told lawmakers.

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“I understand there may be differences of opinion on how we should respond, but there should be no uncertainty about whether we should respond. … Each day that we fail to act on climate change, we are risking the health and security of future generations.”

Kerry and Hagel mentioned climate change's effects on migration patterns, the security of military infrastructure, recruitment of terrorists and food security. They also put a focus on extreme weather events.

“This past year’s extreme weather has seriously affected our military readiness,” Hagel said, naming military bases that have recently been damaged by severe weather.

The former Obama Cabinet members also took aim at Trump’s plan to form a committee to re-evaluate the scientific consensus surrounding climate change, with Kerry referring to the plan as “a scheme to pretend there are two sides to an issue long since settled.” 

A growing number of agencies have informed the National Security Council that they do not plan to participate in the climate committee. A number of security experts have also voiced concern over the climate’s potential impact, with Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray Coats10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall 11 Essential reads you missed this week Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move MORE saying that climate change would increase “the risk of social unrest, migration and interstate tension.”

Kerry, who was involved in negotiations on the Paris climate accord during the Obama administration, said Tuesday that millions of people may “have to move because they can’t eat, can't drink. The instability that is created would be manna from heaven for extremists."

"That becomes the concern of our military that has people posted around the world in these locations, fighting terrorism, trying to protect the United States of America. The best protection is to try and take away the causes of these things before they happen. Don’t allow them to just build up and inundate us," he said.

The hearing, scheduled by Democrats in control of the Oversight committee, was put on to address the intersection of climate change and national security, but several Republicans on the panel used their speaking time to slam the Green New Deal introduced earlier this year by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezStudents retreating from politics as campuses become progressive playgrounds Former GOP Rep. Jason Lewis says he'll challenge Tina Smith in Minnesota Poll: Voters split on whether it's acceptable for Israel to deny Omar, Tlaib visas MORE (D-N.Y.) and other progressives, which is aimed at combatting climate change.

Rep. Jody HiceJody Brownlow HiceHouse conservatives call for ethics probe into Joaquin Castro tweet Interior whistleblowers say agency has sidelined scientists under Trump Conservatives call on Pelosi to cancel August recess MORE (R-Ga.) told the committee he plans to try and force a House vote on the Green New Deal once Congress returns from its Easter recess. 

“The Green New Deal as a resolution is important because it sets forth a precedent, a clear choice for the American people. It sets forth a clear choice between two parties on a very important issue,” Hice said, characterizing the policy as increasing household energy bills, eliminating fossil fuels and requiring removal of a large portion of U.S. vehicles off the road. 

“On the other side you have groups that believe in free market enterprise, believe in federalism, believe competition, capitalism, believe that the best way to address this is to get the federal government out of it,” he added.

Ocasio-Cortez, who sits on the Oversight panel, argued that many Republicans are criticizing a bill they have failed to read, simply referring to policies they don’t like as "socialism."

Kerry went after Republicans for failing to put forward their own climate bill while defending Ocasio-Cortez, saying she has "in fact offered more leadership in one day or one week than President Trump has in his lifetime on this topic." 

Many Republicans also came to the defense of energy industries associated with their state. 

“We all live on this earth, and we all breath the same air, but my colleagues on other side of the country will never understand what the energy industry means to my state,” said Rep. Carol MillerCarol Devine MillerGOP women's super PAC blasts 'out of touch' candidate in NC runoff GOP amps up efforts to recruit women candidates Kerry goes after Trump over climate on Capitol Hill MORE (R-W.Va.).

But Kerry maintained that it was the free market, not regulations, that led to the demise of the coal industry in Miller’s home state.

“The truth is, congresswoman, solar today is cheaper than coal. It is. And the marketplace has made its decision. It’s not Congress that has decided that coal plants are closing. It’s the market. There’s not an American bank that will fund a new coal-fired power plant,” he said.