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Kerry goes after Trump over climate on Capitol Hill

Former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryOn The Trail: The fallacy of a conclusive election night McCarthy urges networks not to call presidential race until 'every polling center has closed' Seinfeld's Jason Alexander compares Trump dance video to iconic Elaine dance MORE swiped at President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden campaign slams Facebook after thousands of ads blocked by platform's pre-election blackout Mnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' Harris to travel to Texas Friday after polls show tie between Trump, Biden 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 HagelArmy taps University of Wisconsin to lead research into hybrid vehicles, aircraft While our foes deploy hypersonic weapons, Washington debates about funding Hillicon Valley: Democrats request counterintelligence briefing | New pressure for election funding | Republicans urge retaliation against Chinese hackers 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 CoatsPresident Trump: To know him is to 'No' him Avoiding the 1876 scenario in November Democrat asks intelligence director if Trump's personal debt is security problem 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-Cortez'Drink water and don't be racist': Ocasio-Cortez gives Republicans upset over Vanity Fair outfit 'pointers' on how to look better OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump strips protections for Tongass forest, opening it to logging | Interior 'propaganda' video and tweets may violate ethics laws, experts say | Democrats see Green New Deal yielding gains despite GOP attacks Ocasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' MORE (D-N.Y.) and other progressives, which is aimed at combatting climate change.

Rep. Jody HiceJody Brownlow HiceHillicon Valley: Department of Justice sues Google | House Republicans push for tech bias hearing | Biden drawing more Twitter engagement for first time House Republicans push VA for details on recent data breach IRS closes in on final phase of challenging tax season 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 MillerPartial disengagement based on democratic characteristics: A new era of US-China economic relations The Hill's Coronavirus Report: CDC predicts US death toll could reach 145,000 by July 11; Premier President Michael Alkire says more resiliency needed in health supply chain Shelley Moore Capito wins Senate primary 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.