Action on climate change isn't the main reason President Barack Obama wants U.S. Sen. John Kerry to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. But the Great Lakes region especially will benefit if the Massachusetts Democrat is confirmed.
The region, in large part because of massive pollution from its coal-fired power plants, is one of the nation's greatest contributors to man-made climate change. That change threatens the agriculture, shipping and recreation of the Great Lakes states.
As secretary of state, Mr. Kerry could help refocus U.S. policy on climate change, domestically and abroad. The Obama administration has allowed itself to get sidetracked on the issue since Republicans regained control of the House with the 2010 election. As a result, the United States was largely a spectator to the recent climate talks in Qatar.
Few past or present elected officials have been as outspoken on the subject as Mr. Kerry. In a Senate speech last August, he said climate change is as serious as instability in Syria and Iran. He derided lawmakers for a lack of courage in their avoidance of meaningful measures to reduce climate-altering pollution, and his nomination as secretary of state is supported by one of the GOP's most outspoken senators on climate change, John McCain of Arizona.
Mr. Kerry's nomination won't in itself become an antidote to climate change, despite his fervor on the topic. Congress also must confront the issue.
From melting Arctic ice to more frequent and intensive storms in North America, scientists are finding evidence of more rapid changes to the global climate than they expected just five years ago. Mr. Kerry is in a position to focus attention on climate change, domestically and abroad. If that happens, the nation -- and particularly states along the Great Lakes -- stand to benefit.