Our frolicsome secretary of state is over in Indonesia now badgering the locals about climate change. Indonesia is the third-largest carbon emitter in the world, and Mr. Kerry is admonishing them to mend their ways or dire consequences will ensue.
A three-foot rise in global sea levels, he has told them, would be “enough to put half of Jakarta under water.” Is this likely? Well, according to today’s New York Times:
Mr. Kerry said the scientific debate over climate change was settled, with 97 percent of scientists saying the problem is real.
We wonder. About several things. First, while Indonesia may be the third largest carbon producer, the US is in second place, having only recently been bumped from the top spot — which it has held for some decades now — by China. “Who,” the Indonesians might wonder, “is this strange man in a blue suit barking in an even stranger voice that we have to sacrifice our progress and our economic growth to solve a problem they have created?”
Then there are these three feet of water. Given the uneven quality of assistance the population has received over the years from its rulers, many Indonesians could be thinking that submerging Jakarta might not be a half-bad idea, but even they are not overly cheered by the prospect: experience has taught them that the ruling class will not be deterred by a little dampness on the ground floor when the second storey is still dry.
Also troublesome is the fact that Indonesia is largely a Muslim nation, where notions about the power and influence of mere humans are greeted with scorn. “Inshallah,” they might respond — but more important, are they insulted that yet another colonial power has come to their shores and shown scant regard for their firmly-held beliefs? It seems in bad taste, at the very least. They may be wrong to believe what they believe, but Indonesia has likely had enough of westerners barging in and dictating morality to them, particularly when that morality was largely based on “we take what we want and you get jack.”
In short, the nation’s senior diplomat seems remarkably inept at diplomacy, and disturbingly unaware of how bizarre and presumptuous his speech must have sounded to the Indonesians. This is made worse by the fact that here at home, Mr. Kerry’s boss is notoriously gauzy when it comes to energy policy. The Keystone pipeline, for example, is a problematic topic, and the secretary has carefully avoided comment, as it is not his brief to make one. Perhaps more germane is the possibility that Kerry has not abandoned his presidential ambitions, and, should Ms. Clinton stumble, he might well be a viable candidate yet again. This might require that the party concede that after five years of watching Joe Biden’s follies, the nation has finally come to its senses and would rather elect a jackass in an Uncle Sam topper, assuming anyone can tell the difference.
Finally, there is this troublesome “97% of scientists agree” meme. This appears to be derived from a study that found 97% of papers published on climate change by climatologists who would be out of work if there were no climate change agree that there is climate change and it’s partly the fault of Indonesia. “Scientists” and “climatologists” are not identical sets; to conflate the two is either the act of a fool or the trick of a charlatan. In Mr. Kerry’s case, we think that both descriptions apply.
Frankly, it’s embarrassing to see such a senior official try to pass off such a tired and obvious a deception. It insults the Indonesians and implies that they are third-world simpletons easily duped by we wily westerners. We recognize that the secretary has certain limitations when the world of ideas intrudes on his life (yeah, we still remember that 77% average at Yale), but — may we ask him, if he cannot make us proud that he represents us to the world, he at the very least try harder not to make us so ashamed?