Sen. John Kerry, President Obama's nominee for secretary of State, may not be able to bring peace to the Middle East, end enduring trade and currency disputes with China or mend fences with all the anti-American leaders in Latin America. But he may be capable of redirecting the debate over an issue of equal or greater importance: climate change.
Kerry is among the most forward-thinking members of the U.S. Senate when it comes to understanding both the threats of and the practical responses to global warming. He's struggled to bring along the Senate, which rejected his attempt to win passage of a cap-and-trade bill in 2010, but Kerry's new post should give him expanded opportunities to lead.
That's not because of the State Department's role in approving the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to carry oil from Canada's tar sands to refineries in Texas. Although many environmentalists see this as a defining decision in the fight against climate change, Kerry, presuming his nomination is approved, will arrive too late in that process to play much of a role. And although his expertise should prove valuable during negotiations to create a badly needed successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which the United Nations is aiming to complete in 2015, Kerry can't force the Senate to ratify it.